EBA in Boston
The impetus for the Boston Debate League’s (BDL) Evidence-Based Argumentation (EBA) program came from the Boston Public Schools (BPS), who tasked the BDL with figuring out a way for more students in member schools to gain the tremendous academic and social benefits of debate. In consultation with the BPS Academic Superintendent for High Schools and the headmasters of our member schools, the BDL concluded that the most effective way to bring debate’s benefits to all BPS students would be through a coordinated professional development program that trains teachers to employ debate as a pedagogical tool in their classrooms across all academic disciplines.
In early years, this program was known as Debate Across the Curriculum (DAC), but the name has shifted to acknowledge that the majority of successful argumentation in the classroom are not full debates but are instead shorter activities where students practice one or more of the skills that together contribute to a successful debate.
Each summer, the BDL hosts multiple graduate-level courses to train teachers to use argumentation activities to engage their students in rigorous academic instruction. Last year, BDL staff provided monthly professional development in thirteen schools. This year, the BDL is offering deeper support to five EBA Initiative Schools. This initiative will support the regular and effective use of EBA activities by making EBA a school-wide focus, providing professional development, analyzing assessment and student-work data, and conducting peer observations.
As the BDL takes this program fully to scale it serves teachers in BPS schools, regularly providing professional development instruction to particular grade cohorts or entire faculties. Headmasters view the program favorably and request the BDL to help them integrate EBA techniques into curriculum and to develop and lead professional development workshops that continue to train teachers to effectively. This means that every teacher and every student in BPS high schools will have some exposure to Evidence-Based Argumentation in the coming years, a tremendous opportunity for the BDL to reach thousands of students every year.