A debate is a discussion or structured contest about an issue or a resolution. A formal debate involves two sides: one supporting a resolution and one opposing it. Such a debate is bound by rules previously agreed upon. Debates may be judged in order to declare a winning side. Debates, in one form or another, are commonly used in democratic societies to explore and resolve issues and problems. Decisions at a board meeting, public hearing, legislative assembly, or local organization are often reached through discussion and debate. Indeed, any discussion of a resolution is a form of debate, which may or may not follow formal rules (such as Robert’s Rules of Order). In the context of a classroom, the topic for debate will be guided by the knowledge, skill, and value outcomes in the curriculum.
Structure for Debate
A formal debate usually involves three groups: one supporting a resolution (affirmative team), one opposing the resolution (opposing team), and those who are judging the quality of the evidence and arguments and the performance in the debate. The affirmative and opposing teams usually consist of three members each, while the judging may be done by the teacher, a small group of students, or the class as a whole. In addition to the three specific groups, there may an audience made up of class members not involved in the formal debate. A specific resolution is developed and rules for the debate are established.
• Develop the resolution to be debated.
• Organize the teams.
• Establish the rules of the debate, including timelines.
• Research the topic and prepare logical arguments.
• Gather supporting evidence and examples for position taken.
• Anticipate counter arguments and prepare rebuttals.
• Team members plan order and content of speaking in debate.
• Prepare room for debate.
• Establish expectations, if any, for assessment of debate.
Debate opens with the affirmative team (the team that supports the resolution) presenting their arguments, followed by a member of the opposing team. This pattern is repeated for the second speaker in each team. Finally, each team gets an opportunity for rebutting the arguments of the opponent. Speakers should speak slowly and clearly. The judges and members of the audience should be taking notes as the debate proceeds. A typical sequence for debate, with suggested timelines, is as follows:
- the first speaker on the affirmative team presents arguments in support of the resolution. (5 – 10 minutes)
- The first speaker on the opposing team presents arguments opposing the resolution.
(5 – 10 minutes)
- The second speaker on the affirmative team presents further arguments in support of the resolution, identifies areas of conflict, and answers questions that may have been raised by the opposition speaker. (5 – 10 minutes)
- The second speaker on the opposing team presents further arguments against the
resolution, identifies further areas of conflict, and answers questions that may have been raised by the previous affirmative speaker. (5 – 10 minutes)
- The rules may include a short recess for teams to prepare their rebuttals. (5 minutes)
- The opposing team begins with the rebuttal, attempting to defend the opposing arguments and to defeat the supporting arguments without adding any new information. (3 – 5 minutes)
- First rebuttal of the affirmative team (3 – 5 minutes)
- Each team gets a second rebuttal for closing statements with the affirmative team having the last opportunity to speak. (3 – 5 minutes each)
- There cannot be any interruptions. Speakers must wait their turns. The teacher may need to enforce the rules.
CLASSROOM DEBATE RUBRIC
- Organization and Clarity:
viewpoints and responses are outlined both clearly and orderly.
|Unclear in most parts
||Clear in some parts but not over all
||Most clear and orderly in all parts
||Completely clear and orderly presentation
- Use of Arguments:
reasons are given to support viewpoint.
|Few or no relevant reasons given
||Some relevant reasons given
||Most reasons given: most relevant
||Most relevant reasons given in support
- Use of Examples and Facts:
examples and facts are given to support reasons.
|Few or no relevant supporting examples/facts
||Some relevant examples/facts given
||Many examples/facts given: most relevant
||Many relevant supporting examples and facts given
- Use of Rebuttal:
arguments made by the other teams are responded to and dealt with effectively.
|No effective counter-arguments made
||Few effective counter-arguments made
||Some effective counter-arguments made
||Many effective counter-arguments made
- Presentation Style:
tone of voice, use of gestures, and level of enthusiasm are convincing to audience.
|Few style features were used; not convincingly
||Few style features were used convincingly
||All style features were used, most convincingly
||All style features were used convincingly
Additional Resource: http://csdf-fcde.ca/UserFiles/File/resources/teacher_debate_guide.pdf
Peer Evaluation checklist: http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/cur/socstud/frame_found_sr2/g_blms/g-15.pdf
Post your “Be it resolved that …” statement below.