Knight A. The effectiveness of humane teaching methods in veterinary education. ALTEX 2007; 24(2): 91-109. Link to article, summary articles and scientific posterABSTRACT
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.