Debate 101 Workshop Program: Integrating Debate and Dialogue into the UBC Classroom

TitleDebate 101 Workshop Program: Integrating Debate and Dialogue into the UBC Classroom
Faculty/College/UnitVP Students
StatusCompleted
Duration3 Years
Initiation04/01/2005
Completion03/31/2008
Project Summary

The Debate 101 Workshop Project, founded by the UBC Debate Society, is committed to supporting the TREK 2010 mission of preparing graduates of UBC by helping them "develop strong analytical, problem-solving and critical thinking abilities … excellent research and communication skills", and by ensuring that "they will be knowledgable, flexible, and innovative." This entirely student-led initiative is dedicated to serving the TREK vision of higher learning as it concerns both educators and students across disciplines, in addition to creating student leaders and mentors who "will value diversity, work and for their communities, and be agents for positive change." Since the inception of this program, we have found great success in applying debate as an academic method of discourse within thhe classroom environment. During the first two years of the program, supported by TLEF funding, our focus has been engaging students to participate confidently in important discussions, critically address key issues in our world, and successfully develop some of the fundamental academic skills that UBC is devoted to advancing. Given that our desire is to enesure that this valuable project continues by strengthening the necessary infrastructure to build a sustianable program, we are presently undertaking initiatives for the third year of the program to not only refine our existing knowledge of how debate can be integrated into the classroom, but also explore how dialogue based methods of discourse can complement student's learning and understanding of debate.

By adapting a flexible, interactive framework, the Debate 101 Workshop Project offers highly infonnative and integrated workshops about debate to students and educators from most disciplines at UBC, recognizing that all members of the UBC community can benefit from the critical and analytical skills inherent to debate practice. We are committed to strengthening our present networks with Arts, Science, TAG, and the VP Students Office, as well as creating new partnerships with the greater UBC community. Central to our vision is for Debate 101 to play an increasingly vital supporting role within academic culture at UBC. Finally, we believe that any initiative that encourages academic and intellectual exchanges (as debate does) ultimately benefits all students. Our experience within diverse classroom settings, including international students, indicates that debate offers a powerful means to facilitate a process that helps everyone step outside their familiar frames of reference in order to consider a variety of erspectives on a given issue. Yet part of our interest in developing a dialogue-based section to compliment our core i curriculum is to explore the innovative possibilities of both traditions of discourse within classroom contexts. As we continue to develop our curriculum in the third year of the program, we envision the dialogue component of our workshops being helpful in facilitating forms of collaborative learning to balance the competitive side of debate, as well as demonstrating ways to re-contextualize formerly competing perspectives within the larger issue or topic. By striving to broaden not only our understanding of issues through the analysis of a diverse range of ideas, but also to give students first hand experiences of debate and reflective dialogue, Debate 101 is well positioned to advance UBC's vision to "promote the values of a civil and sustainable society" and "prepare students to become exceptional global citizens."

The Academic Plan advocates for the need to "develop in our students a capacity to filter good questions from bad, to separate strong insights from weak ideas, and to sort sound principles from trite premises ... Critical discernment and reasoning is increasingly important as students confront and learn to use the diverse and abundant resources of our information-rich society." Once again the skills and process of debate facilitate skillful analysis of information; discernment of good arguments from bad, and the ability to function in an information-rich and knowledge-starved world. Debate also aids students in interacting more effectively with their research through a heightened ability to draw the best out of what they read and the analytical skills to use the foundations laid by others to build their own unique arguments.

TREK 2000 speaks of placing the focus on people, through the development of human skills and a positive learning environment. We firmly believe that our project will contribute to this effort. Our workshops - and the whole activity of debate - are fundamentally learning centered, as well as "interactive in process, and interdisciplinary in content and approach." Furthermore, present research and development of the curriculum is underway to include forms of collaborative dialogue as a way to help students develop the skills to hold competing views in mind without losing sight of the complexity of the larger issues and subjects they are addressing.

The refined mission statement found in TREK 2010 summarizes best what debate and dialogue have to offer. Debate fosters "strong analytical, problem-solving and critical thinking abilities" and "excellent research and communication skills." Dialogue especially encourages students to be "knowledgeable, flexible, and innovative." And where debate fosters an atmosphere where ideas can be freely exchanged, examined and criticized - without demeaning or belittling individuals - dialogue introduces possibilities for the group to learn to think together about important differences and experience the benefits of collaborative thinking. The nature of debate recognizes the value in different opinions and perspectives, thus drawing upon students from a variety of backgrounds that may be excluded or marginalized. Dialogue builds on the temporary polarization of debate in that it attempts to pull together these perspectives in ways that demonstrate the need for competing perspectives in service of the larger whole. Finally, both debate and dialogue foster skills that are crucial to global citizenship, both by direct examination of issues of a global scope and by equipping students to critically examine the information that is readily available to them in the media. On the whole, the skills of debate and dialogue equip students to become active global citizens and agents for positive change; while they are at university and in later life.

Funding Details
Year 1: Project TitleDebate 101 Workshop Project: Integrating Debate into the Construction and Instruction of UBC Curriculum
Year 1: Project YearYear 1
Year 1: Funding Year2005/2006
Year 1: Project TypeSmall TLEF
Year 1: Principal InvestigatorAdam Davies
Year 1: Funded Amount26,663
Year 2: Project TitleDebate 101 Workshop Project: Integrating Debate and Dialogue into the UBC Classroom
Year 2: Project YearYear 2
Year 2: Funding Year2006/2007
Year 2: Project TypeSmall TLEF
Year 2: Principal InvestigatorAdam Davies
Year 2: Funded Amount25,032
Year 3: Project YearYear 3
Year 3: Funding Year2007/2008
Year 3: Project TypeSmall TLEF
Year 3: Principal InvestigatorTahara Bhate
Year 3: Funded Amount16,000