Teaching Tip: The Great Debate: Pre and Post
- To explore a major issue early on in the course by motivating and engaging students in active learning.
- To apply critical and higher level thinking using analysis, synthesis and evaluation skills.
- To develop debate, communication and interpersonal skills.
- To view issues from diverse perspectives.
- To integrate and synthesis course knowledge and content into debate arguments with culminating experience at end of semester
- Debate #1 – Early in Semester. During first 2 weeks of the course, engage the class in a debate on a controversial or important course issue
- Introduce the topic as a Pro/Con – “Be it resolved that…..” (i.e., In my “Teaching in the Inclusive Classroom,” I chose “Be it resolved that students with special needs should be included in the general education classroom.” This engaging technique can apply to any content or course. I suggest you make a list of potential debate topics and select the most relevant one to the course outcomes).
- Divide the class into two groups – one in favor/pro and one against/con. (I suggest that you do not have them select the side they support, but rather you randomly assign teams – that way, they will be forced to critically think from different perspectives and avoids potential personal conflicts.)
- They are to discuss in their groups for 5-10 minutes and come up with 3 pro or con arguments. A different person is selected to present each argument.
- When the class comes back together,
- The Pro side makes their first argument.
- Then anyone on the Con side can give a rebuttal against the first Pro point. Once the rebuttal is given, no one on the Pro side can offer any other arguments or comments.
- Then the 1st Con argument is presented.
- Followed by a rebuttal from the Pro side.
- This continues until all three Pro and Con arguments are presented.
- The groups then meet again for 5 minutes to create a closing argument per side. The closing statement can summarize what has already been said, can comment on the opposing views or make a new argument. A spokesperson is selected for each team.
- Closing arguments are then made.
- Debriefing after the first Debate. Following first debate, engage in a discussion about the experience.
- Debate #2 – At the culmination of the Semester. At the end of the semester, repeat the same debate.
- Follow the same format at above
- Debrief by asking
- How did the two debate differ and why?
- Refection and Debriefing – Physically show what you believe. Following the debate:
- Ask the students to physically move to a part of the room based on their current beliefs. (left side = Pro; ride side = Con; in the middle = for those individuals who are on the fence or not 100% on one side)
- Prompt with the following questions:
- Did your personal views change during the semester? How and why?
- For those in the middle, why are you there?
- What have you learned from this experience?
Barkley, E. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Kennedy, R. (2007). In-class debates: Fertile ground for active learning and the cultivation of critical thinking and oral communication skills. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 19 (2), 183 -190.
Marzano, R. & Pickering, D. (2011). The Highly Engaged Classroom. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research Laboratory
Judith Ableser, Ph.D.- CETL
Director, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning,
Oakland University, Rochester, MI.