The complexity of in-class debates in Higher Education: student perspectives on differing designs


This paper investigates students’ perspectives on the use of differing debate designs in Higher Education. Literature tells us that the use of debates provides students with a mastery of content and the development of skills such as critical thinking (Brown, 2015; Zare and Othman, 2013). However, the designs of these debates are diverse and they have been implemented in a variety of ways in research. This paper considers whether debate design is an influential component on students’ in-class debate perspectives. This paper considers differing debate designs planned for levels four, five and six. In this research students at the University of Wolverhampton and the University of East London carried out debates that were comparable in terms of structure and provided their comments in questionnaires. The findings suggest that debate design is influential on students’ in-class debate perspectives. By focusing on specific debate characteristics the paper found variables that influenced students’ perspectives. These variables included the specific needs of the cohort, the purpose of the debate and the relevance to the module and its assessment. The findings show that these variables are significantly influential in whether students value the use of in-class debates. It would appear that in planning debate design it is important to consider these variables first and then consider which debate characteristics would support these variables.

Wilson, M. and Brown, Z. (2016) The complexity of in-class debates in Higher Education: student perspectives on differing designs. Educationalfutures, [online] Vol. 7(2). Available at: [Accessed 17 Feb, 2020].

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