School of Education

Remembering Professor Hugh Burkhardt

In memory of our dear colleague and friend Hugh Burkhardt who passed away unexpectedly on Saturday 3 February. He will be dearly missed by those that knew him and worked with him in the School of Education, and by his many friends and colleagues around the world. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time. 

Hugh began his academic career as a theoretical physicist and then in 1976 joined the University of Nottingham as Director of the Shell Centre for Mathematical Education. From the outset, he championed the importance of high-quality educational design and the Shell Centre quickly garnered a global reputation for the quality of the instructional materials it produced.

Over the decades the Shell Centre had, and continues to have, widespread impact on mathematics education. Hugh was a great networker and maintained a remarkable number of collaborations, many of them in the US, not least of which was a long-term partnership with colleagues at UC Berkeley. It was through this link that Hugh and his team contributed to the unprecedented move to Common Core State Standards in the US.

As an Emeritus Professor Hugh remained active in directing many research and development projects. In addition, he published widely on assessment, mathematical modelling, educational design, and the challenges of systemic change.  Only this month, shortly following his death, his co-authored book, Learning and Teaching for Mathematical Literacy, was published. His unbridled enthusiasm for educational design and for the systemic improvement of mathematics education was infectious, and his assertion that he did his best work in his mid-60s a tremendous encouragement.

Hugh co-founded ISDDE, the International Society for Design and Development in Education, which met for the first time in 2005. In 2013 he won the ISDDE Prize for excellence in educational design for “his leadership of the Shell Centre for Mathematical Education, his contributions to a large number of its influential products, and the development of its engineering research methodology”. In 2016, and together with his close colleague and collaborator Malcolm Swan, he received the inaugural Emma Castelnuovo Award “for excellence in the practice of mathematics education” from the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction.

Hugh’s loss has been felt by his many friends and colleagues, in the university, within the UK and around the world. While his own work was significant, he was also committed to seeking out and nurturing the talents of many others, often helping them build their careers in the field.  He was committed to building a global community of practitioners of educational designers under the auspices of the Shell centre and ISDDE.  He was one of a kind.
Posted on Monday 26th February 2024

School of Education

University of Nottingham
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