So what does the GDS Curriculum look like?
The curriculum of any debate institute is crucial to what a student is likely to gain. In this regard, one should consider whether an institute offers a curriculum that addresses the diversity of conditions students are likely to confront in their debate career. One should also consider whether the student would be taught an educationally sound set of practices or a series of tricks that happened to work at a single tournament or in front of a small number of judges.
Our senior staff members have taught at dozens of debate camps including University of Texas, Victory Briefs, Sacred Heart, National Debate Forum, Stanford, Harvard, Dartmouth, and the National Symposium for Debate among others. The core of the staff is professional educators, some with Master's degrees in curricular design, while still being competitive coaches in the debate game.
Our approach to debate camp is pedagogically sound and time tested in regards to competitive success. Students will have guaranteed access to all staff members. At many debate institutes a student's exposure to staff is limited to lab leaders and large group lectures. We want all students to have one on one attention with the instructor of their choice at some point during their stay.
The debate camp curriculum is designed to give students a common knowledge base, yet avoids hours and hours of lectures on issues that have become tangential to contemporary debate camps. Each year we have modified our program based on feedback from coaches and students. Some of the components of our curriculum include the following:
- Our pedagogy emphasizes small lab groups. The top lab will be limited in size this year based on experience and coach recommendation. Students with extensive experience will be given enrichment exercises to accelerate their growth.
- Literally no other institute has a philosophy professor on staff (with previous debate experience) like we do.
- We focus on teaching students ethically sound best practices in dealing with the arguments that seem to pervade many circuits.
- The novice lab will continue to be a place for students with limited or no experience.
- A balance of large group lectures and electives to allow students to focus on things they wish to learn/work on.
- Written critiques that allow each instructor to see what skills need to be worked on and what progress is being made.
- More actual debating (after sufficient time to prepare and modify cases) to allow students the opportunity to address weaknesses and emphasize areas of strength.
The Global Debate Symposium Debate Camp will also focus on how to research, a skill that many camps seem to have put on the back-burner. While it is true you can write cases without evidence, it seems some base in the literature is required to have a grasp of the context of the resolution. One of the most important debate skills is the ability to research in college libraries. The internet is helpful, but should not be the only tool that is used to research. Attention will also be placed on effective case writing, effective speaking techniques, strategic decisions and general tips to help students achieve whatever goals they have set for themselves.