Another important project we worked on during the Helsinki visit was to finish up the debate manual, which is a 130 page document made to facilitate teachers’ use of debate in the classroom. The manual explains debate to all subject teachers —even to those who have never used debate at all—so they can implement it in the classroom as a method.
When we spent days at the English School in Helsinki, we spent several hours working on the content of the manual, especially by trying to balance the theory and the practise sections.
We especially discussed the length of certain theoretical sections wondering if they were actually necessary for a subject teacher to know. For example, the section on “why to debate” goes into some level of theory and history, but we did agree that discussing the benefits at length is important, so that teachers actually realize why it is more than beneficial to incorporate debate into the classroom.
The section on teaching debate in the context of debate clubs versus the classroom was also highly relevant as both settings are very different. In the club debate is used primarily to prepare for competitions while in the classroom it is to learn a specific subject or to expand the student’s knowledge based on what had been learned in the classroom.
It is excellent the way the steps on how to teach debate have been outlined in depth so that any subject teacher can just study the manual, and on their own implement it in the classroom.The section on judging debates is especially relevant to teachers who have never been to debate competitions and therefore lack the adjudication experience. There is also a very helpful section delineating different debate formats to use in the classroom when the teacher has time restraints and has anywhere from 20 to 30 students.
Our discussion on the history of debate took the most time because we were not completely sure about how much or how little is necessary for a teacher using debate. While extremely interesting, we weren’t yet decided as to how much to include.
Towards the end of the manual there are some very interesting sections on ethics and the importance of debate in today’s society. But the part on pedagogical theories we agreed might be too much for the purposes of a debate manual.
All in all, we agreed and found this to be an extremely useful tool for teachers and are excited to distribute it to all as soon as possible.