2017 Lawrence Bragg Medal and Prize

Mary Whitehouse of the University of York, who has been a national influence on the development of teaching and learning in physics, both through her central involvement in curriculum projects and in developing the assessment process.

For many classroom teachers the examination drives teaching and learning – so innovation and expertise in shaping assessment to support educational developments has a notable impact on the student experience.

Aside from the two major strands of her work that have a national impact – and, in terms of some assessment processes, international interest – Whitehouse has been an active member of the physics education community, through the Association for Science Education and the Institute of Physics, where she recently served on Council.

Two major curriculum projects, Advancing Physics and Twenty First Century Science, have driven the development of innovative approaches to the teaching and assessment of physics at GCSE and A-level in the UK and are seen internationally as groundbreaking.

In both curriculum development and assessment, Whitehouse has provided the consistent and clear-sighted structural shape, both to resources and to examining, within which other members of the team have also been also able to innovate. Her role has been crucial and central to the success of both projects.

Most recently, Whitehouse has worked on the York Science project, working with teachers to shape their use of formative assessment. She is prominent and influential in teacher support networks within the Association for Science Education, and in researchED, a group aimed at encouraging teachers to make greater use of research evidence as the basis of their practice.

The impact that Whitehouse has had on physics education has had direct influence on the classroom: students are studying better courses, with better resources, and the exams they sit are better than they would have been without her involvement. This has been a seminal contribution to the various strands that have led to increased student numbers in physics and a better-equipped teaching cohort to inspire them.