Event Report: Teaching Debate


Shinshu JALT would like to thank Mr. Ikegami, high school English teacher and founding member of the High School English Debate Association (HEnDA), for sharing his 20-plus years of debating experience with us in an informative and entertaining workshop on September 22 in Matsumoto.

Mr. Ikegami began by introducing himself and giving a brief overview of the situation of high school English debate. HEnDA is the biggest association in Japan and sponsors policy debates among high school teams. Teams spend months researching difficult topics; this year’s topic is Basic Income. In contrast, the Parliamentary Debate Association (PDA) promotes a style of debate appropriate for English classrooms. PDA was the focus of Mr. Ikegami’s workshop.

In PDA style, there are two teams, Government and Opposition. Each team consists of 3-4 members and, after receiving a topic, has 15 minutes to prepare arguments which will be judged on content and style. There is no time to research the topics, so the arguments are generally supported by common sense and personal experiences. Students are given the structure of speaker order, content and time. Each team presents three speeches, and the total time for the debate is just over 15 minutes.

Mr. Ikegami then divided the workshop participants into four teams (for conducting a debate twice), handed out worksheets designed to help each speaker cover the required content parts, and set us to work on the day’s topic: “It is better for university admission test takers to have a boyfriend/girlfriend.” We enjoyed team discussions of the ups and downs of high school romance, prepared our speeches, and nervously stood in the shoes of students. It was challenging and fun!

This workshop was a very worthwhile two hours for anyone who has tried or thought about trying debate in English language classrooms. Greg noted that although he teaches debate, he had never participated in one. I suspect that most participants thought about how to bring PDA into their classrooms on the way home that afternoon, unless, like me, they were still thinking about ways they could have improved their own debate speeches!

Mr. Ikegami’s talent for clear speaking and passion for debate were clear throughout this workshop. I for one hope he will be come back to answer specific questions and offer advice to those of us who have decided to give PDA a try in our classrooms.

  • Reported by Colleen Dalton

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