I wanted to remind everyone that the National Debate Coaches Association runs the “Open Evidence Project” which aims to release thousands of files from high school debate camps to the debate community. While a lot of the files are obviously not relevant for us this year (although if your case deals with space it may well be helpful) there are tons of theory files that would be very helpful to read and learn.
The first file I clicked on was a topicality shell (DDW11-Topicality-Wave2-NEG) which has some interesting theory arguments. Another good reason to review them is they bring up some interesting examples of tags and cards. For example, in the file on page three is this card trying to assert that Depth (smaller topic) is better than breadth (big topic).
3. Studies prove – depth is better than breadth.
Arrington, UVA Today, ‘9 (Rebecca, UVA Today, “Study Finds That Students Benefit From Depth, Rather Than Breadth, in High School Science Courses” March 4)
A recent study reports that high school students who study fewer science topics, but study them in greater depth, have an advantage in college science classes over their peers who study more topics and spend less time on each. Robert Tai, associate professor at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, worked with Marc S. Schwartz of the University of Texas at Arlington and Philip M. Sadler and Gerhard Sonnert of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics to conduct the study and produce the report. “Depth Versus Breadth: How Content Coverage in High School Courses Relates to Later Success in College Science Coursework” relates the amount of content covered on a particular topic in high school classes with students’ performance in college-level science classes. The study will appear in the July 2009 print edition of Science Education and is currently available as an online pre-print from the journal. “As a former high school teacher, I always worried about whether it was better to teach less in greater depth or more with no real depth. This study offers evidence that teaching fewer topics in greater depth is a better way to prepare students for success in college science,” Tai said. “These results are based on the performance of thousands of college science students from across the United States.” The 8,310 students in the study were enrolled in introductory biology, chemistry or physics in randomly selected four-year colleges and universities. Those who spent one month or more studying one major topic in-depth in high school earned higher grades in college science than their peers who studied more topics in the same period of time. The study revealed that students in courses that focused on mastering a particular topic were impacted twice as much as those in courses that touched on every major topic.
But how I presented it above is not how it’s underlined in the brief. The quotation above makes it clear that the study was specifically in science classes. But the card leaves that completely out of the debate!
Now, one could make a very compelling argument that this study can be understood to apply to other areas of education as well – such as when debating public policy. But the brief doesn’t take the time to assert the connection. As a judge (and especially as the opposing debater) this would be something to stress in in a rebuttal. When the evidence in this position becomes really flimsy a judge will begin to evaluate the other evidence in the same negative light.