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2023 Lawrence Bragg Medal and Prize

Professor Sally Jordan for work in advancing pedagogy, understanding demographic differences in attainment and in developing tools to allow computer assessment of free-text answers, which are in use across the world.

Sally Jordan award winner

Professor Sally Jordan, who leads physics education research at the Open University (OU), has made outstanding contributions to education in three areas: pedagogy, automatic feedback and assessment, and the understanding of demographic differences in attainment. Her work has had considerable impact across the world and she has made major contributions within the UK, notably as part of the South East Physics Network consortium. She is still very much in the forefront of these areas.

In 2002 at the OU, she led the Maths for Science module, used by literally tens of thousands of students across science subjects. It led to an ebook and textbook of the same name, published in 2013; the latter receiving huge praise, 81% of the 94 Amazon reviews have 5*, and selling around 2500 copies. The work also fed into the very influential PPLATO project.

Jordan is a world-leader in online assessment. She developed the OU’s first interactive computer-marked assessment, which provided instant feedback. In 2004, this led to the OpenMark question type, which strongly influenced the Moodle Quiz engine. Building upon that, in 2006 she worked on the development and evaluation of the PMatch question type in OpenMark, which automatically marks and gives feedback on free-text responses of up to 20 words, moving away from reliance on multiple choice questions. PMatch led to the Pattern Match question type in Moodle, which is used literally by millions internationally across all sectors.

Online assessment has a major use in diagnostic testing, which Jordan continues to advise on. Recently, she has established an automatically marked, free-text version of the Force Concept Inventory (a set of multiple choice questions used to assess conceptual understanding) laying the groundwork for different models for concept inventories. She has a particular interest in demographic differences in responses to such assessments and currently leads an Ogden Trust-funded research project on the effect of demographic intersectionality (such as gender, ethnicity, social class, neurodiversity) on the attainment gaps that are well-documented in higher education.

In addition to these achievements, she was involved in the Physics Innovations Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, introducing the first interactive screen experiments, and was part of the Executive Committee of Assessment in Higher Education, helping run its international conference. Jordan worked with the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation to investigate the possibility of computer-assessed GCSEs. During the pandemic, Jordan helped numerous universities with their assessments. She is a genuine unsung hero who often works selflessly for others.