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Objects—carefully curated—help focus discussions and knowledge explorations, and become the basis of student-centered scholarly writing when Object-based learning (OBL) is combined with structured research writing assignments using the Cornell Notes questions in a Google form.

Educators cannot eliminate distractions but can encourage focus and attention (Lang, Distracted, 2020, 1-24). I propose using curated objects to focus student attention: Such object-based learning (OBL) allows students to engage holistically with otherwise abstract facts, figures and frameworks (Chatterjee and Hannan, 2016). Combining OBL with structured active note taking, such as through the Cornell note taking method, “can lead to efficient study practices, better course outcomes, and improved retention of content beyond a course’s conclusion” (Friedman, Notes on Note-Taking, 2014, 3). The result is a scaffolding structure that helps students read scholarly texts and apply their understanding to a concrete object, in support of key course learning objectives.

Publisher Location

Las Vegas (Nev.)

Publication Date

Spring 2022


UNLV Office of Faculty Affairs



Controlled Subject

Learning and scholarship--Technological innovations


Education | English Language and Literature | Higher Education | History | Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

File Format


File Size

189 KB



Brown, J.D. (1982). Mind in Matter: An Introduction to Material Culture Theory and Method. Winterthur Portfolio. 17:1, 1-19.

Chatterjee, H. and L. Hannan (eds.) (2016). Engaging the Senses: Object-Based Learning in Higher Education. London: Routledge.

Friedman, Michael. (2014). Notes on Note-Taking: Review of Research and Insights for Students and Instructors. Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching. Harvard University.

Houy, Y. (2020). Motivating Autonomous Knowledge Exploration. UNLV Best Teaching Practices Expo. 100. URL:

Kilker, J. (2022). Guided Research-informed Notetaking, UNLV Best Teaching Practices Expo. 157. URL:

Lang, J. (2020). Distracted: Why students can’t focus and what you can do about it. New York: Basic Books.

Miller, M. D. (2014). Minds Online. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


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Focused and Autonomous Writing Through Objects