Object Based Learning in the Social Sciences

Three Approaches to Haptic Knowledge Making

Object-based learning, where students learn by hands-on interactive experiences with skills and objects, provides an active, multi-layered learning experience. Engaging haptic perceptual styles to build meaning and understanding through tactile stimuli, object-based learning can increase student engagement and satisfaction, and improve knowledge retention and higher-level critical thinking. This paper examines three case studies where haptic pedagogical principles were employed to develop learning experiences for key themes, practices and challenges of anthropology. The first, an archaeological laboratory interaction, gave students physical artefacts to touch, manipulate and critically consider, embedded within real-life archaeological case studies. The second, an interactive session using hand-written letters from asylum seekers drawn from an archival collection, connected students with otherwise-inaccessible asylum-seeker voices and multi-sensory modes of critical archival research. The third, a museum curation task, gave students the opportunity to curate and reflect critically on their own museum exhibition of household objects, both meaningful and mundane. All three case studies demonstrate the benefits of utilising the haptic perceptual style in learning design, with engaged and critically reflective understanding being developed. However, there are limitations and considerations inherent in such learning activities, including the ethics of handling objects and the constraints of digital formats for online learning.