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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Biology Teachers’ Attitudes to Dissection and Alternatives

Lesley A. King, Cheryl L. Ross, Martin L. Stephens and Andrew N. Rowan

A survey of 5000 American middle and high school level biology teachers was completed to assess attitudes and classroom practice relating to dissection and alternative teaching methods. A preliminary sample of 494 respondents revealed that 79% of teachers used dissection to teach biology. While 72% believed that dissection was an important part of the curriculum, 17% disagreed; 69% considered dissection to be an essential hands-on activity. While 31% believed that alternatives were as good as dissection for teaching anatomy and physiology, 55% disagreed. The primary reason given for continuing dissection, rather than exclusively using alternatives, was the hands-on aspect of dissection (69%). While the majority (66%) of biology teachers favoured student choice between dissection and other learning methods, 20% disagreed. Although the effectiveness of alternative methods has been documented, and ethical arguments against dissection have been advanced, the mainstream introduction of humane alternatives to dissection requires a transformation of the beliefs, experience and practice of biology teachers.