While the other benefits listed here apply to students, it’s important to realize that teachers also benefit enormously from their participation in debate. The PUDL gives teachers extensive training in techniques for teaching debate, enhancing their professionalism and skill set. Most of these skills cross over to teaching English and to teaching writing. Lynette Williamson discusses many techniques she brought to her English classroom after learning them first as a speech and debate coach in “How Coaching Forensics Made Me a Better Writing Coach” (English Journal, May 2007).
Surveys of hundreds of debate coaches indicate that Ms. Williamson isn’t alone in adapting debate techniques to non-debate classrooms. Ninety percent of coaches report assigning argumentation activities and more than forty percent using role-play or debate formats in their non-debate classes. As a result of using their new cross-over skills, 92% of these coaches saw greater student engagement and participation and 80% saw higher student commitment to learning in their non-debate classes (Wade & Zorwick, Rostrum, April 2009). Learning how to coach debate helps teachers become better at making every classroom more interactive and intellectually demanding, transforming “teachers into coaches, a perspective that encourages more [student-teacher] mentoring” (Bellon, “A Research-Based Justification for Debate Across the Curriculum”, Argumentation and Advocacy, Winter 2000).
And as Ms. Williamson and other coaches point out, another ongoing benefit to coaching was networking with other teachers every month at tournaments and workshops, rather than practicing teaching skills in isolation, as most teachers do. Experienced coaches–master teachers–pass on their knowledge to new coaches in formal settings, like teacher training workshops, and in informal settings, such as over coffee in the coaches’ room at a tournament on Saturday morning. Debate coaches can, in turn, pass on new skills to non-debate teachers at their schools. Therefore, the PUDL enthusiastically supports professional development for every coach.