Objectively Speaking: the value and practice of object-based teaching

Anna Garnett

ITP Department Rep

This conference and series of round-table workshops, which took place at the British Museum on 4th April, aimed to explore the value of object-based teaching and to capture the impact of different object-based approaches to teaching and learning.

A key benefit of this type of arrangement was that delegates could sign up to attend workshops led by Museum professionals across the sector, including ‘See, Link, Wonder: Supporting educational groups to make the most of object galleries’ (Science Museum), and ‘Crossing Thresholds: Utilising objects to understand difficult concepts’ (UCL), some of which also integrated object handling.

Running concurrently with the workshops was a full day of lectures exploring different themes relating to object-based learning, such as:

  • How can museums connect collections with classrooms and academic teaching?
  • What is the impact and opportunity of digital technology for object-based teaching?
  • How can objects facilitate creative learning practice?

I especially enjoyed the presentation of Natalie McCaul and Martin Fell (York Museums Trust) who discussed the success of a recent project called ‘Teaching Prehistoric Yorkshire’, which used 15 outstanding prehistoric objects from Yorkshire as the basis for a new online resource for teachers and schools. I am always interested to learn about teaching projects which focus on archaeological themes, and this is a great example.

While the lectures and workshops were running, there was also an opportunity to take part in practical presentations, including the innovative haptic and 3D modelling project developed by Manchester Museum with Touch & Discover systems, using objects from different collections (including the British Museum) to produce a tactile learning environment for different audiences.

Something that really struck me was the enthusiasm and creative attitudes of the presenters and delegates at the conference, and indeed the organisers who arranged for the whole event to be reimagined though the beautiful illustrations of Scriberia, including during the lectures! The result of this work was very impressive and created a real talking point throughout the conference.

‘Objectively Speaking’ website: http://citizen.britishmuseum.org/objectively-speaking-conference/

© Images author’s own