Last month, NAVS attended the National Association of Biology Teachers Professional Development Conference in Chicago to share the results of a new survey we conducted regarding compliance with student choice laws and policies. We also met with science educators from across the United States to discuss and disseminate information about dissection alternatives.
NAVS strongly believes that no student should be punished for standing up for their right to choose a humane dissection alternative. One of the ways that we have been advancing our efforts in this area is through our Compassionate Humane Options In Classroom Education (CHOICE) initiative, in which we work one-on-one with legislators in states lacking student choice measures, encouraging them to introduce student choice legislation.
More recently, we have also been examining whether such student choice laws and policies are working as intended, as student choice measures are only effective if teachers and students are aware of them and if the laws and policies are properly implemented.
This summer, NAVS conducted a survey of biology educators who teach in states with student choice measures to better understand if and how teachers are notified about these measures, if they are complying with them, and to collect general information on the prevalence of dissection and use of dissection alternatives.
What did our survey reveal?
Here is the good news:
- It appears dissection is a less prevalent practice now than in the past: 81% of educators polled revealed that they had used dissection at some point during past school years, but only 59% indicated that they were planning to conduct animal dissection exercises during the current school year.
- 70% of biology educators polled use dissection alternatives in some capacity, with 34% of teachers using them in place of animal dissection.
- Web-based dissection alternatives are the most commonly used and viewed as the top tier of “very useful” alternatives.
And the bad news?
- Our study revealed that a significant number of biology educators in states with student choice measures are not aware of the existing laws or policies. Only half of biology educators polled were aware of the student choice measures in their state.
- Only 45% of educators said that they had been formally notified of student choice measures. Notification methods varied. While some received the information through official channels, such as their school administration or from their department chair or supervisor, others learned about it only by chance, via word of mouth
- Eight percent of educators in the states with student choice measures do not allow their students to use dissection alternatives when requested and are not in compliance with their state’s student choice law or policy.
Clearly, there is more work to be done. Getting laws and policies passed is only one step toward replacing the dissection of once-live animals with humane alternatives. Over the coming year, NAVS will continue working directly with educators and administrators in states with choice laws and policies in place in order to increase educator compliance and to ensure that students have access to dissection alternatives.
We are also preparing a manuscript of our survey results for publication in a national education journal.
Help NAVS continue to advance smarter science education- that keeps the life in the life sciences- by making a donation today.
Image: NAVS Science Intern Ignas Karaliunas presenting our survey findings at the 2019 NABT conference