My name is Cora Beth, and I’m a classicist living in the North East of England. I currently work as an Open University Associate Lecturer on undergraduate and postgraduate Classics modules.
I’m an advocate of lifelong learning, open education and bringing Classics into state schools.
I like learning. I have a long string of letters after my name, and I can’t remember what they all mean. I can usually be found with my nose in a book.
Welcome to my website! You’ll find more about my interests below. If you’d like to contact me, click here.
My route to Classics was smoothed by luck; at the age of 10 I was fortunate to win a scholarship to a school which taught Latin and Greek. It added an extra two hours to my school journey every day, but even then I thought it worth the effort. Classics for me was a window into another world; not just the world of the Greeks and Romans, but also the world of educational history – the centuries-long tradition of children memorising declensions, struggling with the subjunctive and making up rude Latin puns to annoy people.
My school was in an affluent area; my home was not. Around me I saw a lot of other kids who would never get the opportunity to learn the things that I was learning. That didn’t seem at all fair. So as soon as I got my Classics degree I headed back to the schools in my home town, to see what I could do about it.
For eight years I ran after-school clubs, holiday workshops, primary school enrichment activities and special sessions both for children at risk of exclusion and for gifted and talented groups, in state schools across North East England. Sometimes I worked with the Museums Service, sometimes with community organisations or school initiatives. Demand was always high; for some clubs there were waiting lists to get on the waiting list!
At the same time I was studying, first for an MLitt in Classics at Newcastle (on Sophocles, Horace and Tacitus, if I remember correctly), then for a PhD (looking into visual description in Tacitus’ Annals and Histories). During those years, Classics in state schools began to take off; the Minimus project was gaining momentum in state primary schools, and the organisation Classics For All was championing the revival of Classics in low-income areas.
While I was working towards my PhD I discovered The Open University. The ethos of the OU, that education should be open to all, struck a chord with me; it was the principle I had been following for the last few years, but applied to adults rather than children.
When I finished my PhD in 2005 I had also gained an MEd (with a focus on primary education and applied linguistics) from the OU; and I promptly applied to teach with the OU (see my ‘career story’ at Vitae and an interview with The Independent here).
I have been working for the OU ever since, primarily as an Associate Lecturer but also as a course consultant, returning occasionally to school teaching when I receive a request from a local group. I have also been studying, collecting a further BA, a Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing, and an MA in Online and Distance Education; and in 2018 I was awarded Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy in recognition of my work in researching and developing new ways of supporting students in Classics.
I’m a classicist by training; but I’m also fascinated by how people learn, and that drives a lot of my research. Right now I’m working towards a second doctorate, this time in Education. My interest is in ‘lone learners’ (sometimes referred to as ‘passive learners’, ‘lurkers’, ‘browsers’ or ‘free-riders’) whom I believe are unfairly denigrated and dismissed by Higher Education as a whole. Maybe I can help to fix that.
I founded Classical Studies Support in 2017 to make Classics more accessible to distance learners. I was motivated by the statistic that over 70% of academic blogs are written by lecturers for other lecturers; research suggests that only about 15% of academic blogs address students directly. This trend perpetuates a closed, elitist culture which doesn’t welcome new members easily; but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last two decades, it’s that Classics doesn’t need to be exclusive to be special.
So welcome to the website! Please feel free to leave comments, to ‘like’ things or share things, or to contact me if there’s anything you’d like to contribute.
Cora Beth Knowles
Greek club in South Shields, 2004.
Long ago Latin club trips to Arbeia Roman Fort.
If you’d like to read about my work as a painter, and how it ties into my research in Classics education, check out this page: On being a mural-painting classicist.
If you’re interested in some of my research and the peculiar story behind it, you might like to read this: The Story of the Stolen Statues.