Peralta JMVeterinary Medicine, Western University of Health Sciences
Recent scientific discoveries and increasing societal concerns have made animal welfare an important discipline for veterinary students and graduates. Developments in the field of animal welfare evolve at a very fast pace. It is important that students are not only exposed to current knowledge, but that they develop the skills that will make them life-long learners. This is achieved by providing students with a dynamic learning environment that does not limit the acquisition of knowledge to the memorization of lectures and handouts. An effective way to facilitate the development of life-long learning skills is by providing a student-centered learning environment. Cases that describe real-life situations exemplifying animal welfare issues allow the students to identify, explore, relate, understand, and eventually comprehend and apply the learning issues. Students need to investigate questions about the physiological parameters described in the case and interpret their meanings. The mental well-being of the animals in the example is assessed using the scientific knowledge acquired. Students also have to evaluate the animal actions and environment to decide if it allows the conduct of natural behaviors. Finally, the students may delve into the social and ethical considerations necessary to provide a final assessment of the case and propose practical recommendations that could be implemented to improve the welfare of the animals. After learning in advance about the issues raised by each case, the students come to class ready to engage in discussion. By participating in this student-centered process, the students learn about animal welfare in a context that allows them to relate the new knowledge to what they have learned from other relevant disciplines, and to expand on that knowledge in a practical and applied manner. Furthermore, this process gives them the tools they need to explore other animal welfare issues in the future.