“Debates do not just teach public speaking skills; you also develop critical thinking; research skills and organization and prioritization of information. They also present an opportunity to have your students engage with the material they are studying in different ways, forming and deconstructing both the opinions of others, and their own! But they can be a little daunting; teachers often think that they need to be experienced debaters themselves to get their students involved. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The truth is, in fact, that there is no wrong or right way to debate in the classroom – the idea is to find out which way best suits your learning outcomes, the make-up of your class, or the way that just makes you feel comfortable. Debates are elastic, they can have as few or as many people involved in them as you want. Some, like balloon debates and alley debates, can get large numbers of students involved (more on balloon debates in a future blog).
The information below will take you through the basics of one way of setting up a debate which we think works well.” http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/teacher-blog/2012/jun/18/pupil-class-debate
The primary outcome of a debate is for students to be able to generate effective critical thinking into the primary issues on any given topic. Examples of learning objectives for debates may include:
Through active participation in the debate activity, students will…
- compare and discriminate between ideas x and y,
- verify the value of evidence for concept x or y,
- resolve controversies,
- recognize strengths and weaknesses of arguments,
Level of success is determined by addressing the rubric items for the assignment.
- Each student in the course will be on a debate team for one of the five debates.
- Each debate team will have three to five students.
- Students will be assigned to debate teams by the instructor.
- One team will be assigned the “Pro” side of an issue. The other team will be assigned the “Con” side of that issue.
- Students not on a debate team for a particular debate must still review the debate in the Moodle discussion forum and participate at the end.
- Every student on a team must participate in the preparation for its team’s presentation, and in the presentation itself. A fair “division of labor” should be established prior to the debate. A single designee from the group will be responsible for the actual postings to the Moodle Forum.
- Each student may or may not find themselves debating in support of the position that they actually hold.
- At the conclusion of each debate students may express their own views of the issues, but should not do so before or especially during the debates.
All debates follow a structured format. Many different formats are possible.
For our purposes, the following format will be observed:
1. The Instructor will assign the five debate topics, the two teams per topic, and the members of each team.
2. The Pro side (affirmative) will introduce its team, and give its Opening Statement on Monday before 5:00 p.m.. (No arguments are given at this time, just identification of which position on the given proposition the pro side it will defend, and an outline of the kinds of considerations it will bring to bear in the defense of that position.)
3. The Con side (negative) also introduces its team, and gives its Opening Statement on Monday before 5:00 p.m.. (No arguments are given at this time, just identification of which position on the given proposition the con side it will defend, and an outline of the kinds of considerations it will bring to bear in the defense of that position.)
4. The Pro side presents its entire argument in support of its position by Tuesday at 5:00 p.m..
5. The Con side presents its entire argument in support of its position by Tuesday at 5:00 p.m..
6. The Pro side responds to Con side’s entire argument and makes its Closing Statement by Friday at 5:00 p.m.. This is an opportunity for the Pro side to bring together the various threads of its case in favor of the proposition.
7. The Con side responds to Pro side’s entire argument and makes its Closing Statement by Friday at 5:00 p.m.. This is an opportunity for the Con side bring together the various threads of its case against the proposition.
8. End of debate. Audience may ask questions of either team.
9. Instructor completes the scoring using the Debate Rubric below.
Debate Rubric – Grading for both Pro and Con Teams
Criteria: On each item below, the participants will score either 4 points, 3 points, 2 points, or 1 point corresponding to their effort as described below.
- Organization & Clarity: Main arguments and responses are outlined in a clear and orderly way
- Unclear and disorganized throughout
- Clear in some parts but not overall
- Mostly clear and orderly in all parts
- Completely clear and orderly presentation This Section’s Score: _____
- Use of Argument: Reasons are given to support the resolution
- Few or no real arguments given, or all arguments given had significant problems
- Some decent arguments, but some significant problems
- Many good arguments given, with only minor problems
- Very strong and persuasive arguments given throughout This Section’s Score: _____
- Use of cross-examination and rebuttal: Identification of weakness in Opposing team’s arguments and ability to defend itself against attack.
- Poor cross-exam or rebuttals, failure to point out problems in Opposing team’s position or failure to defend itself against attack.
- Decent cross-exam and/or rebuttals, but with some significant problems
- Good cross-exam and rebuttals, with only minor slip-ups
- Excellent cross-exam against Opposing team’s objections This Section’s Score: _____
- Presentation Style: Tone of voice, clarity of expression, precision of arguments all contribute to keeping audience’s attention and persuading them of the team’s case.
- Very few style features were used, none of them convincingly
- Few style features were used convincingly
- Most style features were used convincingly
- All style features were used convincingly This Section’s Score: _____
Total Score: _____