Applying the Cooperative Argument Model
with a
Traditional Debate Format

Preparing for Debates:

In preparation for debate exercises, students should have a clear understanding of the elements of argumentation (pp. 111-159; and 228-235). It is also helpful to introduce ethical advocacy in deliberative communities (pp. 195-206) and to provide detailed instructions for preparation of the deliberation log (see addendum deliberation log assignment and pp. 206-228).

To begin the process, the class works together to identify commonplaces (points of agreement), issues (points of disagreement), and strong arguments for and against adoption of the resolution. This work is also critical for preparation of the deliberation log.

The notions of presumption (and burden of proof) are important here (See pages 122-132). Affirmatives will carry the burden of proof, while Negatives will have presumption in their favor. To help create balance, affirmatives will open and close the debates. Additionally, Negative presenters will have the responsibility to provide direct responses to the Affirmative cases as presented.

Specifically, Affirmatives have the responsibility to establish the following:

1. Significance: The problems they identify with the status quo are significant;
2. Inherency: The problems are inherent to the system (the system requires significant change to resolve the problems);
3. Solvency: The affirmative has a specific plan (a detailed way of implementing the resolution) and this plan will contribute significantly to the resolution of the problem.

As in “traditional” academic debate, students have access to a variety of case construction options. Below are several examples:

Stock Issues Case:
• Demonstrate that there are serious problems with the status quo
• Show that these problems are inherent to the system
• Present a specific plan (implementing the resolution)
• Show that this plan will help solve the problems without creating serious new ones

Comparative Advantages Case:
• Present the Affirmative plan
• Discuss advantages of this plan for addressing problems
• Show that the current system cannot achieve these advantages

Goals Case:
• Identify goals of the system
• Show that the system is unable to meet its goals
• Present the Affirmative plan of action (specific way to implement the resolution)
• Show that this plan meets the goals of the system without incurring serious harms

Students should feel free to craft/create their own kind of case (including combinations of the elements listed above). However, the parameters of significance, inherency, and solvency provide helpful guidelines for first-time debaters. Similarly, as Negatives prepare their responses, it is helpful to think in terms of significance, inherency and solvency.

Oral Presentations:
In preparation for their oral performances, students should be reminded that the aim of debates is to contribute to the group’s consideration of the relevant issues (rather than at winning, losing, or other strategic action). Although students will serve as advocates for positions, their presentational goal is not to win assent or to persuade, but rather to help the audience make an informed decision. Assessments of performances should correspond to this goal.

Each presentation will involve two teams (two Affirmative speakers and two Negative speakers) using a pre-assigned format such as the following:

Sample Format

First Affirmative Constructive Speech: 6 minutes
Second Negative Cross Examines: 3 minutes
Audience Cross Examines: 3 minutes

First Negative Constructive Speech: 5 minutes
First Affirmative Cross Examines: 3 minutes
Audience Cross Examines: 3 minutes

Second Affirmative Constructive Speech: 5 minutes
First Negative Cross Examines: 3 minutes
Audience Cross Examines: 3 minutes
Second Negative Constructive Speech: 5 minutes
Second Affirmative Cross Examines: 3 minutes
Audience Cross Examines: 3 minutes

Negative Rejoinder: 5 minutes
Affirmative Rejoinder: 5 minutes

Speaker Responsibilities:

First Affirmative Constructive: Present the Affirmative’s full case, providing good reasons in support of significance, inherency and solvency claims (show that the problems with the status quo they have identified are real and significant), that these problems cannot be alleviated with minor adjustments, and that the Affirmative’s plan for implementing the resolution will address the problems without incurring serious disadvantages or new problems). Presentation of a specific plan of action is part of this speaker’s responsibility.

First Negative Constructive: Respond directly to the Affirmative’s case. Did the speaker establish that the identified problems are real and significant and that minor adjustments to the system won’t address the problem adequately? Was adequate support provided for controversial claims? Is the Affirmative plan viable? Would it solve the alleged problems without incurring significant disadvantages? What options does the Negative team propose for addressing acknowledged problems?

Second Affirmative Constructive: Respond directly to the concerns raised by the First Negative Constructive speaker and by the audience during cross examination periods. Provide additional support for claims where needed and refutation of Negative claims as appropriate.

Second Negative Constructive: Respond directly to the second Affirmative’s presentation. Provide additional support where needed and refutation as appropriate.
Affirmative and Negative Rejoinders: Provide thoughtful summaries of the arguments presented during the course of the debate, offering strong reasons to support the advocate’s case. No new evidence or claims may be presented during rejoinder speeches.

Cross Examination: This period should be used to explore issues and to seek additional information. Effective cross examination illuminates areas of concern, as well as identifying the audience’s informational needs. Cross examiners may not use this time to make claims or present arguments. Nor should examinees exploit this opportunity by providing needlessly prolonged answers. As a result of cross examination, the audience should be better informed or otherwise better equipped to make judgments about relevant issues.


1. To what degree did each speaker fulfill his or her responsibilities (for example, did the Affirmative speakers provide strong arguments for significance, inherency and solvency? did they fulfill their burden of proof? did the Negative speakers respond directly to the Affirmative’s case? How effectively did the cross examiners use their allotted times? How effectively did individual speakers respond to cross examination?)

2. Were the presentations clear, concise, easy to comprehend?
3. How effectively did each speaker use available information?
4. How useful, relevant and strong was the support each speaker provided for controversial claims?
5. Were the speakers’ claims relevant? Did they justify the proposed conclusions?
6. Were each speaker’s assumptions warranted?
7. Did the speakers show sensitivity to the audience’s concerns?
8. How effectively did each speaker respond to opposing arguments presented during the debate?
9. To what extent did presenters demonstrate relational accountability throughout their participation?
10. To what extent did presenters demonstrate awareness of the role of standpoint?
11. To what extent did presenters demonstrate thoughtful consideration of multiple perspectives?
12. Above all, how effectively did each presentation contribute to the audience’s capacity to make informed, fair, and reasonable decisions about the relevant issues?



Back To Instructional Resources