Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Students' Perceptions toward Using Classroom Debate to Develop Critical Thinking and Oral Communication Ability

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Students' Perceptions toward Using Classroom Debate to Develop Critical Thinking and Oral Communication Ability

Article excerpt

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to make inquiries about students' perceptions on employing classroom debate to improve critical thinking and oral communication ability. Sixteen undergraduate students were randomly assigned to a group, and took part in debates for nine sessions throughout one whole semester. Part of the data was collected through a survey questionnaire including twenty one statements using 5-point Likert scale. Students were also provided with a number of open-ended questions to write down their perceptions about the classroom debate. In addition, semi-structured interviews were conducted with a number of volunteered participants. Overall, the students believed that the classroom debate was a constructive learning activity. The respondents believed that the debates helped improve their critical thinking skills and oral communication ability. In addition, as the students claimed, other benefits of the debates included mastering the course content, boosting confidence, overcoming the stage fright, and improving team work skills.

Keywords: classroom debate, critical thinking, oral communication, confidence

1. Introduction

Critical thinking skills and/or higher order thinking have received much attention from educationalists, researchers, employers, and mass media during these past several years. As a matter of fact, critical thinking skills have been recognized as essential skills for the growing workforce of the 21st century. There are more needs for staff and personnel that are equipped with advanced critical thinking skills, negotiation and problem solving skills as well as superior communicative competence (Gervey, Drout, & Wang, 2009; Halpern, 2004). Individuals with advanced critical thinking skills and strong communicative ability show behavioral dispositions that is welcomed and appreciated in both academic and vocational contexts (Mason, 2007; Rudd, 2007; Kosciulek & Wheaton, 2003). Training the future employees in the area of critical thinking and communication skills though is a controversial issue which is still very much open to question (Lord, 2008). Considering the increased attention to these skills and the greater need for them in the developing workforce, experts and scholars have started to look into various techniques and methods that might promote and develop critical thinking and oral communication skills in the classroom context (Halpern, 2003). Browne & Freeman (2000) believe that a lot of evaluative learning activities need to be incorporated in subjects which aim to practice critical thinking skills. It is suggested that bringing controversial issues into the classroom creates an environment of developmental tension that maintains reflection, rational judgment, and also necessitates considering various viewpoints. Studies show that debate is a helpful approach for developing and sustaining critical thinking skills as well as oral communication ability (Camp & Schnader, 2010; Paul & Elder, 2007; Ryan & College, 2006; Roy & Macchiette, 2005; Ng, Lan, & They, 2004). Getting ready to take part in debate also improve superior mastery of the material in promoting active learning. Debate preparation fosters the talent of articulating an argument in its important terms, acquire and utilize data and evidence to sustain a principle, categorize and communicate information in a comprehensible approach, and think about, assess and rebut contrasting arguments; these skills are in line with critical thinking skills (Rudd, 2007; Kosciulek & wheaton, 2003). Budesheim & Lundquist (1999) summarized and discussed the learning objectives of higher education system in three assumptions. First, they state that higher education must expose its students to different perspectives and information; the kind of information and viewpoints that learners would have no access to in their usual experiences. Second, students need to be equipped with the capability of taking into consideration both sides of an issue through critical analysis of their thoughts and viewpoints. …

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