Debating History

Emmanuel Asiedu-Acquah uses debates to get students to read about and formulate informed opinions about important historical topics. 

Before the class, the instructor arranges the students into two groups. The activity starts with calling on the different groups to take about five minutes to confer with their members and determine the main speakers in the debate. The two groups alternate in speaking to the debate question. The main speakers (3) in the first group present their views, and then the second group does the same. After that, the instructor allows for contributions and rebuttals from the other members of the different groups. He also asks questions to clarify points made, or he reiterates and reframes points and opinions expressed for further discussion and debate. At the end, the instructor summarizes the main arguments of the debate and highlights important points to keep in mind. 

The activity simply requires the course materials: lectures, a collection of primary sources, and secondary literature, reviewed before the class. 

TIP: Make sure to inform the students well ahead of time about the debate. Arrange them into groups the day before or the day of the debate.