Object lesson

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An Object Lesson by Boston Public Library

An object lesson is a teaching method that consists of using a physical object or visual aid as a discussion piece for a lesson. Object lesson teaching assumes that material things have the potential to convey information.[1]


The object lesson approach is promoted in the educational philosophy of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, who held that teaching should begin with observation of objects which help students recognize concepts.[2] In his teaching and writing he emphasized the concept of Anschauung, which may be understood as “sense training.”[3] Pestalozzi taught that children were first to develop sensation, then perception, notion, and finally volition, learning how to act morally based on an individual view of the world.[1]


Object lessons were important elements in teaching during the Victorian era of the mid- to late-nineteenth century.[4] By the early twentieth century they were widely used in religious instruction.[5] The popular Baptist educator, Rev. Clarence H. Woolston wrote a number of books about using everyday objects to aid instruction, including Seeing Truth: A Book of Object Lessons with Magical and Mechanical Effects, Penny Object Lessons: 25 Lessons for 25 Cents, and The Bible Object Book: A Book of Object Lessons Which Are Different, Written in Plain English and in Common Words.[6]


  1. ^ a b Carter, Sarah Anne (2010). "On an Object Lesson, or Don't Eat the Evidence". The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth. 3 (1): 7–12. doi:10.1353/hcy.0.0081. S2CID 143888561 – via Project MUSE.
  2. ^ MAKINAE, Naomichi. 2010. "The Origin of Lesson Study in Japan." Paper presented at EARCOME5, Japan Society of Mathematical Education
  3. ^ Good, Katie Day (2020). Bring the World to the Child: Technologies of Global Citizenship in American Education. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. p. 77. ISBN 978-0-262-53802-2.
  4. ^ "Object lessons" HPS Museum Blog (at the University of Leeds), 5 December 2012 (accessed 16 March 2013)
  5. ^ Hasinoff, E. L. (2011). Object Lessons. In: Faith in Objects. Contemporary Anthropology of Religion. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-349-29733-7.
  6. ^ "WorldCat.org". WorldCat.org. Retrieved November 25, 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)