At a Glance


  • Humanities

Instructional Level

  • College & CEGEP


  • 345-101-MQ Knowledge
  • 345-HS(A-D)-VA Ethics

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Individual
  • Group
  • Whole Class

Type of Tasks

  • Collecting & seeking information
  • Discussing
  • Debating
  • Presenting

Technical Details

Class size

  • Small (20-49)


  • Single class period (< 90 mins)

Instructional Purpose

  • Application & knowledge building


Using Debates as the active learning approach, the goal of this activity is to help students understand and argue for the different perspectives or sides of an issue. Students will learn to approach an issue from multiple perspectives and will be able to think critically about arguments from different perspectives.

Within the course, the activity takes place after we have looked at some of the issues and a few different concerns or perspectives involved in these issues. The activity takes a full class session of 1.5 hours to complete. Class starts with an activation activity, to help students quickly review the material and concepts covered by the debates. Then they are broken into two groups and given the debate topic and their side for the debate. They have about 10 minutes to brainstorm arguments for their side. Then we start the debate, and each side presents their arguments in turn. They are then given another 5-10 minutes to brain storm their next round of arguments and rebuttals. They present these rebuttals, then they have one last round of brainstorming, and a final round of arguments.

Once the debate is finished the teacher decides the winner, based on the quality of the arguments and rebuttals. Here the teacher will explain which arguments were good and why, which arguments could have been a bit stronger, and any missing arguments. This allows the teacher to review the arguments and points overall.

Instructional Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Evaluate and counter arguments from a different position
  • Explain different positions on a given issue

Workflow & Materials


Activity Workflow

View on CourseFlow

Contributor's Notes

Jen Mitchell

Jen Mitchell

Vanier College, Montreal

  • Students learn to see the issue from the different perspectives involved in the debate
  • Students learn to analyse the quality of an argument for a particular position, and to apply critical thinking to rebut arguments

The first round of debate is often slow with very few arguments. However, things tend to pick up in the second round once they have some arguments to start working with

  • Keep things casual and light. Let students have fun with it and tease each other a little.
  • If some students are more keen than others that’s fine, let them do most of the presenting. The other students are often not comfortable making the arguments but they are still listening and absorbing.
  • Leave the students to develop and present their own arguments. It might be tempting to make suggestions when they are working in their groups, but just leave them to come up with the arguments. Students have often come up with really innovative arguments when left on their own to figure it out. If in the end they don’t really come up with anything great you can always adjust for that in the discussion at the end.


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