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Jody Murphy, BA student in Business, Economics and Social Studies, talks about his experience of debates

What do debates look like in your discipline? 

The debates are in class. Initially, we would learn about a particular topic and then be paired into teams. For instance, in the case of law, there would be three teams (the defendants, the plaintiffs, and the judges). Each of the teams would have a set time to prepare their case (usually 15 mins) and then argue it in class. The winning team would be the team that most effectively applied the material learned in class to their argument.

How do you prepare for this type of assessment?

To begin, I would quickly revise everything learned in class and then analyse the topic of the debate. After I have got a better grasp of the material, I start preparing my arguments. There are only 5-8 minutes to do this, so my arguments are usually in bullet-point format. Following this, I engage in an open discussion with my team members and take on board suggestions that will improve my position. In addition to this initial preparation, once the opposing team begins to make their case, I start preparing counter arguments in order to discredit their claims.

Tell us about your experience of debates

Initially, debating struck me as intimidating. I felt a lot of anxiety when I had to stand up in front of my class and make my argument. However, after my first debate or two, this anxiety diminished. I believe that my experience of debating helped build my confidence in public speaking as well as my ability to analyse large quantities of complex material in a limited time period. In addition to this, by working as part of a team when forming an argument, this experience has improved my communication and interpersonal skills.

What advice would you give to someone doing this type of assessment? 

Don’t be afraid of losing. I believe that my fear of losing a debate prevented me from fully engaging in the assessment. Secondly, actively seek the opinions of your team members. By engaging with team members, you gain the ability to view a certain topic from a different perspective or through a different “lens”. I would also suggest that they have clear notes on what it is they are going to argue. There is nothing worse than being mid-argument and having to reorganise your notes for your next point.

Finally, one of the most importance things I took away from debating is the need for me to step out of my comfort zone. Like a lot of other students, I found the task of standing up in class and making my argument somewhat daunting. However, by engaging in the debate and stepping out of my comfort zone, I have become more confident in speaking to a large group of people and I’ve realised the value in giving your point of view on a topic, even if it’s not necessarily correct.

What tools/digital technologies do you use to prepare for and complete this type of assessment? 

  • Microsoft Word.
  • Class materials.


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