Cambridge Teacher Seminar

June 29-July 6, 2018

The Cambridge Teacher Seminar is held in Peterhouse – the oldest college in the University of Cambridge. Here, teachers find an inspiring setting for intellectual reflection and cultural enrichment. The diverse program of plenary speakers and events makes accessible much of the scholarly wealth and history of the University.

The Residence

The Cambridge Teacher Seminar is held in Peterhouse – the oldest college in the University of Cambridge. It was founded by Hugo de Balsham, Bishop of Ely, in 1284. In terms of the number of students admitted each year, Peterhouse is also one of the smallest, most intimate, and most traditional colleges. The dining hall has been in continuous use since the thirteenth century, and it remains one of the only Cambridge halls in which two Latin graces are said during dinner. Despite its antiquity, Peterhouse has a long-held reputation as a center of innovation. Generations of graduates – known as “Petreans” – have contributed to the social and political upheavals that have shaped Britain and the world. Among them are the nineteenth-century polymath Charles Babbage, who is widely-credited with developing the concept of the modern computer. And in 1884, to mark Peterhouse’s 600th anniversary, the Petrean and mathematical physicist Lord Kelvin made the college one of the first British establishments to have electric light. Sir Frank Whittle, who invented the jet engine, studied at Peterhouse in the 1930s; as did the creator of the hovercraft, Sir Christopher Cockerell. Later in the twentieth century, five Petreans were awarded Nobel Prizes for their work in Chemistry – Sir John Kendrew, Sir Aaron Klug, Archer Martin, Max Perutz, and Michael Levitt. Participants on our Cambridge Teacher Seminar join a continuum of great thinkers stretching back through the centuries in a unique environment of living history. Accommodation is modern and comfortable. The majority of bedrooms are equipped with an en-suite bathroom, and participants have access to the recently-refurbished college bar. Peterhouse is within easy walking distance of all the major attractions in Cambridge, including King’s College Chapel and the Fitzwilliam Museum.

The Director

Prof. Chris Sangwin is Professor of Technology Enhanced Science Education in the School of Mathematics at The University of Edinburgh. Chris studied at Oxford University and the University of Bath and previously held posts at the University of Birmingham and Loughborough University in the UK. His learning and teaching interests include automatic assessment of mathematics using computer algebra and problem solving using student-centre approaches. Prof. Sangwin is the author of a number of books, including school textbooks, and the popular science book How Round is Your Circle, which illustrates and investigates many links between mathematics and engineering using physical models.

English Literature

This Study Group reads and discusses selected texts by major writers, exploring key ideas in practical criticism and how these may be presented in classrooms around the world. While considering texts that can stand on their own or be integrated into thematic courses, the group examines canonical writers from Shakespeare to Virginia Woolf, along with others who have a particular connection to Cambridge (such as William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Lord Tennyson, Rupert Brooke, and Sylvia Plath). Participants visit sites of literary interest around Cambridge, including the Orchard in Grantchester and the former colleges of famous writers and poets.

The Changing Library

This Study Group focuses on the evolution of the library, from issues of design and the management of specialist collections to the challenges and opportunities presented by new technologies and streams of information. The Study Group takes full advantage of the rich and varied library system of the University of Cambridge, with its 114 constituent bodies. Participants explore several medieval libraries and rare book collections, and confer with experts drawn from different fields of library science and archive management.

Thinking Mathematically

How can teachers encourage students to invest time and effort in solving challenging problems in mathematics, and in related subjects like computing, engineering, and science? Participants explore the process of solving problems by engaging with historical issues in mathematics. This provides the basis for examining the work of famous educators, such as Polya and Lakatos, on the nature of problem-solving in education and research. What does it mean to solve a problem? What makes a mathematical proof watertight? How does mathematical proof contrast with evidence in science or an “engineering solution”? How can crowded contemporary curricula accommodate problem-solving as a core theme? And how can teachers nurture confident problem-solving skills in their students?

Why History Matters

This Study Group explores a selection of themes lying at the interstices of history as it is taught in primary and secondary schools, and history as it is researched in universities. Drawing on examples from all periods, sessions address pedagogical questions such as how to incorporate literature, art, and cinema into a syllabus; and how best to convey the value, uses, and abuses of history to new generations of students. The Study Group also addresses research topics, privileging areas that are all too often excluded from syllabi, such as the places of geography, environment, and disease in history, as well as how the changing nature of war affected the human condition and transformed political institutions.