What an amazing opportunity to go to the University of Cambridge. Some of the brilliant minds in history have graduated from this university. But there is a misunderstanding – there is no “University of Cambridge”. There are 18,000 students studying in 31 Colleges and 150 Departments, Faculties, Schools and other institutions. However, this confederation of Departments, School, Faculties and Colleges are organise by a central administration team. The University of Cambridge is rich in history. It is one of the world’s oldest universities and leading academic centres, and a self-governed community of scholars. Its reputation for outstanding academic achievement is known world-wide and reflects the intellectual achievement of its students, as well as the world-class original research carried out by the staff of the University and the Colleges.
History of an extraordinary town
When you are staying in Cambridge it is impossible to not seeand hear from the rich history of this former small village. This considerable town exists since at least 875. The town took its name from the bridge across the river Cam – “CAM-BRIDGE”. The town was always an important trading centre with a number of other religious institutions, two hospitals and a castle on the north side of the bridge. In 1209, scholars taking refuge from hostile townsmen in Oxford migrated to Cambridge and settled there. By 1226 the scholars were numerous enough to have set up an organisation, represented by an official called a Chancellor, and seem to have arranged regular courses of study, taught by their own members. King Henry III took the scholars under his protection as early as 1231 and tried to ensure that they had a monopoly on teaching. The teaching took the form of reading and explaining texts; the examinations were oral disputations in which the candidates advanced a series of questions or theses which they disputed or argued with opponents a little senior to themselves, and finally with the masters who had taught them. Some of the masters, but by no means all, went on to advanced studies in divinity, canon and civil law, and, more rarely, medicine, which were taught and examined in the same way by those who had already passed through the course and become doctors. The doctors grouped themselves into specific faculties. The earliest College was St Peter’s or ‘Peterhouse’, founded in 1284. Michaelhouse, Clare, Pembroke, Gonville Hall, Trinity Hall, Corpus Christi, King’s, Queens’ and St Catharine’s followed during the next 100 years. Three late foundations, Jesus, Christ’s and St John’s, emerged from the dissolution of small religious houses before 1520 and, like the King’s Hall, provided for younger scholars as well as ‘post-graduates’. In 2009, after a long history, the University of Cambridge reached a special milestone – 800 years of people, ideas and achievements that continue to transform and benefit the world. Celebrating the best of Cambridge’s rich history and looking forward to the future, the University reflected on the myriad achievements and world-changing ideas born within its walls, from the establishment of the fundamentals of physics to the discovery of the structure of DNA; from the transformative thinking of great Cambridge philosophers, poets and artists; to the groundbreaking work of its many Nobel Prize winners.
Maybe you ask yourself – where does she know all these things from? . . . Well I took part at one of those many punting tours across the Cam. I enjoyed a fantastic view of the world famous Cambridge College ‘Backs’ from the comfort of a traditional Cambridge Punt. I had a special view of King’s College Chapel, the Wren Library at Trinity College and the Mathematical Bridge
It was fun and I can recommend a punting tour warmly to everybody who will visit Cambridge!
Living and working in Cambridge
During my exchange I work at the Faculty of Education. The Faculty of Education from the University of Cambridge is located in the McIntyre Building next to Homerton College. The building was opened in 2005 and it was named the Donald McIntyre Building in 2009, after Donald McIntyre a Professor and former member of Faculty. The design of the new building is very modern, open and includes a wonderful new library – in which I work most of the time.
My UK-CETE colleagues invited me to take part in some lectures for PGCE Students. PGCE courses prepare graduates to teach – especially in D&T (Design and Technology). The courses are taught in partnership with local schools with trainees spending 120 days of the course working with teachers and children across the East Anglia region and 60 days based at the Faculty. Prof. Dr. Greta Defeyer, a psychologist from the Northumbria University, was invited to one of those courses, too. Together with the students we talked about creativity and how it could be possible to measure it – especially in school-projects? How could criteria “capture” creativity? What kind of lessons / materials allow children to be creative? It was a unique lesson and I plan to include some of these exercises into my own lectures as well.
During the week I was also allowed to take part in one of the DOT-team meetings. DOT is a research project – Designing Our Tomorrows (DOT). Bill (our UK CETE-member) is co-investigator of this EPSRC Funded Research Project in collaboration with the Engineering Design Centre (Engineering Department in Cambridge), Royal College of Art (Henry Hamlyn Centre, London), and Ergonomics and Safety Research Institute (ESRI) of Loughborough University. We talked about the material and how children have to be creative when they are working with it, about the social problems that children are confronted with and have to find solutions for.
After Bill and all the others worked so long on the DOT-boxes, they wanted a feedback from teachers, who have to work with the material in the future. For this reason they invited 5 teachers from local schools to test the material and give a feedback. All those teachers are teaching D&T in their schools but have different backgrounds: one of them studies industrial design, one engineering and another design & art.
Bill and his team (including Dr. Ian Hosking – an Advisory Board member of CETE) listened very carefully. We discussed more or less important details of the DOT-boxes, like: size of the worksheets, color or no color for the worksheets, should the material and worksheets are collected in a book or not . . . As you can see my first weeks were full of interesting courses, meetings and new experiences. I hope I can remember all the ideas I have for my own lectures.
Since I started my exchange in Cambridge I recognised that this town and its students are very international. At my first dinner-party I talked to people from France, Belgium, Netherland, Switzerland as well as Spain and of course England too. It was a wonderful evening: listing to and speaking with all these languages and hearing from their experiences. It is unbelievable for me that the first two weeks of my exchange are already over. So many things happened and I did not recognise that time has gone by so fast.