Yr 9 students, and their teachers, learn a new methodology in debating.
It was the last week of Term One and a bunch of Year 9 students were learning new skills – how not to be sarcastic; how not to tear each other down; how not to let that ego prance and dance all over a perceived opponent.
Instead, they were learning to debate with respect. A novel idea, in the throes of a world that opens them up to the Clinton / Trump debates, online bullying and a media that so often names and shames.
In fact, they no longer even had a perceived opponent! Instead they were coming face to face with people who had alternative beliefs and opinions to theirs, yet who now approached debate with the intent to look for points of agreeance and to solve the problem at hand.
Before beginning the debate, we examined language and how it shapes our thoughts. It was generally agreed that a debate that began with an Affirmative team and a Negative team was setting up adversarial positioning, just as our politics are framed by the Government and the Opposition. Look what happens when we begin the debate with an Affirmative Team and a Cooperative team. Can we ever move to a point where we have the Government and the Cooperative Party? Politicians who seek to build on each other’s ideas for the betterment of the country?
We examined the notion that just because ‘this is the way it has always been done’, doesn’t mean we cannot re-imagine it, and therefore change structures to create a more solution-driven outcome.
Then we set up the debate and away we went. The audience soon discovered that they couldn’t just sit and listen (or not even listen!). That they were indeed part of the whole debate; that their opinions would be recognised. In fact, one member of the audience told me afterwards: ‘It wasn’t like a normal debate where I would just think who is going to win this debate? Instead I kept thinking what is my opinion on this issue? What should we really do about this?’
The debaters soon discovered that they could think for themselves – that they didn’t have to tow a party line. That when the Mentor asked ‘Does anyone want to cross the floor right now’, they could. With no detrimental effect from their team – because the team was not seeking to win against the other team. They were seeking to make things better for the entire community. To find the best outcomes even through disagreeance.
One student wrote afterwards: ‘Collaborative Debating is an amazing technique to discuss two different sides of a topic without fighting or being completely stubborn.’
For myself, as the creator of Collaborative Debating, I could not have been happier with the outcome. The teachers soon successfully ran their own Collaborative Debates, and scored PD through the learning! The key role of the Mentor, formerly the adjudicator, who no longer ranks, judges or scores, was modelled in each debate, by myself, to a Year 9 student – an assistant Mentor. And every time, without fail, that student had grasped the role and was on their feet invoking Guidances through each debate. I was struck by how rapidly they were able to take this on.
It was rigorous academic learning at its finest. Values education sunk deeply into the English classroom, both overtly and covertly being learnt by 15 year olds. Respectful learning that can be taken into the playground, homes and future workplaces.
Vanessa Hewson, Director of Learning at Timbertop said: “Students are empowered to be collaborative problem solvers rather than adversarial opponents. The discussion that unfolds is far richer and delves deeper into issues of local and global importance.”
It has affirmed my own belief that every school should be teaching Collaborative Debating.
If you wish to know more about Collaborative Debating – how to purchase the Collaborative Debating manual or how to book a workshop – for students, teachers or even into the corporate world – go to www.thegandhiexperiment.com or simply email Margaret – email@example.com or call 0422 154 875.
More stories coming soon and look out for our Facebook Live when Collaborative Debating comes to the steps of Parliament House!