Objects as Learning Objects in Healthcare

Authors: Turner-Wilson, A.L.

Conference: 22nd International Networking for Education in Healthcare Conference

Dates: 6-8 September 2011


Theme Paper Students, Teachers and Service Users Enhancing the Student Experience

Abstract Objects as Learning Objects in Healthcare

Learning objects are structured materials generally used to meet specific learning outcomes. Lecturers usually compose or re-use Microsoft PowerPoint sessions and hand-outs, or draw on film clips or pictures to support and illustrate particular points. Artefacts also sit in the lecturer’s toolkit, and it is these that are considered in this paper. Often objects are used to enhance clinical skills development within healthcare teaching (e.g. Ruiz et al 2006), however this work suggests that it is possible to extend their use as learning aids beyond this domain. Drawing on the scholarship of material culture, it is suggested that objects from daily life can enhance learning. Material cultural studies, often found in disciplines such as anthropology or archaeology concentrates on the ‘things’ in our lives. It is possible to classify and provide typologies for objects, but that is of little interest to student nurses, physiotherapist or midwives. Rather the relationship of artefacts with people offers a more rewarding avenue. Here the connection between a person and a thing becomes blurred and fuzzy. Two domains exist, that of the practical functional role and the other symbolic (Hodder 1999). Carl Knappett (2005) offers an interesting insight, suggesting that a stick can be perceived as an integral part to a blind man’s bodily presence in the world.

Given the complexities of objects in our lives, and their potential to expand understandings of health, it is suggested that they are brought into the learning environment. Small items could, for example, be distributed to groups of students, who might be encouraged to consider how these artefacts create or influence a client’s social role in the world. It is recognised that teaching material should be stimulating and interesting in order to assist student learning (Fry et al 2001), and the use of small objects in the classroom setting can provide such opportunity. Artefacts offer a different perspective from the computerised approach, in that they are tangible and tactile. Students can draw on their own experiences of interacting with an object (utilising a Kolb (1984) type methodology), before extracting meanings relating to a client. This might be extended to reflective accounts, providing a platform for self-discovery concerning issues that matter to an individual’s health A comb for instance might act as a means to promoting health and wellbeing for the self through its use in styling hair, or be perceived as gendered, contributing to identity, or act as an item for memorialising the dead. As a consequence learning about healthcare can be further extended into the realm of the qualitative.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Angela Turner-Wilson

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