Object-based Learning Research

Object-based Learning at UCL

Student examines print with magnifying glass

In recent years, pioneering research into the value of object-based learning (OBL) in a higher education context has been undertaken at University College London. This research was prompted by the observation that whilst a rich literature on the use of collections in museum and gallery education existed, little had been written on the particular benefits of this method of learning for university programmes – despite universities holding large and unique collections of art works, manuscripts, specimens, rare books and artefacts. In response, Dr Helen Chatterjee, and her colleagues Dr Rosalind Duhs and Dr Leonie Hannan, have developed a programme of research dedicated to uncovering the ways in which museum collections can enhance learning for undergraduate and postgraduate students.

This research is strongly linked to pedagogies of active and experiential learning, which sees hands-on engagement with the object of study as key to personal meaning-making and the long-term retention of ideas. The research uses a variety of methods including surveys, semi-structured interviews, focus groups and observations.


OBL and the Student Experience

Object-based learning session at the Grant Museum

To date the focus has been on the student experience of learning through objects and data collected between 2010 and 2012 revealed that a majority of students, across a range of disciplines, thought object-based learning was a more effective method of learning than a lecture or talk. This was a compelling finding, but since then the research team has sought to explore in more detail the spectrum of practice in object-based learning sessions and the ways in which different disciplines use objects to help students understand new knowledge and develop key skills.

An aim of future research is to find out how tactile engagements with museum objects affect learning and to explore the different kinds of interactions students might have with 2D and 3D material.


Publications

Helen J. Chatterjee and Leonie Hannan have a book entitled Object-Based Learning in Higher Education forthcoming with Ashgate. The book brings together an international network of contributors from universities and museums in the UK, USA, Europe and Asia and presents the first comprehensive exploration of object-based learning as a pedagogy for higher education.

Cain, J. (2010), ‘Practical Concerns when Implementing Object-Based Teaching in Higher Education’, University Museums and Collections Journal, 3, 197-201.

Chatterjee, H.J. (2008a), ‘Staying Essential: Articulating the value of OBL’, University Museums and Collections Journal, 1, 1-6. 

Chatterjee, H.J. (ed.) (2008b), Touch in Museums: Policy and practice in object handling. Oxford: Berg.

Chatterjee, H.J. and Duhs, R. (2010), ‘OBL in Higher Education’, CETLD Learning at the Interface Conference Proceedings

Chatterjee, H.J. (2011), ‘Object-Based Learning In Higher Education: The pedadogical power of museums’, University Museums and Collections Journal, 3, 179-181. 

Duhs, R. (2010), ‘Learning from University Museums and Collections in  Higher Education: University College London (UCL)’, University Museums and Collections Journal, 3, 183-6. 

Hannan, L, Duhs, R. and Chatterjee, H.J. (2013). ‘Object Based Learning: a powerful pedagogy for higher education’. In Museums and Higher Education Working Together: Challenges and Opportunities. Eds. A. Boddington, J. Boys & C. Speight.  Farnham & Burlington: Ashgate, pp. 159-168

Biggs, J. (2012), ‘What the Student Does: Teaching for enhanced learning’, Higher Education Research & Development, 31(1), 39-55.

Blackie, M.A.L., Case, J.M., and Jawitz, J. (2010), ‘Student-Centredness: The link between transforming students and transforming ourselves’, Teaching in Higher Education, 15(6), 637-646.

Boddington, A., Boys, J. & Speight, C. (eds) (2013), Museums and Higher Education Working Together: Challenges and Opportunities. Farnham & Burlington: Ashgate

Borun, M. (2002), ‘Object-Based Learning and Family Groups’ in Paris, S.G. and Mawah, N.J. (eds), Perspectives on Object-Centred Learning in Museums, 245-260. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Corfield. P.J. (2008), ‘Hobbling Around with the Burden of Easily Forgotten Information’, The Times Higher, 25 Sept. – 1 Oct., 24-25,

Deignan, T. (2009), ‘Enquiry-Based Learning: Perspectives on practice’, Teaching in Higher Education, 14(1), 13–28.

Durbin, G., Morris, S. and Wilkinson, S. (1990), Learning from Objects: A teachers guide. London: English Heritage.

Eberbach, C. and Crowley, K. (2005), ‘From Living to Virtual: Learning from museum objects’, Curator: The Museum Journal, 48(3), 317-338.

Gallace, A. and Spence, C. (2008), ‘A Memory for Touch: The cognitive psychology of tactile memory’ in H.J. Chatterjee (ed.), Touch in Museums: Policy and practice in object handling, 163-186. Oxford: Berg.

Griffin, J. (1998), ‘Learning Science Through Practical Experiences in Museums’, International Journal of Science Education, 20(6), 655-663.

Healey, M.J. (2010), Active Learning and Student Engagement: International perspectives and practices in geography in higher education. London: Routledge.

Kolb, D.A. and Fry, R. (1975), ‘Toward an Applied Theory of Experiential Learning’, in C. Cooper (ed.), Theories of Group Process, 33-57. London: John Wiley.

Lane, J. and Wallace, A. (2007), Hands On: Learning from objects and paintings. A teacher’s guide. Glasgow: Scottish Museums Council.

Levy, P. and Petrulis, R. (2007), ‘Towards transformation? First year students, inquiry-based learning and the research/teaching nexus’, in Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE), December 11–13. Brighton

Meyer, J.H.F. and Land, R. (2005), ‘Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge (2): Epistemological considerations and a conceptual framework for teaching and learning’, Higher Education, 49(3), 373–388.

Paris, S.G. (2002), Perspectives on Object-Centered Learning in Museums. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Reynolds, R. and Speight, C. (eds) (2010). Museums and Design Education: Looking to learn, learning to see. London: Ashgate.

Romanek, D. and Lynch, B. (2008), ‘Touch and the Value of Object Handling: Final conclusions for a new sensory museology’, in H.J. Chatterjee (ed.), Touch in Museums: Policy and practice in object handling, 275-286. Oxford: Berg.

Rowe, S. (2002), ‘The Role of Objects in Active, Distributed Meaning-Making’ in A.G. Paris (ed.), Perspectives on Object-Centered Learning in Museums, 19-36.  London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Spronken-Smith, R.A., Walker, R., Batchelor, J., O’Steen, B., Angelo, T. and Matthews, H. (2008), Inquiry-Based Learning. Prepared for the New Zealand Ministry of Education.

Wood, W.B. (2003), ‘Inquiry-Based Undergraduate Teaching in the Life Sciences at Large Research Universities: A perspective on the Boyer Commission Report’, Cell Biology Education, 2, 112-116.

Wood, J. and Levy, P. (2009), ‘Inquiry-Based Learning Pedagogies in the Arts and Social Sciences: Purposes, conceptions and models of practice’ in Proceedings of Improving Student Learning (ISL), September 1–3, at the University of Durham, Durham, UK.