Using debates in the classroom provide students the opportunity to work in a collaborative and cooperative group setting. By having students discuss and organize their points of view for one side of an argument they are able to discover new information and put knowledge into action. Classroom debates help students learn through friendly competition, examine controversial topics and “strengthen skills in the areas of leadership, interpersonal influence, teambuilding, group problem solving, and oral presentation” (Leuser, n.d., para. 1).
By having students discuss and organize their points of view for one side of an argument they are able to discover new information and put knowledge into action.
Debates can be used in all disciplines on a wide range of topics. Here are some examples of subject matter topics for debate which can easily be adapted for a variety of subject areas.
Teams work well for classroom debates but two students can be paired as well. Adapt the following format to fit your specific goals and objectives. Adding a third, shorter round will allow teams to further defend their arguments.
Alternatively, have all students prepare both a pro and con position for a designated class session. During this class period two teams are randomly selected who will then state their arguments. The other students will contribute differing remarks and suggestions for a more active and well-prepared class discussion.
. . . two teams are randomly selected who will then state their arguments.
This period is used for teams to prepare their responses
To determine which team provided the most convincing arguments. A vote can be taken or a more detailed evaluation form can be used to assess each team. (10-15 minutes)
Note: Explain to the students that the success behind using debates in the classroom is not in winning and losing but rather how well teams prepared for and delivered their arguments and get potential buy-in from those who help the opposite point-of view.
. . . the success behind using debates in the classroom is not in winning and losing but rather how well team prepared for and delivered their arguments . . .
Students are more likely to be authentic when they debate a subject to which they can relate.
Have a plan in place if the debate gets “hot” and students argue instead of debate.
Using debates in the classroom provides students the opportunity to explore real-world topics and issues. Debates also engage students through self reflection and encourage them to learn from their peers. Finally, debates prepare students to be more comfortable engaging in dialogue related to their beliefs as well as their areas of study.
Leuser, D. (n.d.). Classroom debates. https://oz.plymouth.edu/~davidl/bu342/Debates.DOC
Classroom debates: A one page tutorial. (n.d.). http://olc.spsd.sk.ca/DE/PD/instr/strats/debates/tutorial.pdf
University of California - Berkley. (1983). Using classroom debates. http://teaching.berkeley.edu/compendium/suggestions/file181.html
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Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2012). Classroom debates. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/instructional-guide