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8 Ways to Encourage Healthy Debate in the Classroom

Arrange the seating

For a debate setting, unless your speakers are standing at the front of the room, move the desks into a semi-circle shape to invite more open dialogue between students.

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8 Ways to Encourage Healthy Debate in the Classroom

8 Ways to Encourage Healthy Debate in the Classroom

https://medium.com/@MoveThisWorld/8-ways-to-encourage-healthy-debate-in-the-classroom-53124a7cfe00

medium.com

8

Key Ideas

No ideas are silly

Everyone is entitled to their own unique opinionIt is important that your students feel that they have a safe, supportive environment where they feel encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings openly without fear of rejection or judgement. 

Play emotional charades. Prompt students to act an emotion out using a facial expression or movement to express their unique voices and feelings.

Actively listen

In order for you to contribute to an ongoing discussion, you must be paying attention to the points that your classmates are bringing to the table. 

Remember how it felt when others were actively listening to you by showing the same respect to others when they speak.

Step up, step back

If you notice that you are speaking up more than your classmates, take a step back to allow others’ opinions to be represented. 

If you notice that you are offering fewer points in the discussion, speak up — your opinions are valued.

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes

It is important to remain respectful when you do not share the same views as your classmates. Attempt to at least try to see things from another perspective. 

One exercise you can to do to practice this in the classroom is kinesthetic mirroring. By mirroring what another person is showing in their body and face with your own body, you can develop a more profound empathetic connection than you would be able to express with words.

Breathe before you speak

... to calm any nerves you may have. 

Take this time to collect your thoughts and organize your ideas to ensure you’re presenting your position thoughtfully, and not just speaking from emotion.

Arrange the seating

For a debate setting, unless your speakers are standing at the front of the room, move the desks into a semi-circle shape to invite more open dialogue between students.

Model respectful conflict management

Accept that there will not necessarily be a resolution. 

Conflicts are okay when managed in a healthy way. It’s important to remind students that despite differences, we must always respect the thoughts and opinions of our classmates.

Welcome diverse voices

In inviting diverse voices in the classroom, you’re reminding your students that it is okay to have different perspectives and that they should be viewed as an opportunity to learn something new.

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Try listening more than you speak. Listen to experts and fellow enthusiasts, including those with whom you disagree. Absorb their perspectives, insights, and experiences.

From listening to others, we can gather valuable insights from both their successes and their failings.

You have a voice. Share it

But remember that using your voice as an everyday leader comes with a responsibility.

When sharing your opinion—in-person or via social media—be clear, be concise, and be constructive. That is the best way to be heard.

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The spirit of inquiry

Amazing leaders are not interested in winning for their own ego. They understand that finding the truth benefits the whole team so everyone can win. 

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Don't assume anything 

Without a face or a voice to convey emotion, written text can easily be misconstrued as being terse, sarcastic, snarky, or even mean. 

Always assume you don’t know the tone of any written communication you receive and openly inquire as to the emotions of your debate partner.

Stating the desired outcome

Many people enter into a debate ready to battle with only one side knowing the rules and purpose of engagement. 

Before beginning any debate or argument, discuss with the other party a purposeful outcome and define clear rules of engagement.

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A brief overview of brainstorming

The brainstorming process was popularized in the 1950s by Alex Osborn, an advertising executive at Barton, Batton, Durstine, & Osborn (BBDO).

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Principles of brainstorming
  • Generate as many ideas as possible. For the purposes of this exercise, quantity is more important than quality.
  • Don’t judge any ideas until the session is over. People will hold back if they think they may be judged negatively.
  • Encourage people to think outside of the box. Although wild ideas may not be feasible, they steer the conversation in new directions.
  • Combine ideas. Encouraging people to build off one another makes it easier for them to contribute and boosts team morale.
Work alone—together

Give people time to think by themselves prior to the brainstorm, so everyone has a chance to take his or her thought process in a unique direction.

A potential consequence of brainstorming is convergent thinking: the tendency for individuals’ ideas to become increasingly similar over the course of a brainstorming session.

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Parent-teacher groups

Creating parent-teacher groups enables parents to share their opinion in regards to topics that concern directly their children, such as classroom activities, field trips, or homework. 

...

Parents and field trips

Allowing parents to participate in their children's field trips can prove an inspired idea, as they often have great suggestions. 

Moreover, getting their feedback both before and after the trip might lead to the improvement of such activities.

Parent mentor programs

This kind of program often results in successful cooperation between parents and teachers, therefore ensuring that no feedback is lost. 

Parent volunteers get in contact with other parents for topics related to their children and forward their opinions to teachers, enabling an efficient communication of everybody's thoughts and suggestions.

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"Creativity echo chamber"

When information keeps coming from the same place, teams may find themselves in a creativity echo chamber. 

Instead of generating fresh lines of thinking, people keep bouncing ...

Push the boundaries of debate

Constructive conflict can produce creative solutions. When teams engage in rigorous debate, they are often forced to examine underlying assumptions, challenge the status quo and evaluate competing views. 

The process of perspective-taking can yield new insights that jumpstart creativity and workflow.

Make it safe to disagree

Teams that operate with psychological safety consistently deliver creative breakthroughs and report high levels of interpersonal trust.

Psychological safety is that sense of confidence that their team will not embarrass, reject or punish them for speaking up

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Arguing for our opinions

The problem with the statement “I’m entitled to my opinion” is that it's used to protect beliefs that should've been given up. It is a damaging element of public discourse for som...

Opinion and specific knowledge

There is a difference between opinion or common belief and specific knowledge.

Opinion has a level of subjectivity and uncertainty. It varies according to someone's tastes or preferences. (You like chocolate more than ice-cream.) It is pointless to argue about this kind of opinion. 

“Entitled” to an opinion

If 'entitled to have your opinion' means everyone has the right to say what they want, the statement is true, but not necessarily important.

If 'entitled to have your opinion' means your statements are serious candidates for truth, then it's false. And this too is a distinction that tends to get blurred.

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When the going gets tough, start smiling

Frowning, grimacing, glowering, and other negative facial expressions send a signal to your brain that whatever you're doing is difficult. That causes your brain to send cortisol into your bloodstream, which raises your stress levels. Instead, force yourself to smile. It works.

If you're confronted...

...don't back away; just shift to a slight angle - so you're standing at an angle--much like models who almost never stand with their bodies square to the camera.

And if you wish to appear less confrontational, approach the person and stand at a 45-degree angle (while still making direct eye contact, of course).

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The purpose of assessments

Good assessment programs use a range of strategies and tasks, in varying contexts, to understand what students know and can do.

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Exams focus on breadth

In most disciplines, there are specific bodies of knowledge that students are expected to learn.

Exams enable assessors to test the students’ breadth of understanding of topics.

Exams enhance learning

Studying for exams deepens learning.

  • Searching through one's memory and retrieving the relevant information strengthens the memory pathway.
  • Learning is particularly strong when students self-test rather than passively learning by rote.
Social Narrowing

Social Narrowing is a subconscious process in which we are spending time with people who are similar to us.

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Change Your Filters
  • When we meet people, we look at them and subconsciously make a decision in our heads about their importance, relevancy or their being of any interest to us.
  • The challenge is to fight these filters and invite people in your life who are of the least interest to you.
  • Identify and connect with people whom you wouldn't normally connect with, adding diversity to your social universe.
People We Don't Reach Out To

The lower your socioeconomic status is, the less diverse are your social networks, as we choose to reach inwards for advice, instead of outwards.

The tweak to apply here is to reach out and ask for advice with the network of people whom you normally will not connect with. Remind yourself of your strengths and values, if you feel intimidated by wanting to take advice out of your comfort zone.

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Don’t try to fix the difficult person

Accept them exactly as they are. 

Accept that they are unable to change, at least at this point in time. Unless you see real change — proof that this person is making an effort&nb...

Be present and direct

Try to avoid getting into a fight-or-flight response, which inevitably leads to becoming defensive

  • Be direct and assertive when you express yourself. 
  • Stay focused on how you respond. 
  • Know when the discussion or argument has accelerated to the point of no return. If it gets to this point, stop the interaction, and leave the conversation.
Encourage difficult people to express themselves

Let them fully state their point of view about the issue/conflict/problem without interruption. What do they feel people misunderstand about them? What do they want or expect from others? 

The idea is to remain as neutral as possible. Just listening may be enough to allow someone to feel like they have the opportunity to say what’s on their mind. 

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