Class Structure

All classes have one coach who facilitates discussions on new areas of knowledge or strategic concepts, helps students prepare arguments for new debate topics, and judges practice debates among students. Students are expected to read the news regularly and prepare debate cases as homework before class. Almost every class will have one practice debate – which is followed immediately by detailed coach feedback targeted towards improvement. The rest of class time is spent preparing for practice debates, discussing new concepts, and practicing skills through a variety of speech and debate activities.

Most classes will emphasis both one skill area and one knowledge area; for example one class might focus on getting students familiar with weighing the importance of different arguments, and do so using debates about the role of education. Some classes will be specifically devoted to a skill, and others will be specifically devoted to an area of knowledge, but most classes will involve both.

While coaches will be given a good deal of discretion in determining each class’s lesson plan, student input is important too. Feedback from students will be incorporated into the direction of future lessons.

General Curriculum

Our goal is to tailor debate coaching to the needs and abilities of the students. While there is a general curriculum focused on introducing students to the key skills and knowledge areas in competitive debate, coaches will adjust the timing and content of the general curriculum to the progress of students and upcoming tournaments. As students are confirmed to compete at tournaments throughout the year, coaches will have to adjust class plans according to tournament attendance. This allows classes to transition from general skill-building toward intensive competitive preparation when necessary.

Overall the curriculum goals for each semester are to practice or introduce students to:

  • Effective argumentation, rebuttal and speech structure,
  • Debate rules and conventions,
  • Good debating habits (like note-taking and effective research),
  • Various contemporary issues,
  • Advanced strategy and important debating tactics (such as weighing impacts and using case studies).

In terms of contemporary issues, students can expect to learn about:

  • Purpose and features of the criminal justice system
  • Major issues in international relations
  • Basic ideas in economics as they relate to debate rounds
  • Relevant current events, which may include
    • use of force by police
    • the treatment of minorities
    • the benefits and harms of government policies

These knowledge areas are spread throughout multiple semesters rather than a single semester and where topics for a tournament are known in advance the curriculum is adjusted to align classes with tournament preparation. 

Report Cards & Parent Info

Coaches at the Vancouver Debate Academy are in constant communication with one another about the progress of each class and each student through regularly written summaries at the end of classes. We will provide the Parents class summaries every two weeks. Anytime they wish to know what students are learning and coaches are always happy to chat with parents about their child’s improvement.

Because debate is a soft skill, it is hard to measure in a test or with a score. Instead of providing students with an overall mark, students are assessed in terms of improvement in relation to skills and knowledge. At the end of each semester, every student will be given a written report card on their progress. This will detail various areas of debating and speaking skills, as well as knowledge areas that coaches feel the student has improved in.