2019 Lawrence Bragg Medal and Prize
Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright and Professor Mark Warner for jointly setting up and directing the Isaac Physics programme which has revolutionised physics education for teachers and students in an extraordinary number of UK schools and is now attracting international attention.
Since 2013 Lisa Jardine-Wright and Mark Warner have co-directed the Isaac Physics Project. This radical, mass-scale programme harnesses technology to help all students, especially those exposed to the national shortage of physics teachers with consequent social disadvantage in entering STEM at university. The 36% participation rate for women in Isaac compares with just 21% in A-level physics.
Students develop analysis and deep understanding of physics through problem solving – ideal preparation for STEM subjects at university. Teachers (>7,100) and 14-19 year-old students (>185,000) have by now freely accessed the Isaac Open Platform for Active Learning (OPAL). Currently more than 3600 schools participate, many with over 50 students registered. Monthly, 28,000 students and 1300 teachers use OPAL with daily peaks of 145,000 problems answered, yielding a 33 million total. Progress of registered students is monitored, guided and encouraged on a highly interactive and individual basis, including live video tuition to students and teacher CPD each week. For teachers, Isaac sets, marks and reports homework, saving thousands of labour hours monthly – vital in teacher retention. About 120,000 Isaac books, uniquely featuring questions answered online that are marked with instant feedback on Isaac, have been distributed at cost (£1) to schools and individuals.
Analysis of national school physics exams and student transition to STEM at university shows that this UK-wide programme is having considerable impact on raising attainment and aspirations academically and socially. DfE funding of £7M, recently renewed with substantial help from The Ogden Trust, applies to England. However, with IOP assistance, Isaac also operates across the UK. Book sales and online access indicate worldwide use, particularly in English speaking countries such as Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and in English language schools in India and China. Warner and Jardine-Wright are scheduled to give a keynote lecture at an international education conference in Natal, northern Brazil.
Crucial for the success of this project is the enthusiasm and skill which Jardine-Wright and Warner bring to the work; cultivating an extremely talented project team to provide scalability alongside deep concern for the individual student. Both draw on years of experience with earlier projects, notably the Senior Physics Challenge and the Cambridge Physics at Work Exhibition.