is a structured contest of argumentation in which two opposing individuals
or teams defend and attack a given proposition. The procedure is
bound by rules that vary based on location and participants. The
process is adjudicated and a winner is declared. Debating is a foundational
aspect of a democratic society and thus reflects the values of Canadians.
is its purpose?
intent of the strategy is to engage learners in a combination of
activities that cause them to interact with the curriculum. Debate
forces the participants to consider not only the facts of a situation
but the implications as well. Participants think critically and
strategically about both their own and their opponent's position.
The competitive aspects encourage engagement and a commitment to
require students to engage in research, encourage the development
of listening and oratory skills, create an environment where students
must think critically, and provide a method for teachers to assess
the quality of learning of the students. Debates also provide an
opportunity for peer involvement in evaluation.
as an activity is most effectively used in grades from middle years
do I do it?
rules exist for debating. They vary by region and reflect parliamentary
procedure to some degree. For example, the procedures followed in
Great Britain vary slightly from those observed in the United States.
Guidelines are quite rigid when engaged in competition but more
flexibility exists within a classroom. See the teacher resources
section on this page for links to tutorials and printable materials.
by familiarizing the students with the concept of debating. Older
students will no doubt be somewhat familiar with the practice. Discuss
with them the idea of arguing differences of opinion. Suggest to
them that debating is simply a structured way to argue ones position.
Students may then be introduced to the vocabulary of debating. Terms
such as proposition, rebuttal, and thesis are introduced. A list
of important terms is available in the teacher resource section.
Also included is a tutorial on the debating process.
can I adapt it?
can be employed as an instructional strategy wherever the circumstances
are open to opposing points of view. Topic options are endless and
can be garnered in any course of study. Examples include arguing
the effectiveness of government monetary policy in an economics
class; the use of product placement for a media studies class; Chinese
immigration policy in a history class; or the ethics of stem cell
research for a biology class. See the teacher resources for suggestions.
as instructional strategy is not as involved as the teaching of
debating per se. Students are given the necessary background to
employ the technique without devoting so much time that opportunity
to focus on the relevant issues is lost.
nature of the debating process sets up a fairly clear group of criteria
for evaluation. Debates may be used as assessment tools or be the
summative activity in course of study. Evidence of research, understanding
of procedures and indication of critical thinking are aspects for
evaluation. Dunbar suggests that the adjudicator (the teacher) can
assess six categories. These are: analysis, reasoning, evidence,
organization, refutation, and delivery. A team may lose the debate
but still have been very successful in their efforts.
the teacher resources are rubrics for evaluating a student's success.
this link to a resource
page where you will find a group of materials for use in the classroom.
These materials include rubrics, a short tutorial and a student