How Was Your Summer Debate Institute? A Few Questions

Summer's over folks, and that means back to the classroom for most of us. The positive spin is that debate begins to heat up with the return of the regular competitive debating season in the United States. September also means the ramp-up to WUDC as well, with the first big IVs coming along in Europe and Asia.

Many debaters spend some portion of the summer at a summer debate institute, or "debate camp" as we call them colloquially. Here are a few questions to evaluate the quality of your summer institute experience. Think about them next spring when you are making summer institute plans.

I ask these questions because I believe most debate institutes would not pass basic university quality control standards, regardless of the accrediting institution. I also believe most instruction given by debate coaches at summer institutes is a model of teaching that has been rejected across the university and supposedly opposed by most debate educators - the banking model, identified by Paulo Friere. Furthermore, I think most of the teaching practices and the information given to the students in these sessions would be grounds for dismissal if university faculty were to teach this way.

Here's the list. Think about the implications for pedagogy, and for your ability to take the summer institute experience and use it to advance your education, not just your win-loss percentage.

How many times were you involved in direct instruction (i.e. lectures, a model of instruction where someone talks to you in a group and you listen more than you speak)?

How many times were you involved in sessions where you talk with your fellow students more than an instructor talks to you?

How much time was reserved each day for reading articles and books?

How many times were you asked to present summaries of your research to your peers?

How many times were you taught an issue of politics, economics, history or another subject by someone whose only credentials were that they were a debate coach or a "winning" debater?

How often were you given instruction by someone who is an expert in something other than the format of debating or winning competitive debates?

How often were you asked by an instructor to give your point of view on a question of strategy or preparation?

After a practice debate, how much time was given to you to reflect about the round with your teammates and opponents?

After a practice debate, did the critic give you suggestions on what to do with your upcoming instructional or research time as a part of the critique?

How often did your instructor suggest or provide short readings from scholarly materials about the topic you were working on?

How often did your instructor suggest strategic tricks for tournament success instead of potential avenues for access of information from scholarly sources?

If your institute was on a university campus, were you given significant amounts of time to use the research library on campus?

How often were students asked to instruct or provide instruction to their peers?

How often were you consulted on curriculum (i.e. what should we be teaching to you guys?)

How often were you told what to do by an instructor without space to debate, challenge, or question that demand? (i.e. Organization of a speech can only be this particular way)

Did you participate in any speaking or debate activities at your institute that had nothing to do with the rules and restrictions of tournament debating?

How often did your instructors access and instruct you about rhetorical or communication theory, making it applicable to the challenges you were facing in rounds? (Most "debate coach" types do have at least a Masters degree in this field)

What sources did instructors offer to you as the basis for their content lectures? Did they internally cite experts or expert sources?

Did instructors cite their research on powerpoint or through a bibliography distributed to you during or after the lecture?

Did your instructors approach the topic with an enthusiasm and energy to get you engaged in the material, or did they approach you with a cynical rhetoric, almost bored with their material?

How often did instructors connect the debate material they were teaching you to other formats of debating or arguing that we find in the "real world" (i.e. institutions of democratic governance, etc)

How many times did instructors debate against students, then critique the same debate they were in, identifying winning arguments?

How many times did instructors participate in debates where a student from the class or institute offered the critique?

How often did you debate your peers and were also judged by your peers?

What percentage of the research you were given at the institute was a product of you or one of your peers versus a product of an instructor?