Workshop: Techniques for Teaching Debate in University EFL Classes

  • Speaker: Sean Burgoine
  • Date: Monday Nov. 27
  • Time: 6:30-8:00 PM
  • Location: Rm. 6, 1st floor of Humanities building, Kochi University, Asakura Campus.

Debate has long been used by language teachers as a structured communicative activity in EFL classes, and formal debate contests in English have become increasingly popular in Japan, especially at the high school level. Debating provides students with an opportunity to learn about different sides of contemporary issues in a way that is not often addressed in Japanese educational contexts. Although many Japanese students can be hesitant to express opinions on societal issues in more open-ended conversational formats, the formalized structure of a debate lends itself well to the Japanese EFL classroom when students are given time to prepare and practice a structured ‘turn taking’ style of English communication. Based on logical expression of ideas and support for argumentation, debating in English influences students in two ways. First, it exposes the students to a range of language features not ordinarily used in every day conversational English and, secondly, students learn about cultural influences on language by practicing a style of public speaking steeped in British tradition. With its focus on structure, logic and supporting argumentation, using debate in EFL classes also levels the playing field when working with students with different levels of English fluency; everyone must play by the same rules in order to ‘win’ the debate. The experience of preparing for and conducting debates in a second language helps students to develop techniques to express themselves with greater confidence in the L2. In this workshop, I will encourage teachers to add debate to their English communication classes by first sharing a number of useful activities in preparing university EFL students for debate, and demonstrating how debate can be used in classes with large numbers. While this workshop is designed for a university teaching context, with slight variations in approach the materials I will share can also be adapted for secondary school English classes.

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