Teaching laboratory rodent research techniques under the tenets of situated learning improves student confidence and promotes collaboration

Tiffany L. Whitcomb, Edward W. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


A targeted needs assessment at our institution revealed that the online system used to train researchers on performing techniques with animals did not provide opportunities to practice skills, introduce learners to animal care staff, nor satisfactorily support researchers' needs to become comfortable with laboratory animal species. To correct these deficiencies, a series of hands-on training sessions, framed theoretically in situated learning, was developed. This theoretical framework asserts that learning for everyday living (in this case, performing laboratory animal techniques) happens when people interact within the community while using the 'tools at hand' (that is, the instruments and jargon of the field). From this perspective, the students work alongside the instructor as apprentices. The instructor creates increasingly challenging learning opportunities as students work toward independently performing techniques. To test our hypothesis that teaching from this perspective improves comfort levels with laboratory animals and promotes collaborative relationships between animal care and research personnel, a mixed-method design involving online surveys (first survey, n = 45; second survey, n = 35) and semistructured interviews (n = 10) was used. Quantitative results revealed that students became more comfortable with laboratory animals and were more likely to contact animal care personnel due to participating in the training program. The qualitative arm of the study identified specific features of the training program that improved comfort levels for students (seeing then doing, working in small groups, learning within a comfortable environment, and building collegial relationships). These results support teaching rodent research techniques from the practical and theoretical approach of situated learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)368-375
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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