Wednesday, 11 May 2016

I'll be the judge of that...

A photo posted by Markeeta Roe-Phillips (@markeetarp) on

Last night I made my debut as a debating adjudicator for Debating SA. Wow! My head is still spinning. I learnt SO much about debating, about giving feedback and about myself.

 I adjudicated three debates: a year 6/7 debate 'that single sex schools are the best', a year 9 debate 'that traffic fines should be based on income' and a year 8 debate 'that there should be a sugar tax'.   The students' debating experience level ranged from a couple of years to sharing the debut spotlight with me. Without exception, I was impressed by them. Some presented with the clear advantage of past coaching, others were obviously green but equally obviously determined and committed to learn. Some showed a sangfroid well beyond their years, others pushed through the nerves of their first truly public speaking engagement.  What a group!

 The challenges of the evening for me were many and varied. Our first debate got off to a late start because of some missing equipment and forms. Had I  - or any of the debaters - been more experienced this would have been noticed and resolved earlier. Meh. We coped.

The actual adjudication process is both straight forward and quite complex: lots of balls to juggle, with each new speaker adding another type and size ball. Taking careful note of each speaker's arguments (and rebuttals), presentation and debate structure is vital, but actually not very easy. People, and in particular children, speak really fast! Pulling out the salient points and matching them with the criteria against which they're being judged is not dissimilar to assessing students' oral presentations in the classroom in many ways. Fortunately Debating SA provides a comprehensive rubric against which to score each speaker which certainly helped.

Matching each speaker's rebuttals off against their opponent's arguments is, I'm hoping, something that gets easier (and faster) with time. One of the other areas I predicted would be challenging was recognising (and naming) the difference fallacies of argument and rebuttal. I've never debated so whilst some of these fallacies are part of our everyday vernacular many are new to me. Being the nerd I am, and knowing how I learn, I created online flashcards.

Please feel free to use my Quizlet 'study sets' with your students if debating and flashcards are your/their kinda thing..

I found that I was fine at recognising and naming the fallacies in my notes, but struggled to use that knowledge in my feedback to the students. I need to work on that.  Having said that, I received feedback from a number of parents that the feedback I gave was balanced and constructive. I used a template to record my feedback before I gave it so that I could make sure I used a sandwich approach: positive, something really specific to work on, positive. I also made sure, over the team, to include a good range of argument, rebuttal, presentation, structure feedback.  And I made special efforts to build up the students who stood up, had a bit of a freak out and then ploughed on. The second they realised that I was congratulating them and wasn't going to reprimand them their whole body language changed.  It was a very real reminder of the value of personal, specific, timely feedback. #highlight

I've got some way before I'll be confident at this, but that's OK. I'm learning, developing and growing. And having fun! That's the way I want my students to feel about learning, so I'm taking careful note.

This relates to the following Australian Professional Standards for Teachers:
Standard 6 Engage in professional learning


  1. I wish there were GIFs in comments. If there were I'd find a large audience standing and clapping. So cool! - You not the missing GIF lol

    1. Oh you! You make me blush and giggle in turns. Thank you!