PNW Debate offers new ways of connecting student performance to the educational goals of the activity.
Measuring Student Success
PNW Debate is forgoing traditional speaker points in favor of assessing each student's performance in 4 specific learning outcomes. Ratings in these categories are individual (you are assessing how well that particular student performed) and operate independently from who won or lost the round (these ratings do not affect the seeding of a team for the next round).
This system is intended to inform students on the full range of their debate performance so they can improve over time. It will also recognize student achievement; the top two senior and junior performers in each category will receive an award.
We ask that critics are cognizant that standards for success in these areas are often reflections of different cultures. There is not a single valid way to perform in any measure. Differences in identity (such as race, gender, class, etc.) and social power also affect our assessments. Judges should understand the power that comes with assessing students and work hard to reinforce the overarching goal of this format: to provide an enriching educational experience for all participants.
The four learning areas are: use of evidence, use of analysis, communication, and community. Each is detailed below.
Students should demonstrate knowledge of the issues and ideas contained in the format's article packet and the skill of using evidence to support arguments. Evidence is used in a diversity of ways and varies based upon speaker position. Uses of evidence could include: clearly citing and quoting evidence as authoritative support, identifying deficiencies in an opponent's evidence, demonstrated awareness of the articles evidence is drawn from, etc.
Students should demonstrate skills in reasoning and evaluation of arguments. Reasoning is not simply an exercise in logic, but a processes of explaining the connections between evidence and claims with one's own position, scrutinizing the merits of opposing arguments, and making evaluative judgments about arguments as the debate progresses. Analysis presents itself in a diversity of ways and can vary based upon speaker position. Uses of analysis could include: cross-examination, comparing and selecting arguments in rebuttals, refutation and defense of arguments throughout the debate, etc.
Students should demonstrate skills in sufficiently explaining their ideas to the judge through communication. Communication is a rich process that involves emotion, character, and connection between the speaker and judge to establish understanding and persuasion about the merit of the student's arguments. Successful communication can vary based on speaker position and student speaking style. Examples of communication could include: clear explanations of ideas and their significance, use of voice and non-verbals to convey emotion and character, moments of connection and checking for judge understanding through eye contact, etc.
Students should work to build and strengthen human relationships throughout the debate round through their interactions with their partner, their opponents, and the judge. Actions throughout the debate should seek to nurture an atmosphere of respect and dignity for all persons. Community should not be confused with politeness or paternalism. Communities must also show respect for the significance of differences in identity, experience, and social power. Community is challenging to measure. When completing this category, judges should ask: how effective was the student at building bonds that bring participants into a community of arguers, even while disagreements and disputes are present?