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Image of gavelIn DCAL’s second event of 2010, Speech Instructor Julie Homchick presented “Making Debate Useful in the Classroom,” which proved to be an ideal introduction to debate structure and process. Homchick began with a personal anecdote from early in her teaching career that highlighted the general misperception that debate can be as simple as splitting a class in half, tossing out a topic, and stepping back to let the learning happen, only to to hear cacophonous personal invective or the resounding thud of silence. She went on then to describe the more regulated back and forth process of standard policy debate, explaining the language of the field as well. An accompanying handout  contained both the vocabulary (e.g. case, resolution, harm, inherency, solvency) and a sample classroom activity.

After presenting case construction and defense techniques, Homchick, stopwatch in hand, divided the participants into groups to practice the actual process. Topics for the different groups ranged from “The tenure system should be abolished in higher education” to “Dartmouth should introduce more technical and vocational courses into the curriculum.” The minutes ticked by rapidly as each group became absorbed in the activity.

At the conclusion, there was general agreement that the more formalized process of debate held great value for students, especially as it could contribute to the development of arguments in their own papers. However, one concern expressed was the risk of regular use of debate in the classroom possibly leading to papers that become too argumentative. Another advantage suggested was the use of a similar formalized structure as the basis of peer review or even self-reflection and review. As with all classroom activity choices, Homchick reminded attendees that one’s learning objectives should direct both the decision to use debate, as well as the content of the debate.

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info-fetishist

yeah, it's long -- I didn't have time to make it shorter

Feral Librarian

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