How long does a political debate last

Grafstat methods

Didactic advice

"The pro-contra debate is a highly formalized method for political education that is based on strict rules and is primarily intended to contribute to the formation of rational political judgments. Its basis is the classic form of debate in the tradition of the Anglo-Saxon Debating Clubs however, the special arrangement and its form has largely been borrowed from television.

Debate is different from classroom discussion and classroom discussion. In the classroom discussion, the main focus is on answering questions, problematizing issues, and reflecting on the topic. Familiarity with the subject should first be established in the classroom discussion. The discussion, on the other hand, presupposes this familiarity, because the focus is on the argument. [...] Discussions are usually open and do not have to be limited in time.

The debate, on the other hand, is more strictly regulated. It is limited in time and can be seen as a formally and methodologically pointed discussion. The aim of the debate is to clearly work out different positions, to express, represent and justify opposing opinions, to compare them and to bring about a formal decision through a vote. It has a clear purpose: it is about winning majorities for alternative proposals or positions. In this respect, this method is also particularly suitable for political learning. The "better" argument should be decisive in the debate, but instrumental-strategic thinking and tactical considerations are also legitimate means.

Although every debate results in a decision by vote, the central element is not the decision, but its justification and the analysis of the arguments etc. that influenced the decision-making behavior. In this way the debate can contribute to the formation of political judgments. [...]

In the debate, the partly rational, but partly also emotional reasons are made aware as judgment criteria and confronted with other, likewise rational or emotional judgment criteria. [...] The purpose of the debate in politics class is to familiarize students with as many reasons as possible with which judgments can be justified, in order to show that they can be discussed in dialogue. In addition to this aspect of content, pupils can learn to listen carefully, to wait, to precisely reproduce statements made by the interlocutors, to comment on them, to formulate counter-theses or to find supporting arguments. On the communicative level, the debate is a good practice for political speaking practice. "

Source: Peter Massing, Pro-Contra-Debatte, in: Mickel 1999, pp. 403 - 407.

Possible uses

"It (...) makes sense to use it in the last phase of a teaching unit, because it requires careful preparation. The students must first analyze the problem, work out different positions, form their own opinion, make a preliminary judgment only then can the reasons for the judgments be negotiated in a debate. "

Source: Massing, op. Cit., P. 404. Due to the complexity and "regulation" of this method, it is suitable from grade 10 at the earliest. The debate is led by a moderator who also ensures compliance with the rules.

Preparation in the groups

1. Choose one or two group speakers - one will make the plea in the debate, the other will respond to the plea of ​​the other group.
2. Get an initial overview of the materials in the information center.
3. Proceed with the processing in a division of labor: Divide the materials among the group members. Each group member becomes an expert on a criterion by processing the materials on an aspect. Research the Internet for current and more detailed information!
4. Each group member collects arguments and records them on index cards.
5. Discuss in your working group which criteria are important to support your position. Also think about possible arguments from the other side in order to be able to react to them as well as possible.
6. Arrange the index cards / arguments according to their importance.
7. Create a (clear!) Poster with the most important arguments. You should hang up the poster in a clearly visible place in the classroom before the start of the debate.
8. Formulate a plea for your group by presenting your position as briefly and concisely as possible
9. After processing, inform each other!

The procedure

1. Opening by the moderator - the moderator introduces thematically to the debate and points out the rules that he / she is careful to observe.
2. Plea - the moderator gives the floor to the group speakers one after the other; the group speakers each hold their pleading, which should not take longer than 3 minutes.
3. Brief interim discussion - the groups withdraw again for deliberations to work out their arguments and strategy for the response.
4. Response - the group speakers repeat the response in order to refute the arguments from the plea if possible.
5th plenary questionnaire - the plenary now has the opportunity to ask questions to the speakers.
6. Evaluation interview - Discussion of aspects that stood out in the discussion: How did the SCH behave in their role? How did the SCH feel in each role? How do you rate the quality of the arguments presented by the speakers? How plausible and convincing were the arguments

Choice of subject:

It is important to select a real pro-con topic, i.e. it must allow for a yes-no answer. The subject here "Voting from 16?", Which offers a lowering of the voting age for the Bundestag election for discussion, is highly suitable for a debate. Thorough preparation of the content is important, i.e. all students should know all of the texts. A division of labor into the preparation of the pro-contra texts is not advisable, as this would influence the formation of judgments in advance by the one-sided reception of the texts.

The roles of those involved:

- The moderator carries out the voting and ensures that the rules of the game are observed.

- The pro-con groups each elect one or two speakers. They must present the arguments to the plenary and deal with the arguments of the other side in the round of replies. It is important here that the moderator makes sure that the speakers are not in direct discussion, but that the arguments are presented one after the other. This formalization serves to discipline the speakers and makes it easier for the plenary to pay attention to the validity of the arguments. At the same time, it increases the simulative character of the debate. It works like a real Bundestag debate.

- Spectators: They act as the addressees of the debaters and decide through their vote on the persuasiveness of the arguments and speakers. It is important to make this clear to the students beforehand. If the debate is used more often, care should be taken to select different students for the pro-con groups so that the quieter ones also get a chance.

Evaluation of the debate:

The starting point is the comparison of the voting results. Who changed their minds and why? Who stuck to their opinion and why? Were the arguments convincing, or maybe it was the way they were presented. In depth, the question of the values ​​behind the arguments can be asked, as well as the question of whether the arguments can be generalized. What if everyone did that? Could a general law be formulated from your opinion?


Wolfgang W. Mickel (Ed.), Handbook on Political Education, series of publications by the Federal Agency for Political Education, Volume 358, Bonn 1999.