Debate (Teaching and Learning)

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How to Implement Debate in the Classroom?

Debating is a structured contest of argumentation in which two opposing individuals or teams defend and attack a given proposition.

Short, Informal, Two People Debate

  1. Have the students form pairs. In each pair, designate one person as A and the second as B.
  2. A is given a set period of time (1 minute) to outline why he or she supports the topic.
  3. B is given a set period of time to explain why he or she opposes the topic.
  4. Instructor should encourage the students to make notes on each other's points of view.
  5. Instructor may also wish to give the students time to respond to one another's comments.
  6. Discuss the different views expressed; compare and contrast arguments.

Why Use Debate?

For the Students

  1. Debate forces students to confront own assumptions and respect other people's perspectives.
  2. Debate promotes deeper understanding of multiple perspectives.
  3. Debate fosters critical thinking to generate persuasive arguments.
  4. Debate encourages dialogue and active listening.
  5. Debate allow students to understand that clashes can occur in civilized manner
  6. Debate motivate students to take on active role.
  7. Debate promotes team work and knowledge sharing.

For the Instructors

  1. Debate promotes self-directed, active learning.
  2. Debate can be used as an assessment tool.
  3. Debate allow instructor to get to know students better.
  4. Debate adds variety to the syllabus.
  5. Watching a debate is entertaining, rewarding and satisfying.

Internet Resources

UBC Debate Society:

  • They can send reps to your class and teach students how to debate.

International Debate Education Association:

  • They offer absolutely everything you need to use debate in the classroom.

Newfoundland and Labrador Speech and Debate Union:

  • Teacher’s Guide to Introducing Debate

Gail Hammond’s Using Debate in the Classroom Workshop at CTLT Institute 2011:

Educational Research Articles

  • Rubin, R.W., Weyant, R. J., & Trovato, C. A. (2008). Utilizing debates as an instructional tool for dental students. Journal of Dental Education, 72:282-287.
  • Kanuka, H., Rourke, L., & Laflamme, E. (2007). The influence of instructional methods on the quality of online discussion. British Journal of Educational Technology, 38(2), 260-271.
  • Omelicheva, M. Y. (2005). There’s no debate about using debates! Instructional and assessment functions of educational debates in political science curricula. Available at:

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