Dr. Jolly is currently the Principal of Miranda House, the prestigious college for women at University of Delhi. She gained her Ph.D in Chemical Physics from University of Delhi and taught in Miranda House for eight years before joining the Department of Physics at the University of Delhi as Research Scientist to work in the area of Physics Education Research and Curriculum Development at the tertiary level. Her research interests include computational physics; electronic instrumentation; use of computer-based technologies in education; development of locally produced low-cost equipment; teacher training; cognitive aspects of students’ learning and diverse student populations. She has to her credit several innovative physics education research programs.
She was elected to the International Commission on Physics Education, Commission 14 of the International Union for Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) in 2002 as a member and in 2005 as the Chairperson of the commission. In this capacity, she was also elected to the Executive Council of IUPAP as a Vice President in 2002-2005. In recognition of her contributions, she has been re-elected as Chair of ICPE for a further period of three years from 2008 to 2011. She is associated with the Asian Physics Education Network (ASPEN) as the Indian point of contact and serves on its Executive Board. A Fulbright alumnus, she was awarded the Kilambi Ramavataram Fellowship by American Physical Society to enable work with leading Physics Education Research Groups at University of Maryland and Kansas State University in 1995-1996. This supplemented an earlier exposure to science education at, both, school and tertiary level in the U.K. where she worked with the Science Education Group at University of York on a Commonwealth Academic Staff Fellowship in 1986-1987.
Her multifaceted work has led to the establishment of the of D S Kothari Centre for Research and Innovation in Science Education at Miranda House with generous funding from the Department of Science and Technology.
There are growing apprehension in India about the dwindling interest in science amongst young students, the lack of quality in science education, the evident disconnect between formal education and the needs of the industry, and the consequent felt need for urgent reforms that revitalize science education. The present research proposal emanates from and builds on the grave concern that, across the world, the predominant mode of teaching continues to be textbook based lectures. Laboratories are underused, or not used appropriately, as a part of the learning process in both developed and developing countries. Very few institutions, including those in developed countries, provide active learning techniques which are integrated throughout the students’ learning of physics and which can help students visualize the physics they are learning and enhance their qualitative and quantitative understanding. Even where laboratory work and/or hands-on activities are an integral part of the curriculum, they often follow a cookbook approach that fails to impart procedural and conceptual knowledge about the activity, which then becomes hands-on without engaging the students minds. As part of the International Year of Physics (IYP) celebrations, the International Union for Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP), UNESCO and the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics at Trieste, Italy (ICTP) came together to organize the unique World Conference on Physics and Sustainable Development (WCPSD) in October 2005, at Durban, South Africa with a major segment devoted to Physics Education. This conference was different as it was visualized as the starting point of a long term world-wide initiative. The action plans emanating from this conference stressed the urgent need to give educators and students in developing countries access to high quality physics education resources by establishing a website and Physics Education Resource Centres in Africa, Asia and Latin America; to develop supplemental instructional materials for secondary physics courses that help students understand how the mastery of physics concepts can enable them to contribute to sustainable development in their own countries; and to develop model workshops for teacher-trainers in Asia, Latin America and Africa that exemplify how active learning methods can be adapted to help meet the needs of students in developing countries. Reiterating commitment to these action plans, recently the 26th IUPAP General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution urging nations to support best practice of physics education and physics education research at all levels by encouraging teaching methods, including laboratory work, that actively engage the hands and minds of learners; support indigenous development of low-cost instruments, physics apparatus and equipment, and — when finances allow it — computer-based data-acquisition systems for real-time measurements at the appropriate level of sophistication for a variety of uses in teaching of physics in the classroom and the laboratory; support curricula that teach physics with an appropriate diversity of methods, including hands-on approaches, that encourage critical thinking and help students understand how physics is relevant to their local cultures and to a sustainable future for humankind. These developments have given an impetus to programs that aim to promote hands-on physics and active learning. Of particular significance have been the Workshops for Active Learning of Optics and Photonics (ALOP), organized within the framework of UNESCO in the developing world. The Asian Physics Education Network (ASPEN) and the Latin American Physics Education Network (LAPEN) have been galvanized and are facilitating organization of hands-on and activity based learning workshops with the help of International resource teams. All this has led to a desire for all International Physics Education Organizations to work in a coordinated manner to create a functional global network that can exchange ideas, best practices and facilitate development programs for revitalizing physics education.
In my capacity as the co-chair of WCPSD along with Priscilla Laws; the chair of the International Commission on Physics Education (Commission 14 of IUPAP); and a member of the group for coordinating implementation of the action plans emanating from WCPSD; I have been proactively involved in these initiatives. Working with Priscilla Laws, Dean Zollman (General Secretary ICPE), Elena Sassi (member ICPE), I am organizing PHYSWARE: A collaborative workshop on low-cost equipment and appropriate technologies that promote undergraduate-level, hands on physics education throughout the developing world, at ICTP from 16 to 27 February 2009. The first ever ICTP sponsored workshop to focus on issues related to the teaching and learning of physics, the aim of this workshop series is to enhance the quality of physics understanding for students in the developing countries. To begin with, the thrust will be on the design of low-cost equipment and computer tools; active learning materials; and development of strategies for using them effectively to enhance the teaching of Newtonian mechanics. During the workshop these teacher-leaders will share and work with prototypes of affordable “hands on” equipment that can be locally adapted for construction by teachers and their students throughout the developing world. They will also develop instructional materials, create construction plans, and ideas for activities to help educators make effective use of the equipment. As globalization progresses, more and more teachers begin to have access to computers and other instrumentation for the collection, display and analysis of data and for information exchange via the Web. MIT’s Media Lab in the United States is working on the creation and distribution of laptop computers costing about $100 USD. As workshop organizers, we anticipate the need to help physics educators throughout the developing world prepare to make effective use of new technologies as they become available. For these reasons, another vital theme of PHYSWARE involves helping physics educators understand more about the adaptation of low-cost instrumentation for laboratory instruction. We expect that immense work would be required to tune the ideas and resource generated in the week long workshop before these can be used by the participants for communication to a wider regional audience, and further, wide scale dissemination in a plural world. To this end, the present research proposal aims to create necessary documentation, an illustrative package of low-cost equipment as also low-cost adaptations of advanced computer-based data acquisition systems, particularly, for use in the developing world. It also aims to explore and develop electronic resource sharing mechanisms. The dissemination work will be facilitated by the Global Networks such as the Asian Physics Education Network (ASPEN), Latin American Physics Education Network (LAPEN) and other initiatives by physics education organizations in the US, Europe and IUPAP to facilitate stronger global networks. Documentation of these processes is important. The US host institutions and partners identified for carrying out this work are the co-directors of PHYSWARE, Dean Zollman at Kansas State University and Priscilla Laws at Dickinson College, US. Both are leaders in Activity based physics education, participants in multi-institutional collaborations at both national and international level and amongst the most distinguished in the field.