In-school workshop examples
London Regional Partnership for Gifted and Talented Project
From March-June 2011, Debate Chamber ran a joint project with the London Regional Partnership for Gifted and Talented, working with students aged 12 – 15 from across London giving them an insight into new subjects such as International Relations, Philosophy, Politics, Law and Economics and working to raise aspirations of students hoping to go to University. Below are some feedback comments from the students involved:
“A brilliant workshop with a real insight into the topic of international relations”
“In Philosophy you get to question everything about life; it makes you think about your life and humanity in a different way”
“I really enjoyed taking part in the negotiations and the debates”
Full Day University English Taster Course – 25 students in Year 13
Students were introduced to a variety of critical approaches not often seen at A-level (such as Deconstruction, New Criticism, Psychoanalysis and Post-colonial approaches) using a selection of both familiar and unfamiliar poetry and prose.
In small groups, led by experienced Oxford tutors and postgraduates, students are encouraged to analyse a text closely, defend their interpretation with rigorous argument, and to tackle the kind of theoretical questions not raised at GCSE and A-level. This workshop combined an introduction to some of central themes in the history and theory of literary criticism with in-depth examination of a few controversial case-studies. Students were guided through extracts from theoretical and polemical works by authors and critics, as well as short pieces of poetry and prose on which to try out various critical
Students also participated in a question and answer session on university applications, interviews and undergraduate life. The session was taught by two experienced tutors and DPhil students from Oxford University.
Full Day Journalism Exercise – 150 students in Year 8
Students developed their skills writing in snappy journalistic style, responding to video clips, printed material and spoken statements about the news. They then spent time looking at the role of the media in society, the biases and varying approaches of different papers and TV stations and how to be a responsible journalist.
Students were then divided into teams of 8 and given a variety of materials with which to produce their own newspaper. Throughout the afternoon various ‘news’ events took place – press conferences, exclusive interviews and newsflash items from a central news agency – and each newspaper had to chose which stories to cover and how. By the end of the day each team had produced a high quality paper (the papers were later used as a very effective wall display) and were clearly able to identify their intended readership and political slant. This exercise is useful in developing writing and listening skills, teamwork and leadership.
This exercise is lots of fun and is often used as an enjoyable and educational activity to launch a media oriented Citizenship or English module.
Half Day Mock Trial – 32 students in Year 12
This was a career-oriented session which covered different employment options within the legal world, the day to day life of a barrister-at-law and an exercise based on a very realistic set of case papers. In teams, students were led through the papers, taught how to question a witness and then worked together to prepare a case of the prosecution or defence. At the end of the workshop students had the opportunity to stand up in a courtroom setting and use the skills which they had learnt during the morning session.
This workshop can be delivered as a career-focused session for older students. Equally it can be delivered as a Citizenship exercise for your younger students.
Full Day Mock Election – 120 students in Year 9
Students spent the first part of the day recapping and building on their knowledge of the democratic process acquired in Citizenship classes during the year (we can always start from a more basic level depending on the prior experiences of the students) and also taking a look at each of the major political parties, their origins, ideology and current policies. The students then had the option to choose which party they wanted to join, based on their ideological preferences for values such as freedom, equality, democracy, strong leadership or environmentalism. Those without a strong preference became members of the electorate.
The students in parties then elected leaders and put together brief manifestos and prepared a party political broadcast. Those making up the electorate worked with the tutors to decide which issues were priorities for them and what other factors might influence their decision. Each party had the opportunity to talk to the electorate to discover the views and priorities of the voters and then to set out their policies in a formal debate and hustings session. At the end of the day all students were able to vote for the party of their choice and the leader of the largest party was invited to form a government. This was followed by a discussion of the results and what it would mean if a general election result were to happen in the same way.
We were asked to design this particular workshop to fit in with the Citizenship teaching which the students had already received. On other occasions the Mock Election exercise has been used as a very useful introduction to a Citizenship course as well as a stand alone exercise.
Half Day Philosophy Workshop – 90 students in Year 8
The students took part in three short workshops covering Metaphysics (how can we know what exists), Ethics (how should we treat other individuals) and Political Philosophy (how should we organise our society). At each stage students were presented with classic problems of philosophy in a simple and accessible form and encouraged to think them through for themselves, discussing and evaluating their conclusions in small groups. The sessions were challenging but students responded with enthusiasm and originality.
We often deliver this workshop as part of a dedicated critical thinking session. Teachers often comment that taking part in a philosophy workshop results in students being more open-minded and more effective in their questioning of established norms and underlying assumptions. It is marvellous to watch students this age discovering the big questions of philosophy for the first time.
Full Day Introduction to Debate – 12 students in Year 10
This workshop covered an introduction to the technicalities of debate, a look at basic argumentation theory and in particular how to turn an effective written argument into an effective oral argument, how to respond to opposing arguments rapidly and how to build confidence in public speaking. After a morning of teaching, exercises and games students took part in two formal debates in the afternoon and received detailed feedback on their individual strengths and weaknesses.
Here, the debating workshop was aimed at building confidence and aspirations, and developing public speaking skills. Debating workshops can complement many aspects of the school curriculum or focus on extra-curricular competitive activities.