Skill Acquisition during Speech & Debate Program

Skill: Research Competence

Students research constantly throughout the classes. Topics are designed to be interesting and accessible for students, creating additional incentives. Students research in a variety of accessible media and learn to share their research with other teammates through synthesis and summary, thereby exercising writing skills as well.

Skill: Public Speaking

The classes helps students to develop an optimal mix of impromptu and extemporaneous speaking skills. Oral literacy is developed through informed practice and repetition. Students gain confidence in otherwise intimidating speaking situations by preparing in advance by learning speaking techniques and conducting research on issues.

Skill: Media Literacy

Because students must consult and evaluate information from a variety of media, they develop media literacy skills as part of research. The debate process amplifies this learning, as students must find evidence and arguments to support multiple sides of given topics. Media literacy is developed in tandem with its companion skills: reading comprehension and argument literacy. Students learn to analyze arguments for their validity and the strength of evidence, thereby developing the leverage to critically analyze sources of information.

Skill: Reading Comprehension

Through debate participation, many students confront sources of information that they would never otherwise consume. Debate provides a series of incentives that challenge students to read materials which are often considerably above their customary reading levels. As students develop argument literacy, they gain tools to increase their reading comprehension because they can analyze difficult texts in terms of their more recognizable component parts. Reading comprehension is also aided by the development of summarization and outlining skills.

Skill: Argument Literacy

Students gain argument literacy as they learn to identify the constituent parts of arguments (including assertions, reasoning, and evidence). Argument literacy is a key skill for building reading comprehension
and media literacy. Students learn to identify and compare arguments for their relative validity, using understanding of logical fallacies and other failures of reasoning. These skills apply across the curriculum,
as students learn to evaluate systems of proof, critically engage difficult texts, and construct persuasive essays – often significantly above the expected abilities for their grade levels.

Skill: Evidence Evaluation

Associated with argument literacy development, debate helps students learn to critically evaluate many types of evidence, including historical and contemporary examples. Debate fosters a sensitivity to bias
(student bias as well as author bias), assisting students in developing critical thinking skills.

Skill: Summarization and Outlining

Students summarize and synthesize their research. This summarization, necessitated by the extemporaneous demands of the format, helps students refine recall and reading comprehension skills.

Skill: Floor Management and Civility

Students engage each other throughout the debate using points of information. This teaches skills associated with civil engagement. Students also learn a skill unique to parliamentary debate formats: floor management. Students learn to manage engaged discussions when multiple parties are seeking to enter the discussion. This management skill translates into multiple educational and professional settings.

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