On the Use of Animals in Teaching

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.)

Related Items

Using Animals in Teaching: Position Statement Rationale

Position statements are, by definition, brief, and typically do not capture the detailed analysis and discussion of the complex issues that they summarize. Therefore, it is important to provide additional information to help orient the reader to the discussion that shaped the position statement.

Learning Resources

Resources for teaching and learning at all levels.