Dr Sharon Marshall

Winner of Best Lecturer

Engaging students through innovative approaches

Name Dr Sharon Marshall
Email Sharon.Marshall@exeter.ac.uk 
Position Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History, Admissions Tutor and Senior Tutor
College College of Humanities

Engaging students through Twitter

Sharon, a Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History, encourages students to actively engage with their studies and extra-curricular activities, to shape their own University experience:

“When thinking about student engagement...I always say to students when they come to Open Days, we invite you to be partners in what we’re doing here, and I think I am very conscious of having to then live up to that promise…and I think that is one of things that attracts them to Exeter, that we promise them this sense of kind of involvement and ownership of their degree”.

One important way Sharon does this is through the use of Twitter in her teaching, as a means to encourage debate and discussion among students beyond the classroom. Furthermore, engaging with social media has allowed Sharon to cater for a range of learning styles, providing a forum for students who are perhaps less likely to speak up in lectures to voice their thoughts.

Open-door policy

In addition her teaching role, Sharon is also Admissions Tutor and Senior Tutor for the department. She adopts an open-door policy with her students, actively encouraging them to meet and discuss any issues with her. As Sharon explains, this approach benefits not only the students, but also herself:

“I think just getting to know our students really helps in terms of engaging with them. So finding out what they’re doing outside of their degree, it’s the first thing I always ask my personal tutees …because often that’s a key to how happy someone is here…and I think sometimes we have a…really narrow sense of what an engaged student looks like…So I think it’s really important to…talk to our students, get to know them and join in with the things they are doing as well. So, our student Classics Society put on loads of events through the year…and I think it’s really important for us to participate with them in that and to join in and go and see their play [for example] or act in it as I did one year…[and] show we’re interested in our students as people and what they’re doing…outside of the classroom”.

Isca Latina project

Sharon has also played a crucial role in developing the widening participation project, Isca Latina, where students from the University visit local primary and secondary schools in the community to teach a short course on Latin.

“I think it’s a great language for thinking about problem-solving, so I think it has this much broader skillset that comes with it, but also I think it is about Widening Participation and saying…let’s gives these people a taste of it”.

As Sharon points out, students helping to deliver the Isca Latina programme in local schools are also benefiting from the experience, reflecting on how they themselves learn new languages and the best way to communicate and teach these to others: "...when I’m planning my teaching, I try to think about the application of our subject to the real world. I think particularly with….[a subject] like Classics and Ancient History, it’s not most the obvious subject in terms of kind of contemporary relevance, but actually it really speaks to the modern world….So [when planning topics for my lectures] it has to have some kind of contemporary relevance for me and my students”.

Aim 1: Talented, Active, Engaged Students

To increase levels of proactive student engagement with their academic studies

Using Twitter to gives students a voice

"[Twitter] gave a voice to some of the people who wouldn't normally speak up in class".

Open-door policy

"[Meeting with students] brings me...energy and enthusiasm for my own work".

Isca Latina project

"...it was really, really successful and I think it gave students a lot of confidence".