In School in Germany: Mock Debate- Result and Tips

This is a follow-up of an experiment done by the teacher in connection with bilingual Teaching, History in English and the theme: The Great Crash of 1929. To see part I, click here.

Previously in the article on Mock Debate, I provided some details about the theoretical aspects of a mock debate, including the two types of debates (open and closed), and provided a question pertaining to the topic that was done with my 9th grade class, which was whether Herbert Hoover was the man who caused the Great Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed, or if the Crash was inevitable because of his predecessors, Warren G. Harding (who was president from 1921 until his death in 1923) and Calvin Coolidge (who took over for Harding and governed the country until 1929, when he stepped down).

Now the results:

Content:  Despite limited information, the conclusion was that despite Hoover’s attempts to relieve the farmers and businesses through a series of bills, such as the Farm Board and the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1932, as well as public works projects, such as the Hoover Dam,  the responsibility was partially his for he supported a pro-business approach to the economy, something that was created and championed extensively by Coolidge when he took over the presidency after Harding’s death. More research is needed to find out how Hoover responded to the Great Crash of 1929, as the information found to date is cloudy.   A combination of allowing invisible hand run the economy combined with the ignorance of warning signs of a credit bubble because of excessive spending and lastly, the president’s inert response until after the Great Crash, resulted in the majority of Americans turning away from him and embracing the policies of Franklin Roosevelt, who overwhelmed Hoover in the 1932 elections and introduced the New Deal plan, which had been the largest recovery plan in American history until Barack Obama introduced his in 2009, in response to the Great Crash of 2008. This was the conclusion that was reached by the participants despite some credible arguments from those who were of the opinion that Hoover’s predecessors planted the seeds for a disaster that was potentially waiting to happen.


Tips:  In order to have an effective debate, this should be done in a forum fashion, which means a small group of up to eight to ten participants plus two moderators and the rest of the class being the audience. The debate was done in three large groups plus three moderators, which is doable if the participants have a chance to speak. The smaller the group, the better, for the participants can communicate more, and the audience has a chance to ask them questions.

In addition to that, a pair of helpers should oversee the debate to ensure that it runs effectively and that mistakes are identified, one of which should be the teacher holding it. In this debate, there were two observers, one of whom added a list of vocabulary and key words on the board, while the other observed the debate in terms of communication and made sure that no students were using their cell phones and paying attention to the debate.

And lastly, as in any meeting, one should construct a “meeting minutes” sheet, containing a summary, key words, and some comments from the teacher. This is useful in helping the students improve on their vocabulary skills as well as their knowledge of the topic given. This is especially important when presenting a topic, like the Great Crash of 1929, in a language that is not that of their own. As bilingual classes are being introduced more and more often in German classrooms, German students are expected to embrace English and other foreign languages more than ever before, and therefore it is important that they have the sufficient vocabulary needed to communicate, both in terms of general knowledge as well as in specific areas, like sciences and humanities.

Mock debates are very useful in the classroom, pending on the topic and the target language. Yet it can only be successful when it is arranged properly and both the teacher and the students benefit from the activity and the topic that is discussed. As mentioned in the first part, whether you introduce it in a closed or open fashion depends on the language knowledge of your students, the topic and tasks that are to be done, and lastly, the way it is done in the classroom, in terms of arranging it in the classroom, the time needed to prepare it and the time needed to complete the actual debate.  If done the right way, both the teacher and the students will win from the deal and be forthcoming in trying it again.

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