This page covers debates at schools from a Chief Adjudicator's perspective.

Another page, Debate arrangements, covers the topic from the Convenor's perspective. It may be helpful for these two people to read both pages in order to fully understand arrangements.

Distribution of ballot papers[edit | edit source]

How are the ballot papers going to get to the debates? This usually falls under the remit of the Convenor and Organising Committee, but it’s worth your being familiar with their arrangements. Often a member of the Org Comm will be assigned to each school, and will be responsible for taking ballot papers, along with (perhaps) calculators and marking standards. They should ensure enough copies are put in each room prior to the debates, or else ask chief judges to collect a set for their panel. Judges are usually responsible for bringing their own paper, pens and copies of the Rules, Notes and Definition Guidelines, if needed. They should be told this before they attend the Championships.

Make sure the Org Comm has a stack of shadow ballots, if they’ve been produced. In an emergency shortage, make sure the suffering adjudicators have a marking standard, get them to record their marks on a piece of paper (which should be handed into the chairperson as normal), and fill out a ballot when they return to the hotel.

Etiquette in debates[edit | edit source]

Ensure that the chief judges are fully briefed on any particular conventions of the host country, such as a method of offering time signals. Time signals may also be offered by team-members or coaches from the audience (provided they are "discreet and unobtrusive" - Rule 3 (c)), but they should sit in a position easily visible to the judges to ensure they are not communicating with teams.

Interested parties communicating with teams is occasionally an issue. All judges should be aware to watch out for people nodding too vigorously in the audience, or using hand gestures or even showing pieces of paper, and be prepared to ask them to stop – usually making that request in between speeches.

Likewise, judges are expected to keep their feelings to themselves and not cheer or snort with derision in reaction to arguments.

Inexperienced teams may not stand up when offering points of information. Let judges know that it’s OK to have a quiet word with them between speeches to encourage them to do so – so that judges buried in their notes can look up and see who is offering a point.

Likewise, even very experienced teams can get carried away with their whispering while the opposing team is speaking. Again, a chief judge should be prepared to intervene if necessary – between speeches, and without singling out any individual.

Coaches are generally preoccupied with their teams, so the judges are the senior representatives of the tournament at the school. All judges, but especially chief judges, should assist the school staff, chairpeople and timekeepers wherever possible.

Communication and crisis management[edit | edit source]

Issues sometimes arise which need a quick decision from the CAP, for example a reorganisation of the judging draw or an interpretation of the Rules. Ideally there would be a member of the CAP at each school who can advise in the first instance. But you as CA should be contactable at all times (at least up until the start of a debate round, as you may be judging). Members of the CAP and/or Org Comm should have mobile phones or walkie-talkies.

An act of courtesy is to circulate the results from each school at the end of the round, to satisfy everyone’s curiosity. In recent times this has meant a constant drip-feed of results by text message, but if each school is connected by walkie-talkie or cellphone then members of the CAP may elect to share results and publicise them.

Collection of ballot papers[edit | edit source]

It’s very easy for ballots to go astray, and a great inconvenience if they do! Make sure everyone understands the system in advance. For example, a chief judge may collect the ballots from the chairperson at the end of the debate. Over lunch or at the end of the day, they should give their ballots to a member of the CAP or Organising Committee assigned to that school. As soon as that person returns to the hotel, they should deliver them to you or the assigned collector.

Tick off ballots on the daily draw of debates as they are handed in. If any do go missing, first contact the school’s teacher to see if they can be found and faxed to the hotel. Otherwise, quietly find the relevant judges and see if they can fill out fresh ballots using the marks on their notes. In a worst-case scenario, ballots would have to be ‘faked’ using the verdict as it was announced, and then an approximation of the scores according to memory – or else an average of the other judges’ scores.

Liaison with schools[edit | edit source]

It is customary for a member of the visiting WSDC community to make a speech of thanks to a host school at some point during the day, perhaps during an official greeting by the head teacher. This often falls to a judge to do, so a member of the CAP may elect to find volunteers from the pool of judges at each school.

Workshops for debaters[edit | edit source]

A popular feature of WSDC as it has evolved is the provision of debating workshops by senior personnel to classes at the host schools. These would usually take place during preparation time for impromptu debates, when the teams are busy but coaches and judges are not.

Purpose[edit | edit source]

They are an opportunity not only to make use of our experience and teach debate, but also to whip up interest in the competition and share some international perspectives. Naturally it makes sense if the workshops are run by international coaches and judges rather than local ones.

Teachers may also be invited to see how an example workshop is run. However, the priority is to get school students thinking about debate and involved in interactive exercises.

Planning in advance[edit | edit source]

Judges (and coaches) should be warned or reminded in advance about workshops, usually in a section of the training day. A period of time can be spent discussing effective exercises and sharing ideas, and perhaps working on a joint template or syllabus for a workshop. Hopefully this information can be codified by the Executive and passed on to future competitions.

If possible, the Convenor will obtain information from each school as to whether they want a workshop, and if so the sort of age and experience of the likely audience. This should be shared with members of the CAP who can then look to appoint workshop volunteers at each school.

Some judges are particularly qualified to deliver workshops, such as Debbie Newman and James Probert of England or Mark Gabriel of Singapore, who have all been ‘professional debate trainers’. Many others have particular experience or gifts to bring and should be involved wherever possible. But each workshop would benefit from a mix of trainers (age and geography being factors, as always).

In practice[edit | edit source]

Once a delegation arrives at the school, the member of the CAP or Org Comm should liaise with the host teacher and confirm whether a workshop is required. If it is, then a few volunteers need to be found and warned.

A day at a school may include no, one or two impromptu debates. If there are none scheduled, then it is unlikely that there will be time to host a workshop – but not impossible. A short (half-hour) one might be factored in if there’s lots of free time in the timetable. If there are two impromptu rounds, it is likely that only one set of workshops need be organised – but in the most debate-hungry schools, two rounds may be useful to cover all the interested students.

There may be one or more workshops run at the same time, and a separate area needs to be found for each – away from where debaters are preparing their speeches. Usually the host teacher will arrange classrooms and audiences. The workshop leaders just need to turn up.

Once the debate topic is announced to the teams, judges should all check they know where they are judging before heading off to workshops. They should also be informed of the topic as it may play a part in the actual workshop.

The workshop leaders should be reminded to keep an eye on the clock. The workshops should finish about ten minutes before the debates start to give judges plenty of time to find their way to the debates.

Workshop content[edit | edit source]

Summary of workshop ideas to be added here.

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