There are three ways that classroom debates can be evaluated.
- Students evaluate their own debates.
- Students evaluate each other’s debates.
- The teacher evaluates the debates/each student’s performance in the debate.
In all events, evaluation is based on a certain set of criteria which are the components that we already worked with. In debate tournaments debates are judged on content, style and strategy. For class purposes the first two of these are usually the most relevant ones.
Comment on structure, rebuttal, PEES, snappy intro/outro and signposting.
- Structure – did you/the student follow the structure of snappy intro, overview of points, rebuttal, PEES and snappy outro?
- PEES - consider whether you/the student included examples, and whether the examples used were actually relevant for the argument. Also comment on explanation. Did you/the student make a convincing case for who will be affected by the topic and how and why that was good/bad and important? You can also comment on whether the arguments were central to the debate.
- Rebuttal – did you/the student remember to rebut and if yes, were the most important points from the other side responded to? Did you/she/he remember to note down responses while the speaker from the other team was speaking? It is not recommended to improvise and just rebut based on memory - notes are your friends!
- Signposting – to what extent did you/the student remember to do signposting?
For each debate it should be decided whether students can sit down during the debate, or whether they should stand up when it’s their turn to speak. It can be a good idea to allow all students to sit down during their first debates, as that feels less formal and they can focus on just learning how to debate. But for later debates they should stand up during their speeches or POIS to practice their style. In evaluating the style, students themselves, classmates or the teacher can comment on some of the following:
Body language, eye contact, and tone of voice.
How engaged does the student seem while talking? Is the tone of voice monotonous or does it change to add emphasis on certain things in the speech? Is the tone of voice appropriate for the topic? In a serious debate you may not want to sound lighthearted and cheerful, while some topics lend themselves more easily to a humorous or positive tone. Fidgeting is common and you can try to avoid that by putting both your hands behind your back while speaking.
Finally, debate is an activity that might take you out of your comfort zone for a little while, so don’t worry if you felt somewhat nervous during the debate, that’s ok. It’s great practice for any presentations that you will be doing later and the more you do it, the less nervous you becomeJ
A couple of students can be appointed as judges for a debate. In that case, they will need to take a lot of notes during the debate using the criteria above to evaluate it. After the debate, they will go together to discuss the debate and agree on what team they thought won the debate. In coming up with a decision it is important that they have followed each argument during the debate, to see what team ‘wins’ that argument.
The team’s own arguments can be won if they defend it well against rebuttal from the other team. The other team’s arguments can be won by the opposing team if they rebut it well and the other team never responds, or the other team responds insufficiently to that rebuttal.
You don’t’ need to have judges in class debates, that is something which can be decided upon if the students enjoy a bit of competition.
Record a video of your group’s debate and send the link to your teacher. Then write an evaluation of your own performance in the debate. You should comment on all of the criteria above, and also on how the debate went as a whole. Did the teams engage with each other’s points? What did you do well? What could be improved next time?
If there were students in your group who were just watching the debate, they will choose one or more participants and comment on their performance and on the debate as a whole. Hand in the evaluation to your teacher.
The content on this page is written by Charlotte Ib, who is the project manager of World Schools Debating Championships in Denmark, owns the company Do Debate! and is a teacher of English at Sankt Annæ Gymnasium.