Teaching with Cultural Collections

The University’s cultural collections are playing an ever-increasing role in today’s teaching and learning environment as new facilities and programs open up new opportunities.

A beige jar that was used before the Egyptian pyramids were even built is among a range of ancient objects that are enabling students to learn about world history through their tactile senses.

From behind a large window display that curves around the object lab, students at the University of Melbourne can marvel at and interact with ancient manuscripts, books, artefacts and artworks in the new Arts West building. The approach is grounded in the object-based learning (OBL) model which involves the active integration of objects into the learning environment.

Students from McGuire College Shepparton participating in object-based learning program using the University'’'s cultural collections.
Students from McGuire College Shepparton participating in object-based learning program using the University’s cultural collections. Photo and banner image by Rodd Young.

Funded by a Melbourne Engagement Grant, Arts Faculty colleagues Dr Andrew Jamieson and Sharyn Volk embarked on a project to provide school students from the Goulburn Valley the opportunity to interact with such objects in an effort to broaden their historical knowledge and educational outcomes.

According to Jamieson, physically interacting with an object is a unique experience that the digital world cannot compete with.

“The intimate examination of the artefacts of an ancient culture brings that world to life in a way that texts, 2D, or digital surrogates cannot. OBL helps to ignite a student’s imagination and adds depth to their learning experience,” he says.

Object-based learning programs for University students at The Potter.
Object-based learning programs for University students at The Potter. Photo: Jodie Hutchinson.

A variety of benefits are associated with object-based learning, ranging from students having a direct link with the past and developing the important skill of drawing conclusions based on an examination of evidence, to long-term memory retention of information in comparison to text-based learning.

Arts West is not the only University facility to provide these opportunities to students and their teachers. The Ian Potter Museum of Art hosts a number of academic programs to connect academics and students from across disciplines and courses with the Potter's collections, programs and environments.

Nearly 8,500 students from 106 different subjects across the University have participated in object-based learning experiences in 2016 alone. Disciplines ranging from health, medical and vet sciences to creative writing, geography, art history and statistical analysis have accessed the Potter’s collections to enhance the teaching and learning experience of students.

Tutorials related to the Potter’s collections or activities take place on site and can be related to current exhibitions. They can also focus on selected works brought from collection storage, to match the theme of the tutorials and enrich the tutorial content through close engagement with works of art.

Object-based learning programs for University students at The Potter
Photo: Jodie Hutchinson.

Find out more about Arts West and The Ian Potter Museum of Art.

Explore other student-focused initiatives.

Melbourne Engagement Grants information for staff.