The study of living systems is an essential component of physiology instruction.
Teaching laboratories that actively engage students in observation of and
interaction with living systems enhance student understanding of physiology,
providing experiences that are qualitatively and quantitatively different from
those gained through lecture, small group discussion, or multimedia
presentations. In addition, the active participation and discovery learning
opportunities provided by teaching laboratories allow students to hone
independent and life-long learning skills such as analytical and problem solving
skills. The hands-on approach used in laboratories offers active learning
opportunities for all students, whether they are strong visual, auditory, or
kinesthetic learners. These advantages significantly outweigh the drawbacks of
limited curricular time and facilities as well as potentially greater costs and
increased resources required for regulatory compliance for laboratories
involving human or animal subjects.
Whether working individually or in groups, well-designed animal laboratories
provide vivid, exciting opportunities for the direct study of how living systems
work. Not only do these lessons foster active learning and the development of
critical thinking skills in students, but they provide a unique opportunity for
students to develop a lasting appreciation of the complexity of living systems
and an abiding respect for living organisms. Animal laboratories should be
offered for valid educational reasons, where the use of the laboratory builds
important knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes. Instructors who incorporate
animal laboratories into their course or curriculum must ensure that the
students are appropriately prepared for the experience and that the laboratory
is conducted humanely.
The American Physiological Society is committed to the continuing development of
resources that enhance the student laboratory experience for all types of
learners. A description of various laboratory options is included in the
rationale document supporting this position statement.
Adopted by the APS Council, November 2004
Published in The Physiologist (August 2005 Vol. 48, No. 4, pp. 206–208.)