CHAPTER 4. Debate preparation

4.1 British Parliamentary debate format
4.2 Lincoln-Douglas debate format

Debate, as an educational methodology, includes structured discussions where participants have the chance to express and defend their perspectives on a specific topic. The goal of the methodology is to provide the right conditions for students to engage in challenging intellectual discussions, encouraging them to explore the topic, analyze evidence, and build convincing arguments. Throughout the process, students will be driven to develop key skills such as critical thinking, effective communication, and teamwork. Debate promotes an environment that fosters active learning by encouraging students to take charge and define the path of their education, actively participating in their own learning process.

1.1 Active learning

Active learning is a pedagogical method that prioritizes the process of learning, rather than just the content being learned. (White et al., 2015) This approach ensures that students are actively involved in the learning process, promoting more sophisticated cognitive processes that lead to a deeper grasp of concepts and the ability to apply knowledge in practical situations.  It is a methodology that requires students to participate in their own learning process. It involves engaging students in activities that promote critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration. (Khan et al., 2017) This approach enables students to take ownership of their learning and become more self-motivated in achieving their goals.

There are several active learning strategies that can be used in the classroom, including (Patton, 2015):

  1. Group work and collaboration: Assigning students to work in groups encourages collaboration, communication, and problem-solving, refining and enhancing skills related to teamwork and leadership.
  2. Inquiry-based learning: This involves asking students to ask questions and conduct research to find answers, fostering critical thinking, analysis, and problem-solving abilities.
  3. Debates and discussions: Engaging students in debates and discussions encourages them to think critically, analyze different perspectives, and express their opinions, improving communication and reasoning skills.
  4. Interactive lectures: This involves incorporating activities and discussions into traditional lectures to engage students in the learning process, promoting active listening, critical thinking, and retention of information.
  5. Games and simulations: These activities provide a fun and engaging way for students to learn and practice new concepts, encouraging collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

Incorporating active learning strategies in the classroom can improve student engagement, motivation, and retention of information. It also helps to prepare students for real-world situations where critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving skills are essential.

1.2 Critical thinking in the classroom

Critical thinking is an essential skill for students to develop in the classroom. (Tiruneh et al., 2014) It is the ability to analyze, evaluate, and interpret information in a systematic and logical way. It encompasses actively and objectively evaluating information, arguments, or ideas by considering evidence, context, and perspective. Critical thinking allows individuals to reflect about their own beliefs and assumptions, question the validity of claims and arguments, and make well-informed decisions based on reasoned judgment (Santos, 2017).

The process of critical thinking involves several key steps, including:

  1. Identifying the problem or question at hand.
  2. Gathering information from a variety of sources.
  3. Evaluating the credibility and relevance of the information.
  4. Analyzing and interpreting the information to identify patterns, connections, and relationships.
  5. Drawing conclusions based on the analysis and evaluation of the information.
  6. Reflecting on the process and considering alternative perspectives and solutions.

There are many ways of promoting and implementing critical thinking in the classroom, such as mentioned in the previous point. By encouraging cross-questioning, that allow students to foster a mindset of thinking critically, which promotes a deeper understanding of the subject matter; evaluating sources, allowing them to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources and promotes a more thoughtful approach to research; applying problem-based learning; promote debate and discussion, that will help them to see different perspectives, think critically about their own beliefs, and express their ideas effectively; and analyzing arguments, identifying premises, evaluating evidence, and judging the logic of the argument, that will lead students to assess arguments critically.

By promoting critical thinking skills in the classroom, students can develop the ability to think independently, evaluate information critically, and make informed decisions. These skills are essential for success in both academic and professional settings.

1.3 Academic debate and its usefulness in Higher Education Institutions (HEI) contexts

Academic debate is a structured discussion that involves presenting evidence, arguments and counterarguments on a particular topic or issue. It is a useful tool for HEI contexts for several reasons, namely:

  1. Develops critical thinking skills: Debating requires participants to analyze and evaluate arguments critically. This promotes critical thinking skills and encourages students to question their assumptions and biases.
  2. Enhances communication skills: Debating involves presenting arguments and counterarguments persuasively. This helps students improve their communication skills, including public speaking, active listening, and effective use of language.
  3. Promotes teamwork and collaboration: Debating involves working with a team to develop arguments and counterarguments. This promotes teamwork, collaboration, and leadership skills.
  4. Fosters engagement and motivation: Debating is an active and engaging form of learning that promotes student engagement and motivation. Students are more likely to retain information when they are actively involved in the learning process.
  5. Prepares for real-world situations: Debating prepares students for real-world situations where critical thinking and communication skills are essential. Engaging in debates enhances students’ readiness to navigate in practical scenarios.

To summarize, academic debate is a valuable tool for HEI contexts, fostering critical thinking, effective communication, teamwork, and active engagement. Moreover, it empowers students with the necessary skills to navigate real-world situations confidently and proficiently.


Khan, A., Egbue, O., Palkie, B., & Madden, J. (2017). Active Learning: Engaging Students To Maximize        Learning In An Online Course. Electronic Journal of E-Learning, 15(2), pp107115-pp107115.

Patton, C. M. (2015). Employing Active Learning Strategies to Become the Facilitator, Not the Authoritarian: A Literature Review. Journal of Instructional Research, 4, 134–141.

Santos, L. F. (2017). The Role of Critical Thinking in Science Education. Online Submission, 8(20), 160–173.

Tiruneh, D. T., Verburgh, A., & Elen, J. (2014). Effectiveness of critical thinking instruction in higher education: A systematic review of intervention studies. Higher Education Studies , 4(1), 1–17.

White, P. J., Larson, I., Styles, K., Yuriev, E., Evans, D. R., Short, J. L., Rangachari, P. K., Malone, D. T., Davie, B., Naidu, S., & Eise, N. (2015). Using active learning strategies to shift student attitudes and behaviours about learning and teaching in a research intensive educational context. Pharmacy Education, 15.


Proposal for discussion

Proposal for discussion the topic “The Importance of Critical Thinking and Active Learning in Higher Education”:

  1. Why do you think critical thinking and active learning are important in HEI? How can they help students succeed academically and professionally?
  2. How can professors promote active learning and critical thinking in their classrooms? What teaching strategies can they use to encourage students to think critically and engage actively with the course material?
  3. In what ways can academic debate be used as a tool for promoting active learning and critical thinking in HEI contexts? What are some of the benefits and limitations of using debate as an educational tool?
  4. How can HEI ensure that students are developing critical thinking skills and not simply dumping information? What are some effective methods for assessing critical thinking skills in students?
  5. What are some of the challenges that students face when trying to develop critical thinking skills? How can HEI help students overcome these challenges?
  6. What role does technology play in promoting active learning and critical thinking in the classroom? How can technology be used to enhance the educational experience for students?
  7. What are some ways that students can continue to develop their critical thinking skills outside of the classroom? How can HEI support students in this process?


  1. Did you know that active learning has been shown to improve student performance in both STEM and non-STEM subjects? A meta-analysis of over 200 studies found that students in active learning classrooms scored higher on exams and had better retention of course material than those in traditional lecture-style classes.
  2. Critical thinking is not a new concept – it has been around for centuries! In ancient Greece, philosophers such as Socrates and Aristotle were known for their emphasis on critical thinking and the pursuit of truth.
  3. Academic debate has a long and rich history in many cultures around the world. In ancient India, for example, scholars engaged in formal debates known as «vadas» to discuss philosophical and religious ideas.
  4. Did you know that some HEI are now using virtual reality (VR) technology to enhance active learning and critical thinking in the classroom? By creating virtual environments that simulate real-world scenarios, students can practice critical thinking and decision-making skills in a safe and controlled setting.
  5. The benefits of active learning and critical thinking extend beyond the classroom – they are also important for personal growth and development. By cultivating these skills, individuals can become better problem-solvers, decision-makers, and communicators in all aspects of their lives.