Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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  Workshop 7: Controversial Public Policy Issues  
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Workshop 7

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Teacher Perspectives: Debate preparation

JoEllen Ambrose: In that particular activity, they had a chance to work with partners, which I think is a good method to get kids comfortable, to get them to help each other, and to divide up the work. Articles had already been prepared, and they were asked to engage in a civil conversation to define this topic: What do we mean when we have racial profiling? They had to look for evidence or statistics to back it up. They look at the articles and try to evaluate when racial profiling should be used. So they’re making moral judgments. What circumstances make it good? When is it bad? Without knowing what position they’re going to argue, they try to draw from the articles information to support the definition, the explanation, and the evaluation.

It wasn’t surprising to hear them say, “What is it I’m supposed to do exactly?” That’s always the clarification that they want. It is a challenge to get them to jump from the personal experience to the bigger picture. They would like to fall back on my opinions based on the anecdotes that we talked about in class rather than really looking at what the picture is. They’ll say, “Tell me which side I’m arguing. I would rather just know because when I’m in the debate and I’m competitive, I want to win. I want to know my best arguments.” You say, “You need to know the whole picture, and then you craft your argument when you try to support it.”


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