Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Teaching Debate to Adults

At the beginning of this month I was asked to teach a class at a "correspondence university". This is a university in which most of the classes are done through viewing lectures on-line or reading books and sending reports via the mail. Students also have occasional "intensive lectures" which last for about 10 hours over the span of 2 days. I was asked to give one of these intensive lectures and decided to do a class on debating. Of course, I was planning to create my own mini-curriculum and eventually do a debating class at the university. Unfortunately, I was so busy that I had very little time to actually prepare for the 2 day class. I found a great article on debtate by Daniel Krieger and it really saved me. The article proposes gives a six-class unit plan for debate. I used Krieger's curriculum as the outline for the course and then filled it in with my own activities. I recommend that all those interested in teaching debate read the article.
About the class, there were only 6 students. To my surprise a few of the students could not really read or write English so the first hour I was very worried that the class would be a total flop. I then reminded myself that the focus of the class was learning about debate rather than learning English. We would be doing debate in English but I thought that with a little translation here and there and support from the learners who were very skilled at English all the students could learn a little about debate and experience it. In the end, everyone participated, worked hard and had fun. These learners were all adults ranging in age from 25 to about 70. They had little inhibitions and the difficulty of the task did not deter them from trying. I think that is one of the differences between teaching adults and adolescents. In my experience, adolescents tend to give up a little faster when they think a task they have to do is too difficult or requires too much effort.
By the way, we ended up debating about the following resolution:
"Japan is not a good place for foreigners to live."
A summary of the argument can be seen here.


Anonymous said...

Since they debated in English, I suppose that was a good thing. The content based on the debate report, though, makes another story...

JH said...

I agree with you that the content left a little to be desired and was hoping that someone would comment on it. I think that for the students it was cognitively demanding enough just to follow the format and debate in English. Also, we did not really have enough time to explore the issue beforehand, so that type of argument was inevitable.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I always get confused when they are so proud of the fact Japan has "four seasons". I feel it is such a strange question when they ask if my country has 4 seasons. I have never attempted to have a debate class and I assume it must be extremely difficult, especially in the culture of Japan.

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Anonymous said...

I wanted to mention how helpful this post is, I was teaching PT at a Uni not long ago and wished I found your blog much sooner!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting!

Julio said...

Hello, my name is July and I have a blog discussion on the internet I think that could do this kind of open debate with people who maybe are not fluent in English.
I am one of them, but that does not stop me when a good idea participar.Congratulations,very good idea.

Anita Evans said...

I do debate in my University class in France and have used part of a film to introduce the idea of debate. That film is The Great Debater. It helps set the tone and makes them understand what you expect from them.
Great Blog.
Anita Evans
PS- maybe I should do a video on debating for our site!!