Student Debate/alx

From Open Pattern Repository for Online Learning Systems
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Student Debate
Contributors Christian Köppe, Michel Portier, René Bakker, Stijn Hoppenbrouwers
Last modification June 6, 2017
Source Köppe, Portier, Bakker, & Hoppenbrouwers (in press 2015)[1]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain

You want to teach students how they can support the choices they made, e.g. when designing, and also want to expose them to a variety of aspects of a topic to be covered. You decided to use Discussion Statements (Discussion Statements).


Students tend to look for the one good way or the one correct interpretation. When they apply it, they often cannot give sound support for why they’ve chosen this way or why their interpretation is correct.

Many students tend to follow the strategy “when it works, it works" without evaluating if the working solution is indeed a good (or the best) solution. Being able to execute such evaluation requires knowledge of possible alternatives, which does not come naturally to students.

On the other hand, if students have evaluated different ways and made a well-supported choice, they often find it hard to describe and document how they evaluated and why their choice indeed is a good one.


Therefore: Give a small number of diverse or even contradicting statements to students, have them prepare and present a plea for their statement and use these presentations as starting point for deeper discussions of the topic.

Having to present and defend a statement requires the students to dig deeper into the topic and to look at it from different perspectives for finding a good support of their defense. Defending a statement usually includes a discussion of why other alternatives are less good, which is also part of Discussion Statements (Discussion Statements). However, by having various and even contradicting statements, the arguments will likely clash and the students have to discuss which of them is more important or why actually both statements are correct with respect to some identified criteria. Being able to coming to such conclusion (and learning how to do this) is one of the students’ competences and learning objectives in many fields, and such Student Debates can help with realizing it.

The biggest issue are statements that actually are wrong, but the students are required to still argue in favor of them and find support for it. Even this is very helpful, as such argumentation likely is of some naïve character and hereby shows that not all explanations and arguments should be followed blindly.

In the course software design (part of the master Software Engineering) at the University of Amsterdam, 2 contradicting statements addressing various aspects of software design are given to two pairs of students. The students then have to prepare pleas for defending their statement which include well supported arguments, and have to present these to the whole class. After that a discussion is held about which arguments were the strongest and most convincing. By looking much deeper at these aspects and discussing their pro’s and con’s, the students learned to evaluate the applicability of a variety of styles and techniques and to make well supported choices for of against them in future projects.


  1. Köppe, C., Portier, M., Bakker, R., & Hoppenbrouwers, S. (in press 2015). Lecture Design Patterns: More Interactivity Improvement Patterns. In Proceedings of the 22nd Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP 2015). New York:ACM.