29 May 2007
New study proves the effectiveness of humane teaching methods in biomedical education
I have just published the most comprehensive evidence to date examining the effectiveness of humane teaching methods when compared to animal experimentation or other harmful animal use in veterinary and other biomedical education. Humane teaching methods include computer simulations, high quality videos, "ethically-sourced cadavers," such as from animals euthanized for medical reasons, preserved specimens, models and surgical simulators, non-invasive self-experimentation, and supervised clinical experiences. My review of over 30 educational studies of student learning outcomes found that in over 90% of cases, humane teaching methods achieved learning outcomes at least equivalent to those achieved via traditional harmful animal use. In more than a third of studies, superior learning outcomes resulted from the use of humane alternatives.
My published paper may be freely downloaded from http://www.humanelearning.info/papers/papers_comparative.htm (scroll down the page). Please feel free to distribute it. The abstract is provided below. A Spanish translation is underway; please let me know if you'd like a copy.
The publication of this data in a peer-reviewed biomedical journal has definitively settled the question of whether or not humane teaching methods are effective in biomedical education. The evidence clearly demonstrates that educators can best serve their students and animals, while minimising financial and time burdens, by introducing well-designed teaching methods not reliant on harmful animal use.
However, too many educators remain unaware of this evidence, and remain opposed to humane teaching methods. Accordingly, I am willing to visit any veterinary, medical, biological sciences or other biomedical faculty anywhere in the world, any student group or other audience, and to provide powerpoint presentations on these results and on humane alternatives in education, free of charge. I am experienced at the establishment of humane veterinary surgical training programs and pet body donation programs for the ethical sourcing of cadavers from veterinary teaching hospitals and clinics. Please contact me should you desire a presentation on any of these topics.
I am grateful to the veterinary students at various vet schools internationally who provided information included within this paper.
Andrew Knight BSc., BVMS, CertAW, MRCVS
Director, Animal Consultants International
Knight A. The effectiveness of humane teaching methods in veterinary education. ALTEX: Alternatives to Animal Experimentation 2007;24(2):91-109.
Animal use resulting in harm or death has historically played an integral role in veterinary education, in disciplines such as surgery, physiology, biochemistry, anatomy, pharmacology, and parasitology. However, many non-harmful alternatives now exist, including computer simulations, high quality videos, "ethically-sourced cadavers," such as from animals euthanased for medical reasons, preserved specimens, models and surgical simulators, non-invasive self-experimentation, and supervised clinical experiences. Veterinary students seeking to use such methods often face strong opposition from faculty members, who usually cite concerns about their teaching efficacy. Consequently, studies of veterinary students were reviewed comparing learning outcomes generated by non-harmful teaching methods with those achieved by harmful animal use. Of eleven published from 1989 to 2006, nine assessed surgical training -- historically the discipline involving greatest harmful animal use. 45.5% (5/11) demonstrated superior learning outcomes using more humane alternatives. Another 45.5% (5/11) demonstrated equivalent learning outcomes, and 9.1% (1/11) demonstrated inferior learning outcomes. Twenty one studies of non-veterinary students in related academic disciplines were also published from 1968 to 2004. 38.1% (8/21) demonstrated superior, 52.4% (11/21) demonstrated equivalent, and 9.5% (2/21) demonstrated inferior learning outcomes using humane alternatives. Twenty nine papers in which comparison with harmful animal use did not occur illustrated additional benefits of humane teaching methods in veterinary education, including: time and cost savings, enhanced potential for customisation and repeatability of the learning exercise, increased student confidence and satisfaction, increased compliance with animal use legislation, elimination of objections to the use of purpose-killed animals, and integration of clinical perspectives and ethics early in the curriculum. The evidence demonstrates that veterinary educators can best serve their students and animals, while minimising financial and time burdens, by introducing well-designed teaching methods not reliant on harmful animal use.