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Classroom Debate: The Potential and Challenges

conference contribution
posted on 25.03.2022, 08:58 by Huey Chern Boo, Kuan-Huei LeeKuan-Huei Lee
In the past three decades, classroom debate has been a popular teaching method in the field of medical and pharmacy (Dy-Boarman et al., 2018; Elliot et al., 2016; Toor et al, 2007), education (Park et al., 2011; Yang & Rusli, 2012; Zare & Othman, 2013; 2015), and political science (Omelicheva & Avdeyeva, 2008; Oros, 2007). To a lesser extent, it has also been introduced in business and economics (Camp & Schnader, 2010; Jagger, 2013; Winsted, 2010) and engineering (Chang & Cho, 2010). However, it has not been given the appropriate consideration as a pedagogical method in the hospitality and tourism discipline (Alen et al., 2015). Past research has collectively pointed out that the use of debate in classroom teaching has improved student’s communication, written, research, logical and critical thinking skills (e.g., Hall, 2011; Healey, 2012; Scannapieco, 1997; Scott, 2008; Vo & Morris, 2006). It was asserted as a useful way to develop the higher level of learning capability in the Bloom’s Taxonomy: evaluation, synthesis and analysis (Toor, 2017) among students. During the preparation of a debate, students are required to define the problem, gather information form differing perspectives, assess the credibility of sources, identify and challenge the assumptions, recognize inconsistencies, and prioritize the relevance and salience of various points with the overall argument (Kennedy, 2007). During the debate itself, students will need to present their argument in a clear and persuasive manner. In addition, they are expected to evaluation points from an opposing argument and provide information to refute the statement instantly (Dy-Boarman, et al., 2018). This vigorous training process not only improves the critical thinking skill but also oral communication among students. Scholars have also affirmed that debate frequently challenges the existing view held by students, hence reducing biases and promoting openness, especially when the student take an opposite stance (Budesheim & Lundquist, 1999; Kennedy, 2009; Landrum, 1991; Zare & Othman, 2015). In short, classroom debate not only will encourage active learning among students but also enhances communication competency, research capability, and open-mindedness. These skills are important to develop a graduate who is down-to-earth with the hands-on ability, as well as intellectual capability. The study examined how classroom debate contributes to critical thinking, persuasive communication, research execution, collaborative teamwork, widen perspective, knowledge retention, and learning interest in the hospitality related programmes. The researchers employed debate as a form of teaching to the undergraduate students in the hospitality and culinary programmes in Singapore Institute of Technololgy. A survey questionnaire was constructed and disseminated to students via Qualtrics, an online survey platform. The 32 questions related to the various competencies and learning experience were adapted from past research (Zare & Othman, 2015; Vo & Morris, 2006; Dy-Boarman et al., 2018; Scannapieco, 1997; Scott, 2008). Except for knowledge retention, all other questions were measured using 7-point Likert scale. The knowledge retention question required students to indicate the amount of knowledge being retained on a 7-point bipolar scale (1 = much more as audience, 7 = much more as debater). Overall, 132 responses were collected. The measurements of all six domains and learning construct showed high internal consistency with Cronbach’s alpha values above 0.9. Results showed all the domains were rated highly in their contribution to the students’ capabilities. In addition, they were significantly influencing the students’ learning experience (F(6,125) = 80.980, p < .001). More specifically, oral communication, research execution, collaborative teamwork, and broader perspective affected the students’ learning experience positively. On the contrary, critical thinking and written communication were inversely impacting their learning experience. These findings highlighted the need to hone the students’ critical thinking and written communication skills.


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Applied Learning Conference 2022, 20-21 January 2022, Online

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