Debate in Social Studies Classrooms

- Echoes from Critical Pedagogy -

Problem: Civic Engagement Among Youth

Student learning in social studies classes lacks attention to civic engagement (Evans, 2004).


The problem perpetuates the disadvantage of underrepresented populations of students. (Foster-Bey, 2008; Malin, 2011; Bedolla, 2012).

Research Questions:

  1. Does structured class debate improve commitment to civic engagement among social studies students?
  2. Does structured debate help close the civic empowerment gap as a function of race? and
  3. What are students’ attitudes towards classroom debate?

- The Power of Argumentation -

Why Structured Classroom Debates?

Persuasive and articulate argumentation can give considerable power to individuals or groups of individuals despite not having any political background (Andrews, 1994).


Little research exists on debate as a means promote civic engagement in the classroom.


Debate may help improve students' commitment to civic engagement

THE GOAL:

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Debate in Action

Preliminary Findings

Does structured class debate improve student commitment to civic engagement?


The preliminary findings show that students increased in all categories of civic engagement. However, after running a two-tailed paired t-test, the results concluded that there was only significant growth in argumentation and voting categories of commitment to civic engagement.


  1. Argumentation likelihood................Increased..............Significant growth: p = .00001
  2. Argumentation efficacy....................Increased..............Significant growth: p = .024
  3. Political efficacy.................................Increased..............Significant growth: p = .02
  4. Voting likelihood................................Increased..............Significant growth: p = .32
  5. Current events...................................Increased..............No significant growth: p = .35
  6. Community service...........................Increased...............No significant growth: p = .27


The qualitative data, alone, shows that it does for show significant growth for argumentation likelihood, argumentation efficacy, and political efficacy but not for voting, being informed of current events or community service.


*Students started off with high scores in voting which created a cieling effect in the data and no room for growth.

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Does structured debate help close the civic engagement gap as a function of race?


  • Argumentation likelihood................Increased..............Significant growth: p = .00083
  • Argumentation efficacy....................Increased..............Significant growth: p = .037
  • Political efficacy.................................Increased..............Significant growth: p = .03
  • Voting likelihood................................Increased..............Significant growth: p = .038
  • Current events...................................Increased..............No significant growth: p = .94
  • Community service...........................Increased...............No significant growth: p = .39

  • Students of color showed growth in all categories of civic engagement more so than their White counterparts. However, after running at t-test, the results showed significant growth in the categories of argumentation likelihood, argumentation efficacy, political efficacy, and voting likelihood but not for current events or community service.

    Two Major Themes: Fun & Expression of Opinions

    What are Students' Attitudes Towards Structured Classroom Debates?


    Student Comments


    Q. 1: What are your thoughts on today's Debate?


    "I really liked the debates"


    "I like to argue when defending my opinion"


    "The debates have made me think about getting more involved as a citizen"


    "It was awesome and I feel like everybody participated well"


    "I think it taught me how to share my opinions and ideas"


    _______


    Q. 2: How do you think the debate affected the way you think about yourself as a citizen?


    "I now know that sometimes you have to do what you gotta' do to make a difference"


    "The debate didn't really affect the way I think

    about

    myself as a citizen, but it did give me thoughts on the questions".



    "I think that the debate affected me by making me feel like I need to participate more in my community"


    "This made me think that I can speak up more and not keep my views to myself"



    The qualitative data was collected from exit slips that students completed at the end of each debate. While I am still in the process of coding the raw qualitative data, above are some of the comments that I have observed that will be collapsed

    into broader themes.