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Virtuální hospitace - Anglický jazyk: A Formal Debate

30. 5. 2011 Gymnaziální vzdělávání
Paul Marcus Wallace, BA (Hons.)


Formální debata je pro žáky příležitostí ke koordinovanému vyjádřování vlastních názorů a obhajování stanoviska. Žáci měli za úkol představit a zdůvodnit několik souhlasných či nesouhlasných argumentů k tématu Factories are ignorant, but our ignorance is worse.


Virtuální hospitace byla natočena hodině anglické konverzace v Jazykovém gymnáziu Pavla Tigrida v Ostravě-Porubě. Videozáznam byl pořízen v dubnu 2011 v maturitním ročníku, žáci tedy byli těsně před maturitou a jejich úroveň angličtiny byla pokročilá. Vyučující postavil své žáky před těžký úkol, který představuje formálně strukturovaná debata. Překážky, které museli překonat, představovala nejen skutečnost, že museli debatovat v cizí řeči a používat formální jazyk, ale především to, že téměř polovina z nich musela obhajovat názor, který byl přesným opakem jejich vlastního přesvědčení. Cílem hodiny je umožnit formální debatu parlamentního typu a povzbudit žáky v přemýšlení a konverzování o různých pohledech na určitý problém.

Své první dojmy z této výuky můžete vyjádřit zde.

O této vyučovací hodině můžete diskutovat přímo s vyučujícím, kterým je Mr Paul Marcus Wallace, BA (Hons.), a s expertkou, PaedDr. Monikou Černou, Ph.D. z Katedry anglistiky a amerikanistiky Univerzity Pardubice. Pokud byste se jich na cokoli rádi zeptali nebo máte zájem diskutovat o hodině a natáčení s dalšími diváky této virtuální hospitace, zapojte se do online diskuze. Ta bude probíhat ve čtvrtek 9. 6. 2011 od 16.00 do 16.45. Diskuze probíhá v prostředí DIMDIM; hlavní prezentující během diskuze hovoří, další účastníci diskuze mají možnost své dotazy a postřehy psát prostřednictvím chatu.

Celé diskuzní fórum k této virtuální hospitaci naleznete zde.

K této virtuální hospitaci je otevřen pohled v digifoliu. Prohlédnout si jej můžete zde.


For this task, I chose to create a formal, two-sided debate, which was to be run on a strictly divided basis and on somewhat "parliamentary" rules of debating.

Before the date of the lesson I had informed the students about the task and the only preparation for the debate had been to (a) choose a topic for the debate, (b) formulate a proposition to be argued for and against and (c) to decide which students were on the “agree” or ”disagree” side of the discussion. I had some standard controversial topics for the class to choose from, but the students decided to choose a topic of their own – the environment – a subject close to their hearts and something about which they all felt passionately.

I informed the class that to have a debate we needed not only a topic, but a proposition. I explained that a proposition is a sentence expressing an idea, an opinion, something which can be agreed or disagreed with. I felt it very important to let the students decide on their own proposition because it was genuinely how many or all of them really felt about the topic.

As most of the girls agreed with the proposition they chose, the hardest part (I believe from their view) was the necessity of having a “disagree” team, which would have to purposefully argue for something which they do not believe. This, I informed them, is the essence of debate, perhaps even the foundation of democracy – the right to hold an express an opinion and to be able to see another or an opposing point of view, even if it is not one's own view. I told them that there are always two sides to everything and that serious issues, such as pollution and the environment, are very often not “black and white” questions, there are huge grey areas to be contended with.

I created the two opposing teams by simply drawing an imaginary line half way through the classroom, resulting in the teams being randomly made up of students who mostly agreed with the proposition, but with half of them obliged to argue for the “disagree” side. There were objections at first, as one would expect, but I reiterated that part of the purpose of this exercise was to be able to argue passionately for something that you DON'T necessarily agree with. Of course, the “agree” team had the relatively easier task, as they all naturally agreed with the proposition they had chosen as a class.

I told them that they should provide a set of arguments as to why they “agree” or “disagree” with the proposition and that the arguments must have some substance and not be merely circular statements, such as “I agree because it is good”, there had to be some solid reason why they agreed with it. I explained to the students that my role was to be merely the facilitator of the discussion, acting as the “chairman” of the debate, and not actually taking part. My job was to write on the blackboard each argument that the students put forward during the course of the debate, to show visually how the discussion was progressing and so that each team could see not only their own arguments but those of the opposing team so they could somehow connect each argument with its counterpart on the other side, to build up a substantial set of arguments which would hopefully help each person to make up her own mind about what they, in reality, felt about the idea. Another aspect of my role would be to keep the discussion moving, if it slackened, by re-iterating and re-phrasing the recent arguments given, in an effort to also clarify, as well as moving things along smoothly.

What I hoped to achieve with this discussion was a lively philosophical debate, conducted in a foreign language to the students. In this situation they would not only have to use their skills of reasoning, but also their linguistic skills, and naturally would also have to listen carefully to what their classmates were saying, because there were bound to be some unexpected arguments. The use of English I expected to hear would have to be relatively formal, the discussion being of the nature of a formal debate. Words and phrases such as “on the other hand”, “we feel that…”, and so on, as well as words related to the topic, such as “emissions”, “toxic”, “atmosphere”, etc. So, I felt that this was to be a test of linguistic skills, in addition to listening and arguing skills.

This was by no means the type of lesson I would essay with a class who was not at least at the upper-intermediate level. As the English of class 4B is quite advanced, I felt that they were more than capable of handling a formal debate. After teaching this class for 8 months, I have been constantly delighted by their fearlessness at expressing their own, sometimes strong opinions on various topics which I have introduced as a theme for the day's discussion.

As they were all a little nervous about the prospect of being filmed for posterity in the process of the class, I thought I would give them a nice, standard debate topic. I suggested abortion to them, but they said that they would prefer to talk about something relevant to them and their lives – pollution in the Ostrava region. I tried to bargain with them that they were biting off a large piece of meat with this topic and they would need sharp teeth and maybe a discussion about abortion would be easier… but they were determined to have their own topic. And so I let them.

I didn't want one or two of the students to dominate the proceedings, as is so often the case, so I instructed each member of each team to come up with an argument for or against the proposition and that they would have to voice their own arguments, one by one. This was a double-edged task, both in preparation and in execution – i.e. formulating the arguments themselves and also trying to imagine what arguments the opposing team would bring to the table, and countering these potential “threats” with equally strong counter-arguments. As each team didn’t know the content of the other team’s arguments, this was quite a challenge for them.

I was particularly pleased with the way the debate went. From the beginning, we heard solid arguments, one after another. Although the arguments provided by the students were excellent, I would have perhaps liked to have seen a little more actual “arguing” and interaction between the two teams. Although each team itself was quite efficient as a unit. I think it was already decided from the start which side would “win” the debate, because I suggested that at the end they all vote (with their real opinions) and I already knew that most of them agreed with the proposition “The factories are ignorant, but people are more ignorant”. Perhaps this was also the reason for the reduced interaction, as this topic was not as truly controversial as the word is defined, for reasons just mentioned. However, what I saw, and indeed, what I wanted to see was not necessarily the conclusion, the “destination”, but the “journey” itself: the simultaneous development of a discussion, in which each participant had to listen to her own team AND the other team, and an understanding of the ethics and method of formally discussing a proposition. I was more than satisfied with the result.


Virtuální hospitaci zhodnotila PaedDr. Monika Černá, Ph.D., z Katedry anglistiky a amerikanistiky Univerzity Pardubice, která se rovněž zapojí do online diskuze k této hodině (9. 6. 2011 od 16.00 do 16.45).

The lesson of English conversation was recorded at the Jazykové gymnázium Pavla Tigrida in Ostrava-Poruba. In a short introduction presented by the teacher at the beginning of the recording we learn that the lesson will have a format of a formal debate; the students will present valid arguments either supporting or contradicting a proposition. Thus they will learn to view a controversial topic from multiple perspectives.

First of all, it is important to appreciate the potential of the lesson to develop, consistently with the Framework Education Programme for Secondary General Education (Grammar Schools), key competencies in learners, namely the communication competency, the social and personal competency, the civic competency, and the environmental competency. Furthermore, the recorded lesson puts forward a debate in the context of English language teaching and learning, however, it also provides a valuable source of inspiration for using the activity type in other subjects.

As regards the beginning of the lesson, rather than stating the aim the teacher introduced the content of the lesson. The students were told what they would be expected to do, i.e. to argue for or against the proposition Factories are ignorant but our ignorance is worse. It was obvious from the video that the class was familiar with it. After dividing the students into two groups, “agree” and “disagree” teams, the teacher opened up the discussion. Unlike the students, virtual observers did not have any information about the choice of the topic or the topic itself at the start of the lesson. After fifteen minutes it transpired from the discussion that it was specifically related to the Ostrava Region.

Debate is a social interaction activity through which all areas of communicative competence may be developed. It provides students with a chance to learn to connect language forms and functions as a part of developing their pragmatic competence, in this particular case expressing formal agreement or disagreement. However, no attention was paid to this issue in the recorded lesson but it may be assumed that it was dealt with in previous lessons. To be able to participate in a debate, students have to be ready also in terms of what to say, otherwise, there is no discussion or it is very superficial. The students were well prepared, they were able to provide valid arguments, although their contributions varied considerably in terms of length and complexity; it is not obvious whether they worked on the topic individually or some kind of topic-relevant input was provided through a text or a recording in classes before.

In order to develop learners’ communicative competence through a debate it is important to use adequate interaction patterns. In a debate learner-learner interaction should dominate. However, the recorded lesson was predominantly based on teacher-learner(s) interaction patterns. This is also reflected in the proportion of teacher and student talking time. If we analyse the lesson from this particular point of view, we may conclude that the teacher talking time is roughly equal to that of all the eleven students together (20 minutes and 30 seconds). As regards individual students’ contributions, four of them spoke for less than half a minute, three learners talked for about one minute, and four learners actively participated for more than three minutes. Given that the lesson was aimed at developing learners’ communicative competence in spoken English, the student talking time of the majority of learners was very low. However, it is important to emphasise that the students, apart from profiting otherwise, were exposed to the native English speaker and they had a chance to develop their listening comprehension.

The intention to have a debate was very good, however, to create conditions for equal participation is a challenge. The teacher probably wanted to give everybody a chance to speak and therefore asked both teams to present arguments one by one, the “disagree” team first and the “agree” team afterwards. In spite of that, as it has already been mentioned, individual students´ contributions differed considerably in terms of time. The pending question is whether the participation would have been different if the students had been encouraged to react spontaneously to contradicting opinions as it is common in real life communicative exchanges. The lesson could have been more dynamic as at the end of the lesson when the teacher managed to initiate a genuine discussion. Four students actively discussed raised issues while the remaining students were listeners. This supports the teacher’s decision to ask everybody to speak one by one in the introductory phase. However, the teacher might have considered using strategies targeted at achieving a more balanced participation of individual students.

As a consequence of the preferred way of organising the debate the first part rather resembled a preparation for a debate because the students in interaction with the teacher polished their arguments in terms of content and language. The teacher-learner interaction was a valuable learning opportunity as the teacher skilfully posed complementary questions and guided the individual students to a more precise formulation of their arguments. In this aspect the lesson was exceptional, the teacher managed to challenge the students’ higher-order thinking.

Providing feedback is a vital part of teaching and learning processes. While the teacher acknowledged the content of arguments, he did not comment on the students’ use of English at all. In this particular context, the students might have benefited from learning whether the language forms they used were appropriate to expressing formal agreement or disagreement.

To conclude, the lesson consisted of one activity, the debate, which the teacher planned carefully. His role in the process was central, thus the success of the lesson was very much dependant on him for the reasons mentioned above. The presented lesson is a great example of creating opportunities for learning in the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains. The question is whether and to what extent the learners achieved lesson aims as they remained implicit.

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Všechny články jsou publikovány pod licencí Creative Commons BY-NC-ND.

Paul Marcus Wallace, BA (Hons.)

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Zařazení do seriálu:

Tento článek je zařazen do seriálu Virtuální hospitace na gymnáziích.
Ostatní články seriálu:

Klíčové kompetence:

  • Gymnázium
  • Kompetence komunikativní
  • vyjadřuje se v mluvených i psaných projevech jasně, srozumitelně a přiměřeně tomu, komu, co a jak chce sdělit, s jakým záměrem a v jaké situaci komunikuje; je citlivý k míře zkušeností a znalostí a k možným pocitům partnerů v komunikaci
  • Gymnázium
  • Kompetence občanská
  • respektuje různorodost hodnot, názorů, postojů a schopností ostatních lidí

Organizace řízení učební činnosti:

Frontální, Skupinová

Organizace prostorová:

Školní třída