Debates help to clarify different positions on a controversial issue. They usually involve two or several small groups who plan and present arguments on different sides of an issue, which may not necessarily represent their personal views. Debates develop logic, understanding of an issue, and listening and speaking skills. Ideally a debate concludes with all participants being able to vote for or against the proposition and discuss their positions.

1. Formal Debates: Usually some version of formal debating techniques are used, including a proposition, preparation of positions, statements and rebuttals, summaries, and voting.

2. Informal Debates: Informal debates can take many forms. Sometimes participants are asked to take a stand on an issue and then explain their position. See Voting with Your Feet under "Method 26: Surveying Opinion and Information Gathering," p. 74. You might divide participants arbitrarily into two groups, each with an assigned position on an issue. The two groups prepare their arguments with each person in the group making one point for that side. The two sides present their arguments in turn, with all participants speaking. Afterward participants indicate their personal positions, perhaps including "undecided."

3. Formal Debates: Role-playing sides in a negotiation process clarifies conflicting positions. These might be simulated international summit talks, labor disputes between workers and management, or even family conflicts. Negotiations differ from debates in that the result is not a "winning side" but a settlement that both sides can accept. Negotiation skills are especially important for conflict resolution and consensus building.

4. Active Listening: Working in pairs or groups of four, Person A gives one reason for support of an issue. Person B listens and then summarizes or restates A's reason. Person B then gives one reason opposing the statement. Person A (or Person C in a group of four) listens and summarizes B's reason and so forth until each person has had a chance to express at least two reasons. This method might be preceded and concluded by an activity like Voting with Your Feet under "Method 26: Surveying Opinion and Information Gathering," p. 74, to determine whether people have changed their positions after hearing the arguments.

Examples of Method:

The Human Rights Education Handbook: "Model 3: Three-day Workshop," p. 121.

ABC: "Growing Maturity," "Working Life." []

Bells of Freedom: "Rural Working Women," "Information for Empowerment." []

First Steps: "Active Listening," "Thief?" []