CHAPTER 6. Laboratories


What it consists of

The Knowledge Café is a conversational process that brings together a group of students to share experiences, learn from each other, build relationships and understand the topic being discussed in class.

The objectives of the Café are to bring out the collective knowledge of the group, learn from each other, share ideas and insights, deepen understanding of a topic and the issues it raises, and explore possibilities. It can also be used to help connect people, improve interpersonal relationships, break down silos, and improve trust and commitment.

The purpose

To bring collective knowledge to the surface, encouraging the exchange of ideas and promoting a deeper understanding of the subject.

Key aspects

Flexibility: It is a simple and flexible method that allows adapting to the reality of the classroom and the subject matter to be worked on in class.

No decision making: The purpose of the activity is not to make decisions or reach consensus but to share ideas, knowledge, reflections, doubts….

Commitment: The activity encourages the active participation and commitment of all participants, helping everyone to have a voice and contribute with their contributions to deepen on the topic.

Questions: Questions play a central role in the activity, as they stimulate conversation.

How to develop the activity

The class is organized into stations. Each station is assigned a question related to the topic being worked on.

Divide the class into as many groups as stations we have created. Each group is assigned a station.

Allow time for each group, at their station, to talk about the question and write down their answers, impressions, doubts, and comments about the question on the station sheet.

After the allotted time (5-10 minutes), the groups rotate. When they arrive at the new station they read the comments, questions and answers of the previous group and enrich the sheet with their reflections, comments, answers and new questions.

As many rotations are made as many stations have been created. Once all the groups have gone through all the stations, the groups return to their station of origin and, after reading the reflections, comments, questions and answers, prepare a presentation for the rest of the class with the conclusions to the question.

The groups make their presentations and end with a plenary discussion on the general conclusions on the proposed topic.


What it consists of

«Would you raher?» consists of using this question to present a dilemma that students must answer based on their preferences. In addition to being a fun and engaging activity that generates space for conversation, it encourages critical thinking and decision making.

The purpose

To encourage critical thinking in students. By using «would you rather?» questions, we force students to think critically and weigh the pros and cons of each option. This can help them develop their analytical skills.

Key aspects

Flexibility: the activity can be developed in different ways and can be adjusted in terms of space (moving to one side or the other of the classroom, standing up or sitting down), time (one or several questions) and number of students (everyone participates actively).

Encourages critical thinking: students have to make decisions weighing the pros and cons of each option.

Thematic variety: «would you rather?» questions can be adapted to the specific topic we are working on in class.

Student engagement: Using «would you rather?» questions helps students connect in a different way with the academic content.

Brain breaks: Being a fun activity, they provide the perfect, light-hearted break that is needed when working with rigorous content.

How to develop the activity

The activity can be worked in the classroom in different ways:

As an icebreaker: The question «would you rather?» is presented for students to interact with each other.

As a written exercise: The question «would you rather?» is presented and students are asked to write about their choice and justify it.

As a debate or discussion activity: We ask the class a question such as «Would you rather?» and ask them to position themselves in one part of the classroom or another according to their preferences. Once positioned, we allow time for each group to prepare a justification for their position to present it to the rest of the class with the aim of convincing someone to change their position.


Creating good motions or debate topics is key to the success of the debate activity in the classroom. A good debate motion provides a balanced argument, promotes critical thinking and analysis, fosters engagement and participation, encourages research and preparation, and improves communication and public speaking skills. Motions influence the conversation that is generated in class since they:

Set the toneDebate motions set the tone. Debate topics can shape the direction and focus of a debate by setting the tone for the discussion. They establish the seriousness and level of engagement required from the participants. –««Should schools teach abstinence instead of sexual education?» sets a serious tone and requires participants to engage in critical thinking and research. A debate topic such as «Should students be allowed to wear hats in class?» may not set a serious tone and may not require participants to engage in critical thinking.
Determine the scope of the debateDebate topics determine the scope of the debate and the issues that will be discussed.A debate topic such as «Is human cloning ethical?» determines the scope of the debate and the issues that will be discussed by defining the ethical considerations of human cloning. This debate topic sets the scope of the debate by defining the parameters of the discussion. A debate topic such as «What is the best color?» may not determine the scope of the debate and may not lead to a productive discussion. This debate topic does not determine the issues to be discussed.
Promote critical thinkingDebate motions encourage critical thinking by requiring participants to research, analyze, and present differing perspectives on complex issues. Students must research and analyze information from various sources to support their arguments, which promotes critical thinking skills.A debate topic such as «Should schools be allowed to teach critical race theory?» encourages participants to consider multiple perspectives and engage in critical thinking. The search results show that critical race theory is a complex and controversial topic that requires students to think critically about issues related to race, equity, and justice. A debate topic such as «Which is better: cats or dogs?» may not promote critical thinking and may not encourage participants to consider multiple perspectives. While it is possible to argue for or against cats or dogs, the topic is subjective and may not require extensive research or analysis.
Facilitate respectful debateDebate topics can facilitate respectful debate by setting ground rules for respectful debate, such as avoiding personal attacks and focusing on the issue at hand. Debate motions facilitate respectful debate by providing a structured and civil discussion that involves at least two sides to an issue, focuses on substance, features time limits for each side, and compels speakers to persuade an audience about how to make informed choices, incorporate new information, and identify ways to reach consensus.A debate topic such as «Are standardized tests effective?» can be debated in a respectful manner by adhering to ground rules for respectful debate. A debate topic such as «Which is better: pizza or hamburgers?» may not facilitate respectful debate and may lead to personal attacks.  

Steps to create debate motions

Step 1: Generate a list of broad subject areas you are interested in debating, such as politics, technology, environment, or social issues that you are interested in debating with your students. Broad subject areas are overarching categories that encompass a wide range of related topics. These broad subject areas serve as a high-level classification or thematic framework for organizing discussions or debates. Examples of broad subject areas include politics, technology, environment, or social issues. These subject areas provide a starting point for generating more specific topic ideas.

Step 2: Gather a wide range of general topics within these subject areas. General topics are more specific areas of focus within the subject areas. Topics like «Government surveillance,» «Artificial intelligence and job displacement,» «Climate change and renewable energy,» or «Gender equality» can be general topics within the subject area of politics.

Step 3: Create topic maps. Take the broad subject areas and organize them into a visual map. Write down the main subject areas in the center (e.g., politics, technology) and create branches or columns extending from each area.

Step 4: Create debate motions. Identify specific debate topics on the branches. The branches serve as a way to categorize and organize the various topics that fall under the broader subject areas. For example, debate motions that could result from the subject area «Technology,» and the general topics “artificial intelligence” and “university”:

  • Universities should integrate AI into their curriculum to prepare students for the future job market.
  • Universities should use AI in the university admission process.
  • Universities should prioritize funding and research in the field of artificial intelligence to drive innovation and technological advancements.


Understanding the debate motion is key to preparing for a debate. It provides clarity, helps make the arguments responsive to the premise of the debate, facilitates research, and contributes to a richer debate. We worked through the steps to understand the debate motion with the motion:

«Universities should prioritize online education over traditional classroom learning».

Step 1: read and understand the motion to determine what it proposes, what it highlights, and what elements it is contrasting or comparing.

  • central proposition: The motion suggests that universities should give more importance to online education instead of traditional classroom learning.
  • specific focus: The motion emphasizes the prioritization of online education in the context of universities.
  • implied comparison: The motion implies a comparison between online education and traditional classroom learning, highlighting the need to prioritize one over the other.

Step 2: Identify the key terms and concepts. We can identify three key terms in our motion:

  • «Universities»: the motion refers to higher education institutions that offer degree programs and various disciplines.
  • «Online education»: involves the delivery of academic courses or programs through digital platforms, enabling remote learning and collaboration.
  • «Traditional classroom learning»: the conventional mode of education where students physically attend classes on campus.

Step 3: Consider the context and scope:

  • Assess the current landscape: Consider the prevailing circumstances, such as the increasing integration of technology in education, advancements in online learning platforms, or the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education delivery.
  • Scope within higher education: Focus on how the motion specifically relates to universities, where a broader range of disciplines and advanced studies are offered.

Step 4: Analyze the structure of the motion.

  • Identify the main proposition: The motion proposes that online education should be prioritized over traditional classroom learning in universities.
  • Explore the implied tension: Recognize the inherent tension between the prioritization of online education and the potential implications for the role of physical campuses, face-to-face interactions, and experiential learning.

Step 5: Explore different interpretations and angles.

  • Efficiency and accessibility: Consider arguments that prioritize online education for its potential to increase access to education, reach a wider audience, and accommodate diverse learner needs.
  • Quality and engagement: Explore counterarguments that emphasize the unique value of traditional classroom learning, such as interactive discussions, hands-on experiences, and the formation of interpersonal connections.


What it consists of

The which is the best option activity challenges students to compare their proposal with ones presented by their peers. Listening to other alternatives, identify strengths and weaknesses and persuasive communication are some of the skills that can be worked in this activity. The activity encourages students to focus not only to identify what makes their proposal strong but also to listen and question the strengths and weaknesses of other proposals.

The purpose

In debating between two sides it’s not enough to argue that something is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Speakers must always remember to be comparative, and so to ask ‘Is this better than the other side? Is this more important?’ This exercise will help students to practice this and explore its importance.

Key aspects

Persuasive communication to convince the audience that the team´s proposal is the most convenient one.

Listening skills: understand other teams´ proposal in order to use comparison to highlight the strengths of the proposal.

Gamification: competition engages students in the activity. The teams that gets the higher number of votes wins the contest.

How to develop the activity

Introduce the context of the activity to the class: “The government has announced that there is a million euro of extra money available to be spent in the local region. Students are representing advocacy groups supporting different proposals for how to spend this money.

Give each student/group a proposal like the ones on the list below, or let them choose their own:

  • More teachers.
  • Build a new park with a football pitch/athletics track.
  • Put on local events e.g. music festivals or fairs.
  • Free entry to local leisure centre/swimming pool.
  • More nurses.
  • Increased city centre parking.
  • Reduce income tax.
  • Every school age student gets a musical instrument.
  • More bike lanes.
  • More money for libraries so they can stay open/have more staff or facilities.
  • More support for homeless people.

Round 1: In this round each advocacy group will write and deliver a short speech about why their proposed spending is best within a certain category of their choice (the benefits of your proposal).

So, for example, ‘spending on more nurses’ might want to argue that their proposal would ‘save most lives’; ‘provide increased city centre parking’ might claim that their proposal would ‘boost the economy most’.

Round 2: Each proposal may be best at something, but this doesn’t yet allow us to choose which is best overall. In this round the advocacy groups will argue that their policy should be selected by the government. In order to do this they will have to argue not only that they are better than the others at something, but also explain why that means that overall they are best choice for spending. So now it is not enough to explain why you are best at ‘x’ but also why this is more important than the benefits of other proposals. For example, someone defending ‘more nurses’ might suggest that ‘saving more lives’ is more important than ‘boosting the economy most’.

Round 3: Teams must tell the 2 best options for them and justify (we introduce the concept of evaluation through debate). We select the top 2 proposals and have a final round where they must argue directly against each other in a final pair of speeches.


What consist of

Emulating a speed networking activity, students present their arguments on the suggested motion to different peers. Students change positions, both physical and «ideological», in each round. The activity allows students to enrich their arguments after practicing their speech in each round and to learn from the constructions and perspectives used by their peers.

The purpose

To give students the opportunity to work their argumentation skills by creating pro and con arguments and use and enrich them in short exchange rounds. Students can practice the ARE model :

The ARE (Affirmation, Reason, Evidence) model is a useful tool for creating persuasive arguments in debates. Imagine the motion: «This house believes that social media has a negative impact on society»:
Affirmation: The affirmation is the students´ point of view on the issue. It is the statement that the students are trying to prove or disprove. In debates, the affirmation is usually the motion being debated. The affirmation should be clear and concise, and it should express the students´ stance on the issue. For example, «We strongly believe that social media has a negative impact on society.»Reason: The reason is the justification for the students´ point of view. It is the explanation for why the writer believes what they do. The reason should be logical and coherent, and it should support the affirmation. In debates, the reason is usually the argument that the writer is trying to make. For example, «Social media has been shown to be addictive and can lead to negative effects on mental health, such as anxiety and depression.»Evidence: The evidence is the support for the students´ reason. It is the proof that the students use to back up their argument. The evidence should be factual and relevant, and it should support the reason. In debates, the evidence is usually the examples, statistics, or other data that the students use to support their argument. For example, «Studies have shown that excessive use of social media can lead to negative effects on mental health, such as anxiety and depression.»

Key aspects

Dynamic: students move and talk with different peers.

Reflective: students can learn by verbalizing their arguments and listening to their peers’ arguments.

How to develop the activity

Classroom Set up: place the chairs in two circles- one outer circle and one inner circle. Face these chairs towards each other so opponents can argue face-to-face.

Those students within the inner circle will argue FOR the topic and those in the outer circle will argue AGAINST the topic.

Pose a debatable topic and give them time to prepare their arguments following the ARE model.

Set a time limit for each side to pose arguments (1 minute). After the time is up, ask students to stand and switch places with their partner. Those within the inner circle are now in the outer circle and vice versa

Debate motions:

  • Film and television studios should significantly increase the number of female villains in their productions
  • Government economic policy should prioritize the collective happiness and well-being of the population over economic growth.