Introduction to object based learning

UCL Museums and Collections offers a wide range of high quality museum collections, digital resources and innovative ideas for teaching in the University.

For guidance and support on how to make use of UCL's diverse museum collections in your undergraduate and postgraduate teaching please contact the Teaching Fellow in Object Based Learning: Thomas Kador at

Benefits of using real objects in learning

  • They provide a direct link with a topic or ‘the past’ and can really enhance young people’s interest in and understanding of a topic/subject.
  • They encourage learners to use all their senses – especially touch, sight and smell.
  • They help to develop the important skill of drawing conclusions based on an examination of evidence, together with an understanding of the limitations and reliability of evidence.
  • They are ideal for generating group and class discussion.
  • They promote the value of museums and encourage young people to visit museums and galleries with their families to further their learning.

Practical advice

Joe Cain, senior lecturer in History and Philosophy of Biology, has written Practical concerns when implementing object-based teaching in higher education, a paper that acknowledges the difficulties lecturers may face when planning to use objects in their teaching but also illustrates the rich rewards to be gained from this approach.

"OBL isn't just about objects; it's about teaching, too," he writes. "It's inextricably linked to criticisms of chalk-and-talk lecture styles and to the promotion of active, open-ended, student-centred learning."

For more practical advice, take a look at the video produced by CALT or visit the CALT page on how to integrate objects into your teaching. You will also find examples of innovative uses and methods of object-based learning taking place around UCL in the section below.

Case studies


Take a look at our object-based e-resources which have been designed in consultation with teaching staff for use across a wide range of subjects from the life sciences to artefact studies.


  • Hannan, L. and Chatterjee, H.J. (forthcoming, 2014) Object Based Learning in Higher Education, Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate
  • 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 and Burlington: Ashgate, pp. 159-168
  • Chatterjee, H. J. (2010). 'Object-Based Learning In Higher Education: The pedadogical power of museums.' University Museums and Collections Journal, 3: 179-181.
  • Chatterjee, H.J. & Duhs, R. (2010). 'Object Based Learning in Higher Education: Pedagogical perspectives on enhancing student learning through collections.' Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Through Design, University of Brighton. 3-6. Published online: 1/7/2010.
  • Chatterjee, H. J. (2009). 'Staying Essential: Articulating the Value of Object Based Learning.' University Museums and Collections Journal. Published online: 15/01/2009