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MMB8054 : Theoretical Aspects of Animal Welfare

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Colline Poirier
  • Co-Module Leader: Dr Catherine Douglas
  • Lecturer: Dr Vivek Nityananda, Dr Jessica Martin, Dr Matthew Leach, Dr Fritha Langford
  • Deputy Module Leader: Professor Melissa Bateson
  • Owning School: Biomedical, Nutritional and Sports Scien
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


This module aims to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the theoretical aspects of animal welfare. It will discuss the different concepts underpinning animal welfare science and will illustrate how different scientific disciplines such as animal behaviour, cognition, physiology and neuroscience can be used to assess the welfare of laboratory, farm, companion and wild animals. The students will gain training in understanding the strength and limitations of traditional and cutting-edge welfare indicators. They will develop skills in critical appraisal of the welfare literature, hypothesis testing and experimental design, data analysis in the R environment, ethical application and academic writing. Although this module focuses on the welfare of non-human animals, it will also be of interest to those students interested in human behaviour, particularly those who study non-verbal human behaviour.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module consists of a series of lectures that cover the main concepts underlying animal welfare science, ethics and legislation relevant to animal welfare, as well as the main welfare indicators used by scientists. It will include practical sessions in hypothesis testing and experimental design, writing of ethical applications and data analysis in the R environment.

• This module will cover a range of topics which may include:

• Behavioural welfare indicators

• Cognitive welfare indicators

• Physiological welfare indicators

• Neural welfare indicators

• Sentience and welfare of Invertebrates

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion140:0040:00Assessment 2: Essay writing
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion130:0030:00Assessment 1: ChatGPT Essay critical appraisal (written exercise)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical13:003:00Present in person (PIP): Practical exercise 1 (experimental design)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical12:002:00Present in person (PIP): Practical exercise 3 (Ethical application)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical22:004:00Present in person (PIP): Practical exercise 2 (data analysis in R)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00Present in person (PIP): 2 hr seminars
Guided Independent StudyReflective learning activity147:0047:00Additional Reading and Reflective Learning
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity81:008:00Preparation for practical session 2 (peer learning): data analysis in R
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study144:0044:00Preparing notes from lectures, seminars and reading
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The module intersperses lectures to develop the scientific knowledge of students and their critical assessment skills, and practical sessions, structured around between-peers practical exercises, aiming to develop their research skills. The lectures will also be used to reinforce skill development via interactive components such as discussions, between-peers practical exercises, polls and quizzes, since they are recognised to promote deeper learning.

A strong emphasis will be placed on developing students’ critical thinking and assessment skills (of academic literature and AI-generated texts), a translational skill primordial for future generations of students.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M40Critical appraisal of AI-generated essay – between 1000 and 1300 words – Take home assignment
Essay1M60Essay: Title to relate to module content - between 1500 and 1700 words – Take home assignment
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Practical/lab report1MExperimental design practical - students will receive feedback during the session.
Practical/lab report1MData analysis practical - students will receive feedback during the session.
Practical/lab report1MEthical application practical - students will receive feedback during the session.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The formative assessments include testing and improving students' generic research skills to equip them to a satisfying standard for their research project in semester 2. Ability of students will be assessed informally through discussion at both an individual and group level. This discussion will include feedback on their ability to design an experiment, analyse data in the R environment, write an ethical application, and how these skills could be improved.

Summative assessments will focus on evaluating the student's ability to think critically about concepts and approaches underpinning animal welfare science and to write in an academic style. It will be done using a scaffolding approach, first helping students to critically assess an AI-generated essay about a welfare topic during a lecture, then using the same exercise (on a different welfare topic) during a first summative assessment. Feedback will be provided on time for the last summative assessment, which will require the students to write their own essay (helped or not by AI).

Reading Lists