Dr Ross Galloway’s award recognition for contributions to physics education

Congratulations to Dr Ross Galloway on who has been awarded the 2022 Institute of Physics Marie Curie-Sklodowska Medal and Prize in recognition of work in developing, using and communicating research-based approaches to active student learning in physics and other disciplines.

The Institute of Physics Marie Curie-Sklodowska Medal and Prize is awarded to those who have made distinguished contributions to physics education.

Dr Ross Galloway’s achievements cover two areas of higher education: firstly, the use, promotion and evaluation of the flipped classroom approach, in which the transfer of knowledge occurs remotely, usually online, and contact with the teacher involves student-centred activity; secondly the use of PeerWise, a revolutionary approach to teaching in which students generate content themselves, including questions and problems to be solved by other students.

Both these areas of work are pioneering in the UK and have been influential in encouraging take up in many other universities. These approaches have also been expanded to developmental sessions in disciplines beyond physics.

Flipped classroom teaching was introduced in 2011 by Dr Galloway as part of the Edinburgh team. He has carried out many evaluation studies, initially focusing on outcome metrics (e.g. using the Force Concept Inventory to evaluate conceptual understanding). More recent studies have included qualitative aspects of student/instructor behaviour to determine what really works and to disperse the false dichotomy between traditional and active learning, instead focusing on which aspects of student activity result in the most valuable learning.

Dr Galloway was part of the first wave of UK engagement with PeerWise from 2010. The distinctive Edinburgh approach was their extensive use of a research-informed scaffold, to allow students to understand the unfamiliar task of writing problems rather than solving them, to build their confidence and to highlight what is effective assessment. He led the deployment of those scaffolding activities and made many improvements over several years. He also carried out research on how students used PeerWise and determined that, when properly supported, students can generate high-quality questions, indicating deep learning and sophisticated understanding of the physics beyond that typically obtained in more passive approaches.

In addition to physics education research, Dr Galloway provides input to the Institute of Physics Degree Accreditation Committee, and provided a major contribution to the revised accreditation approach which is less content-focused and places more emphasis on degree outcomes relating to students' conceptual understanding of physics, problem solving and broader skills.