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  Workshop 7: Controversial Public Policy Issues  
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Workshop 7

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Lesson Plan: Teaching the Lesson: Activity 3

Activity 3: Academic Structured Debate
The next activity is a structured debate, or structured controversy, which is a small-group debate format. The framework for the discussion has very specific time parameters that add up to 41 minutes. The Finale, which takes an additional five minutes or more, is described in Activity 4. (Note: Some teachers have found that once students are familiar with the format, the time limits can be shortened, and the general framework can be used for quick looks at important issues.)

Read and post on the board Position A and Position B in the controversy. If possible, place these statements on opposite sides of the classroom, so they can serve as graphic anchors for each group.

Position A: Racial profiling is an effective law enforcement tool and should be used by police whenever they think it most helpful. Police officers should be able to stop and search members of certain racial or ethnic groups because officers believe that these groups are more likely than others to commit certain types of crime.

Position B: Racial profiling should never become an acceptable law enforcement practice because it infringes on individual constitutional liberties. Only when there is particular individualized suspicion based on a person's actions should officers have the authority to stop and search.

Distribute to students Racial Profiling: A Structured Controversy, which describes each step of the process and notes how much time should be given to it, and Structured Academic Controversy: Student Expectations and Evaluation, a two-page rubric that you should review with the class before beginning the structured discussion.

Put pairs in groups of four with all Position As on the right facing Position Bs on the left. JoEllen Ambrose paired partner groups to create debate groups of four (two sets of partners). Although she had allowed students to pick their partners, she chose the debate groups to ensure that diverse opinions would emerge. Note that each group of four works independently with one partnership presenting to the other; they do not present to the whole class.

Give students about 20 minutes to work with their partners to delve more deeply into the issue they have been studying and prepare for the debate. Assure students that it does not matter which position they are assigned first because they will each argue both sides before the class is over, supporting each case with evidence they have gathered in Activity 2.

Follow Steps One, Two, and Three of the structured controversy format (See Racial Profiling: A Structured Controversy). The teacher’s role here is to be the timekeeper and listen to the variety of arguments generated by the groups. During the discussion phase, encourage students to ask clarifying questions of one another, e.g., what do you want to know more about? What was confusing to you?

Then have all students stand up and literally switch positions, so that those who argued for Position A now need to put forth arguments that support Position B. Repeat the structured debate process. To help students change sides and prepare for developing consensus, some teachers have found it helpful to have them say, “We were thinking, and you were right and we were wrong because . . .”

Overview, Goals, and Planning    |     Activity 1     |     Activity 2     |     Activity 3
Activity 4     |     Activity 5     |     Activity 6     |     Scheduling and Adaptations


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