Learning about Arguments by Making Arguments
This group activity is a part of a semester-long course on Argumentation and Advocacy. Students form several groups that are then divided into a government and an opposition team to debate a topic of the students' choosing.The activity has three major components: (1) Each team collaboratively develops a written policy brief on the topic that the group chose; (2) The groups engage in a structured oral public debate of the topic; (3) Each student writes a peer review and personal reflection paper in which s/he articulates what s/he learned from his/her own debating experience and from watching the other students debate.
Locating, selecting, and evaluating evidence
Making inferences and synthesizing ideas
Context for Use
Description and Teaching Materials
- A general description of the policy debate assignment (Microsoft Word 25kB Apr23 09)
- Guidelines for the oral debate component (Microsoft Word 47kB Apr23 09)
- Rubric for grading the written policy debate briefs (Microsoft Word 24kB Apr23 09)
- Rubric for grading the oral debate performance (Microsoft Word 26kB Apr23 09)
- Rubric for grading the peer review papers (Microsoft Word 24kB Apr23 09)
Teaching Notes and Tips
- Students need a lot of assistance with the research stage of the assignment. I usually collaborate with a librarian to acquaint them with the research databases that are available through the college library. Also, we have in-class workshops on interpreting and evaluating evidence.
- Students often have high speech anxiety. It is best to have opportunities for public speaking and mini-speaking activities on as many occasions as possible prior to the actual debates. Provide specific advice on body language and speaking tone and rate.
- Examples of policy briefs can be found online.
References and Resources
Rieke, R. D., Sillars, M. O., & Peterson, T. R. (2008). Argumentation and critical decision making (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.