You walk into a classroom to observe a biology lesson on organelles, expecting to see a lecture, maybe students taking notes, or an activity involving the textbook and worksheets. As you enter, you are surprised to see students already in their seats organized into five different teams. Hurried whispers stop as the teacher announces a debate is about to begin. The first speaker stands and presents an impassioned defense of mitochondria’s status as the most important organelle in a cell, demonstrating a detailed understanding of its functions and citing specific passages from the textbook to support these claims. Representatives from the four remaining teams stand in turn, presenting equally strong and evidenced cases for ribosomes, vacuoles, and other assigned organelles. In the downtime prior to the next round of speeches, students confer frantically in their groups, flipping through their textbooks and pointing to their notes from earlier speeches. What follows is nothing short of incredible; the teams embark on a series of back-and-forth exchanges as different students in each group take turns assuming the roles of attacker, defender, questioner, and closer. Every student in the class is involved in this weaving together of content mastery with strategic thinking about what it takes to win the debate. The announcement of the winner immediately provokes a new round of discussion over the merits of each side’s arguments, only ending when the teacher-coaching the groups, finally succeeds in ushering the class out of the room and onto their next period, the sounds of continued debate trailing behind them.
This is Evidence-Based Argumentation. (Formerly Debate Across the Curriculum)