Aarhus University Seal

Discussion: Debating Exercise

Brief description

This debating activity involves debating and discussing an issue based on understanding, a critical sense, curiosity and argumentation. The activity is inspired by the Oxford Debate, which is a formal discipline involving two competing sides.

Motivation for the activity and required outcome

The goal of the activity is that the students should use their understanding of the themes presented in the teaching and discuss them in an objective and argumentative manner with their fellow students.

The activity is also good for students who find it hard to make an individual presentation to the entire class. The activity helps such students because what they are asked to do is represent the joint discussion and arguments of their group – so they are not solely responsible for the opinions and level of understanding expressed.

Performing the activity

  • The teacher gives the students a short introductory lecture on the theme and splits them into two groups (called “ones” and “twos”). Each of these groups is then divided into four or five sub-groups.
  • All the “ones” have to find arguments in favour of the theme which you have introduced. And all the “twos” have to find arguments against the theme which you have introduced.
  • The sub-groups then have a ten-minute discussion.
  • All the “ones” join up to share/refine their arguments for ten minutes, and the “twos” do the same. Both groups also need to try and predict and relate to the counter-arguments with which they may be presented by the other group.
  • The two groups now have a debate with each other. They need to present their arguments convincingly and relate them to the theme in question.
  • Each group is given two-five minutes to present its arguments.
  • Then the opposing group can ask questions, which the first group must answer.
  • And finally each group is given one minute to summarise and present their concluding arguments.
  • The teacher should keep a scoreboard during the discussion – who presents the best arguments?
  • You need to make sure that both sides not only present their own arguments, but also relate to the challenges made against them – you can also score points by considering the alternative arguments.
  • Round off with the entire class by summarising the most important arguments for and against.

Variation options

  • When it has been completed, the model of argument for a student assignment can be used as a tool in a peer feedback process.
  • The model can also be used as the point of departure for an oral presentation or discussion – either with the entire class, or in groups.

Useful tips:

  • Which theme, topic or text is best suited to this type of activity?
  • Where the students are able to construct an argument – is it necessary to briefly introduce the students to how to build up a strong argument?
  • How do you handle if the students are slightly overlooked by the activity and the tone of the debate is sharpened?