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WELLINGTON SPEAKING UNION Adjudicating Schools Debating. Christopher Bishop March 2, 2009. The three roles of an adjudicator…. Ensure the debate runs smoothly Call the debate correctly Provide a useful and considered adjudication speech. Managing the debate. Be organised

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Wellington speaking union adjudicating schools debating

WELLINGTON SPEAKING UNIONAdjudicatingSchools Debating

Christopher Bishop

March 2, 2009

The three roles of an adjudicator
The three roles of an adjudicator…

  • Ensure the debate runs smoothly

  • Call the debate correctly

  • Provide a useful and considered adjudication speech

Managing the debate
Managing the debate

  • Be organised

    • Have a mark-sheet, notepad and pens

    • Know the motion, the sides, the rules eg speaking times

    • Have a stopwatch and bell

  • Chair the debate if necessary - but try and get a student to do it for you.

  • Watch out for

    • Loud discussions during speeches

    • Heckling

    • Points of order

    • Coaching from the floor

Thinking about adjudication
Thinking about adjudication

  • Debating is “subjective”…

  • … not random

  • Has a structure / parameters

    • Helps us to think about each individual debate

    • Judgment has to be made in that debate

    • There are no hard and fast rules

  • Is not formulaic

The most basic parameter
The most basic parameter

  • The Golden Rule: Debating is about persuasion

  • Winning team = most persuasive team

    • Not the ‘team with the most marks’

    • Marksheet should always reflect what you think about the debate, not the other way around

  • Most persuasive team = team that best fulfils its role

    • Affirmative – constructive role: have they constructed a case that still largely stands at the end of the debate?

    • Negative – deconstructive role: have they deconstructed the affirmative’s case so that it largely does not stand at the end of the debate?

  • Persuasion is a matter of substance and style

Some guidelines
Some guidelines

  • No knockout blows

  • Analysis should reflect the flow of the round

  • Evidence

  • Style

  • Definitional issues

Some guidelines1
Some guidelines

  • No knockout blows - either technical or substantive

    • Central principle

    • Technical failures matter (eg timing, no conclusion, poor case split) matter, but are not decisive

      • They go towards persuasiveness

    • Significance

      • Teams need not ‘hit’ every point in rebuttal

      • Prioritisation is to be encouraged

      • Not an exercise in box ticking

    • Initiative

      • Teams shouldn’t win “against the run of play”

      • Late arguments are less persuasive e.g an argument at 3rd affirmative

Some guidelines2
Some guidelines

  • Your analysis should reflect the flow of the debate

    • Weighting of issues should reflect the focus of the teams

    • Start as a blank canvas

    • … but don’t overanalyse / decide the debate in an intellectual vacuum

    • Always be open minded

      • Exercise of judgment can and must be independent of your own opinions

    • Judge the debate

      • Mustn’t compensate for ‘difficult’ cases

    • Let the teams do the persuading

Some guidelines3
Some guidelines

  • Evidence

    • Reasoned and supported argument is more persuasive than assertion (regardless of one’s own opinions)


    • Examples should be relevant

    • They should not be

      • Role plays

      • References to films or songs

      • Quotes from Shakespeare

      • Metaphors

      • Personal anecdotes

    • Why? Shared understanding of persuasion

Some guidelines4
Some guidelines

  • Style

    • Look for overall effectiveness – are they persuasive?

      • Many different styles, can be equally effective

      • Don’t nit pick eg use / size of cue-cards

      • Always ask the question: Is the style persuasive?

    • How much weight to give style

      • 50 / 50 split

      • Teams can win on style

      • Junior – differentiated by style?

      • Advanced – differentiated by substance?

      • Substance and style generally go hand in hand

Some guidelines5
Some guidelines

  • Definitional issues

    • Shouldn’t generally arise in the WSU grades

    • Topics are fairly clear and indicate what the debate is meant to be about

    • Golden rule is: what would an ordinary reasonable person think the debate was about if they saw the topic?

    • Affirmative’s job is to define the terms and set up the context of the debate

    • If the definition is reasonable then the neg shouldn’t challenge

    • Times to definitely challenge (very rare)

      • Truisms: Self-proving

      • Tautologies

    • For definitions that are just outside the spirit of the motion (squirreling), teams should get on with the debate and rely on the adjudicator to take it into account in the decision

    • Leeway given to negative teams who are forced to deal with a motion that has been “squirreled” by the affirmative

    • Adjudicators should punish teams who squirrel: NOT an automatic loss – all depends on CONTEXT (like all adjudicating).

Common problems
Common problems

  • Remember these are just guidelines

  • Tend to arise when a team doesn’t fulfill its role

    Affirmative team

    • Set up the debate in a way which enables both teams to make logical and compelling arguments. Outline and prove a case.

      Negative team

    • Attack and disprove the case of the affirmative. No requirement to prove an alternative case / model, but it may help in some debates

Common problems1
Common problems

  • Examples case

    2. Ships passing case

  • Shrinking onus

  • The low onus case

  • The Bridge or the hung case

Common problems2
Common problems

  • “Examples” case

    • Case is merely a connection of examples

      • E.g “That we support sanctions as a tool of foreign policy”

      • 1st aff talks about South Africa and Burma, 2nd speaker talks about North Korea, 3rd speaker talks about Libya.

    • Relevance / connection not explained to the motion, or the overall case of either team

    • Failure

      • To advance and present an argument

      • Analyse

    • Can come from either the aff, the neg or even both

    • Team with the most analysis generally wins

Common problems3
Common problems

  • “Ships passing” case

    • Little if any substantive clash between the teams

    • Teams talk past each other and don’t clash with arguments, examples, or analysis.

    • Failure

      • Negative team does not engage with affirmative material

      • Fails to fulfill its fundamental role of negating the affirmative argument

    • Negative teams generally lose (on the matter)

Common problems4
Common problems

  • “Shrinking onus”

    • Team back-pedals what they have to prove from speaker to speaker

      • E.g “That should implement a work for the dole scheme”

      • 1st Aff says will prove it will be good for unemployed, good for the economy, morally correct and financially possible

      • 2nd aff concedes not feasible, not good for economy

      • 3rd aff concedes the above and also that not good for unemployed, says all aff has to prove is that is morally correct thing to do and if they prove that they win.

    • Can happen to either the aff or the neg

    • Generally seen in aff cases

    • Usually an indication of the opposition disproving the case

    • Usually lose with a shrinking onus

Common problems5
Common problems

4. “Low onus” case

  • Team starts off by not proving particularly much

    • E.g “That we support sanctions as a tool of foreign policy”

    • Affirmative says all they have to prove is that sanctions should be considered as a tool, not necessarily ruled out etc, rather than that they are effective and useful tool.

  • Usually a definitional problem

  • Can happen to either the aff or the neg

  • Generally seen in aff cases

  • Negatives should force the affirmative to prove something more and run all their material as normal

  • Not a killer blow

Common problems6
Common problems

5. The Bridge or the “hung case”

  • Teams split material based on structure of the case, rather than by arguments, eg

    • 1st speaker outlines problem

    • 2nd speaker deals with solution (model)

    • 3rd speaker links the two together

  • On the above example, 1st speaker from negative could agree with everything 1st affirmative speaker said

  • Can certainly build upon other arguments and other speeches, but each speech should contain arguments that prove the case in and of themselves

Calling the debate summary
Calling the debate – summary

  • Adjudication requires a holistic approach

  • Ask

    • Which team has been most persuasive?

    • Which team best fulfilled its role?

  • Guidelines / common problems, are just guidelines

  • Each debate is different…

Calling the debate summary1
Calling the debate – summary

  • Guidelines

    • No knockout blows – this is central. Mistakes weighed in context

    • Analysis should reflect the flow of the round – weighting of issues should reflect weighting by teams. Don’t over-analyse.

    • Evidence – examples should be relevant.

    • Style – look for overall effectiveness. 50/50 split.

    • Definitional issues

  • Common problems

    • Examples case

    • Ships passing case

    • Shrinking onus

    • Low onus

    • Bridge/Hung case.

The adjudication speech
The adjudication speech

  • Clearly explaining the result is as important as reaching the right result

  • Debaters have a right to know why they lost (and why they won)

  • Speech should clearly explain that

  • Best opportunity for debaters to develop

  • Try and give constructive feedback

Hayden ryan s five golden rules
Hayden Ryan’s “Five Golden Rules”

Rule 1: Think through what you’re going to say

  • Plan what you are going to say after the debate finishes

  • If necessary write brief notes

    Rule 2: Be aware of the time

  • Debaters have short attention spans after a debate

  • Less is more (don’t give a blow by blow)

    Rule 3: Be intelligible

  • Pitch your message to the debaters’ level

Hayden ryan s five golden rules1
Hayden Ryan’s “Five Golden Rules”

  • Be enthusiastic and constructive

    • Students generally know when they have preformed poorly

    • As adjudicators we need to encourage debaters

  • Be prepared to give individual feedback

    • Best done individually after the debate

    • Don’t get involved in a debate about your decision

Adjudicating summary
Adjudicating – summary

  • Three functions for the adjudicator:

    • Ensure the debate runs smoothly

    • Call the debate correctly

    • Provide a useful and considered adjudication speech

  • Experience is the key to successful adjudication