Methodology for Sunday School & Other Bible Teachers
This Month's Teaching Method:
In a debate, members of the class take opposing sides on a controversial issue to seek to persuade the others to their viewpoint. This is done through an orderly process whereby each side is given equal time to present their arguments and then to do a rebuttal on what was shared by their opponents.
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A debate can be done with as few as two students to almost any size class. The variable that changes with the larger class is the amount of total class participation. In a small class, many of the members will be active participants in the debate. The mid-size group will not have as high of a percentage of active participants but will allow for an open forum at the end of the debate which can include the remainder of the class in asking questions and discussing the issues further. The larger group will not allow for total participation in this kind of discussion. Most of the students will have a more passive role unless creative methods are employed to engage them.
During the actual debate you will only need to set up chairs in the front of the classroom for each participant. In preparation for the debate, you should provide what is needed for participants to research and prepare their positions. This could include books, videos, magazines, website addresses, and a list of knowledgeable people whom they could interview.
Debates can stir up feelings and attitudes. They challenge beliefs as students are forced to examine an issue from different perspectives. Debating requires participants to research and to logically think things through. It teaches critical thinking as students must organize their thoughts.
Debate has actually existed since the time of the ancient Greek philosophical thinkers. The elements of a debate are found today in courtroom trials and as a part of running for high political offices. Many schools have a debate club.
Proximity of others
Since only one person should be talking at a time, closeness to another class should not be a problem. Students may speak louder as the debate heats up but you should not allow it to become a full-fledge brawl.
Generally finances should not be needed unless you must purchase materials for research. If you or your church do not have books, videos, or magazines on the topic, you can usually direct students to books in a library or articles on the Internet.
Debate is best suited for youth and adult classes. You may be able to engage upper elementary students in a form of debate.
Debate is an interactive group method employing dialog. It is student-centered, experiential learning.
A debate can easily take the entire session, anywhere from 45 to 75 minutes depending on how many members are on each side. You should figure from 4-6 minutes for each person's initial argument and another 2-3 for each of their rebuttals. You may allow up to five minutes between the presentation of their arguments and the rebuttals to allow them to prepare for their rebuttal. If you open it up into a forum for discussion at the end of the debate, you need to figure in about another 10-20 minutes.
Openness of group
Because of the competitive nature of a debate, some students may feel uncomfortable with it. A debate can be challenging and frustrating to those who must take a side for which they do not really agree and act like they do. Some students may have to deal with personal biases as a result of the debate which can be stretching.
Almost any size of a classroom may be used as students are sedentary and set up only requires chairs in the front for the participants.
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