Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department or Program


Department or Program Chair

Elizabeth Truesdell PhD

First Reader

Madalienne F. Peters, EdD


Dissection of lab specimens is a common procedure in science classrooms, yet there are many unasked and unexamined questions relating to this practice. In addition to ethical considerations, there are personal and environmental health impacts of using conventional dissection, which has historically included animals and animal organs embalmed in preservative chemicals. The efficacy of using dissection as a learning tool is worth examining. The purpose of this thesis is to ask, analyze, and examine the multi-faceted questions associated with the use of dissection in the general science classroom. In addition, it is an invitation to engage a discussion about the possible negative consequences of using dissection, and to encourage consideration of alternatives that might be more ethically, pedagogically, and environmentally sound than existing practices. A review of the literature reveals that as many as 75% of classroom biology teachers use dissection and, generally, it is widely accepted and lauded as an important tool for learning about anatomy and physiology. Teachers express concern for a variety of issues associated with dissection, primarily student health and safety, and respect for lab specimens. As a response to these and other concerns, alternatives to physical dissection have been developed. These, however, are not widely used for a variety of reasons. The field research completed in this study is a qualitative analysis of the intellectual and emotional attitudes and beliefs associated with using dissection in the general science classroom. Additional perspectives are represented, and incorporated into the literature review, by interviews with experts in the fields of solid waste management and conservation biology.

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