How to facilitate a debate

Teacher resource

The following learning experiences provide learners with opportunities to:

  • develop skills and understandings in advocating a point of view 
  • value different viewpoints
  • reflect on what influences our own personal viewpoints
  • learn about taking social action at a personal level.

Strategies to use

  1. Opinions line
  2. Structured debate process
  3. Social action scenarios
  4. Exploring personal values and viewpoints

1. Opinions line

Context

The purpose of this process is to provide learners with opportunities to openly listen to and value differing opinions and viewpoints about particular issues.

Learners will be able to practise the skills of advocating a point of view and supporting their arguments with reasons and evidence.  They will also learn how to enquire into their own position and perhaps move along the opinions lineaccordingly.

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Process

Draw a line on the floor with chalk.

Place a card labelled ‘Disagree’ at one end of the line and a card labelled ‘Agree’.

Read an issue to the group (see the topic examples below).

Ask learners to position themselves along the opinions line.

Select learners at different points along the line to advocate their position with reasons.

Prepare issues that are relevant to the context of your learners.

For example:

  • Boys have it easier than girls.
  • Songs with coarse language should be banned.
  • Violence on the screen leads to violence in society.

Court-related topics: 

  • The court system in Australia is fair.
  • Courts can run effectively without a judge or lawyer.
  • Members of the public should be able to view courts.

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2. Structured debate process

Context

The purpose of this process is to provide learners with opportunities to debate and enquire into a point of view through a highly structured process.  It supports learners to think critically and creatively within a collaborative team.

Process

Organise learners into groups of four to six and divide each group into two teams called team A and team B.

Share the topic for debate with all groups: Team A will be arguing ‘For’ and Team B arguing ‘Against’.

Provide ten minutes for teams to prepare arguments to support their position.

Ask the teams to follow the steps outlined below: 

  • Team A advocates their position for five minutes whilst Team B listens. 
  • Team B refutes Team A’s position for five minutes.
  • Team B advocates their position for five minutes whilst Team A listens.
  • Team A refutes Team B’s position for five minutes.
  • Switch positions: Team B will be arguing ‘For’ and Team A arguing ‘Against’.
    Each team is required to formulate new or extended arguments.
  • Repeat the above process.

Combine Teams A and B to discuss all arguments and work towards a consensus position that integrates the most convincing, persuasive arguments.

It is often helpful for learners to have access to a clock, watch or timer and to have a visual copy of the Structured debate process (on the next page) to support them to organise their time.

Learners may wish to reflect on the process.  Ask them to consider:

  • How did you feel throughout the process?
  • Was it easy/difficult to advocate from different viewpoints?
  • Has your personal viewpoint changed in any way?
  • What could you see as the benefits of this process?

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Structured debate process

Preparation (10 minutes)
Team A presents (5 minutes)
Team B refutes (5 minutes)
Team B presents (5 minutes)
Team A refutes (5 minutes)

Preparation (10 minutes)
Team B presents (5 minutes)
Team A refutes (5 minutes)
Team A presents (5 minutes)
Team B refutes (5 minutes)

Team A and B create a joint position (10 minutes)

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3. Social action scenarios

Context

The purpose of this process is to provide learners with opportunities to explore ways of having a powerful voice to influence change and take social action.

Process

Discuss the responsibilities and consequences involved in change.

Share scenarios that invite learners to consider:

  • Stakeholders
  • Support networks
  • Feasibility
  • Personal feelings
  • Levels of personal action.

Scenarios could range from friendship issues through to community-based or global issues.

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4. Exploring personal values and viewpoints

Context

The purpose of this process is to provide learners with opportunities to examine the values, beliefs and experiences that have influenced their personal viewpoints.

Process

Select an issue for group and personal exploration.

Identify different groups that have had an influence in your life.

Reflect on the different influences using the Personal reflection tool as provided on the next page.

Provide time for learners to share as they feel comfortable.

Personal reflection tool

Exploring personal values and viewpoints

Image of personal reflection tool

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