Scroop G. Learning research skills in the life sciences without using animals [abstract]. ALTEX. 2005;22(Special Issue):21


Practical teaching for students in the life sciences is commonly focused on traditional, recipe-driven experiments, mostly in animals, and completed in a 3 hour session. They are intended to complement factual material presented in lectures but given that the protocols are designed for all students to obtain the same result, their ability to motivate students is poor and recycling of practical results from previous years is common practice. The Department of Physiology in Adelaide has abandoned this traditional approach in its second year courses in Medicine and Science and replaced it with student-driven research projects where the central theme is to provide practical experience in the scientific method of problem-solving. Five to seven students, working as self-sufficient research teams, conceive, design and execute individual research projects, lasting an entire 12 week semester, using themselves and colleagues as the experimental subjects. They are supported by an academic staff member acting as project supervisor and they work in a small laboratory module equipped with the basic research infrastructure appropriate for data collection and analysis of the physiological system under investigation. Student performance is assessed progressively with each assessment designed to reinforce the research experience. Although developed in the context of physiology, the focus is more on “process” than “content”, and as such the concept can be applied in any discipline at any stage of education. This new teaching methodology not only provides the students with an important life-long learning experience but is also an unambiguous opportunity to remove animals from teaching.

Link to journal: ALTEX - Alternatives to Animal Experimentation