UCL News


UCL Museums & Collections study day: learning through artefacts

8 April 2009


Pot used in object handling ucl.ac.uk/museums/learning" target="_self">UCL Museums & Collections: Teaching and Learning

UCL Museums & Collections has kickstarted several new collaborations across the university to promote the academic opportunities provided by UCL's 800,000 objects and artefacts.

A special study day 'Object-Based Learning in Higher Education' held on 2 April, attracted around 70 delegates from the university, and other higher education establishments and museums.

The day showcased how UCL Museums & Collections - from the artworks of the UCL Art Collections to the artefacts of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology -  can be a valuable resource for higher education learning opportunities.

Delegates had the chance to explore museum object-based teaching activities and also saw demonstrations of applications designed for the virtual learning environment Moodle based on the geology, zoology and art collections. 

The event was opened by Professor Michael Worton (Vice-Provost, Academic & International), whose office has supported several of the projects under discussion, via funding from the Executive Sub-Committee for Innovations in Teaching, Learning and Assessment.

Dr Helen Chatterjee (Deputy Director, UCL Museums & Collections and Lecturer in UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) chaired the event, and illustrated how departments can involve collections in their teaching.

Staff from across UCL departments, including the UCL Centre for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching, UCL Earth Sciences and UCL Archaeology, presented case studies that demonstrated how object-based learning can enhance cross-disciplinary teaching and strengthen transferable skills.

Dr Joe Cain of UCL Science and Technology Studies offered an introduction to the practice, which supports analytical, critical and practical skills across a range of disciplines. UCL Archaeology's Dr Rachael Sparks offered a how-to guide.

Rhiannedd Smith, Undergraduate Learning Officer at the University of Reading, provided the day's plenary lecture, discussing her role as a facilitator of object based learning, bridging the gap between museums and the student learning experience.

Interactive sessions covered problem-based learning, enquiry-based learning and skills acquisition.

Papers from the day will be published by the University Museums and Collections Journal in early 2010.


UCL Context
Object-based learning at UCL takes many forms, supporting the development of analytical, critical and practical skills. Artefacts, specimens, historical texts and artworks are used in biology practicals, archaeology handling sessions, anthropology projects, art historical analysis, museum studies exhibitions, computer studies projects, and in practical teaching of anatomy and pathology. Object-based learning takes place at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, involving over 100 course units and 2,500 students a year.

For further information about Object-Based Learning please contact Dr Helen Chatterjee.

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