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RobGlass posted an article in Debate Theory and PracticeOver the past few months I have been analyzing the voting histories of over 400 active judges on the College Policy Circuit, covering just about every judge who has been to a major national or large regional tournament in the past year and a half. I have posted publicly about some of the insights this brings on which judges have judged the most rounds, and what this can show about how judges behave and the question of judge predictability. For my latest project I’ve been investigating school bias in judges, testing to see if judges can be biased towards teams from a school (or set of schools) when compared to other judges. That analysis is still in its embryonic stages, but in the meantime I felt that there might be interest in what the raw data tells us about the successes of various schools. I will make a separate, longer, post going deeper into the methodology behind this data, however the basic process was scouring through the Tabroom judging record of 416 Judges, analyzing the over 48,000 ballots that they had between them, parsing which schools were involved and who won, and then compiling that data. While this isn’t a complete history of the tabroom era it does give a relatively representative understanding of the past six years of debate history. Below I present three relatively basic metrics for school success: Percentage of ballots won (the data treats each ballot as a separate decision as opposed to analyzing panel decisions holistically), the total number of ballots won, and the most ballots contested. This data explicitly excludes swing-teams but does count the rounds of teams who were debating swing teams. There was no differentiation made between Novice, JV, or Varsity divisions in the compiling of this data. The top ten most successful teams* by percentage of ballots that they’ve won are: 1. Harvard – 63.0% of ballots 2. Northwestern – 62.1% of ballots 3. Towson – 60.7% of ballots 4. UC – Berkeley – 59.2% of ballots 5. Georgetown – 58.8% of ballots 6. University of Michigan – 57.8% of ballots 7. Oklahoma – 57.3% of ballots 8. Rutgers-Newark – 57.3 % of ballots 9. Kansas – 56.6% of ballots 10. Wake Forest – 56.2% of ballots The top ten most successful teams by won ballots are: 1. Liberty University – 2,583 Ballots 2. George Mason – 2,268 Ballots 3. Kansas – 2,186 Ballots 4. Wake Forest – 1,777 Ballots 5. Emory – 1,562 Ballots 6. University of Michigan – 1,556 Ballots 7. Harvard – 1,509 Ballots 8. Oklahoma – 1,346 Ballots 9. Northwestern – 1,189 Ballots 10. James Madison University – 1,181 Ballots Honorable mention goes to Binghamton University in a very close 11th place. The top ten most successful teams by ballots contested are: 1. Liberty University – 4,681 RBallots 2. George Mason University – 4,090 Ballots 3. Kansas – 3,860 Ballots 4. Wake Forest – 3,162 Ballots 5. Emory – 2,844 Ballots 6. University of Michigan – 2,693 Ballots 7. James Madison University – 2,625 Ballots 8. Harvard University – 2,394 Ballots 9. Binghamton University – 2,393 Ballots 10. Oklahoma – 2,347 Ballots * Not including teams with under 40 ballots in my data set. Apologies to Columbia, SUNY Broome, and City College who would otherwise have places on this list.
If you’re reading this website, you probably don’t need to be convinced of the value of debate generally, and are likely supportive of debate in college as well. However, many people are unaware of the particular value of college novice debate. Many people ask me, “why bother supporting novice debate or starting a college novice program at my institution?” (Generally they ask a little more nicely than that, but the sentiment remains.) First, college novice debate has significant pedagogical value. Given the rising cost of interscholastic policy debate at the high school level, many schools have eliminated or dramatically decreased the size of their debate programs, meaning that the vast majority of high school students are unable to access the benefits of debate. College novice programs can check back against that issue and allow coaches to teach argumentation and research skills to those most in need—the students who have never before had the opportunity to learn them at all. Those students then go on to be successful in many different areas, from military service to chemical engineers to lawyers to debate coaches themselves, based in at least some part on the skills they acquired from college debate. Novice debate also allows your varsity and JV debaters to have leadership opportunities on your squad—your more experienced debaters can help coach your younger debaters, which allows them to become more familiar with arguments by teaching them to others. If college debate has pedagogical value, college novice debate maximizes that value. Secondly, college novice debate is an opportunity for program promotion and development. 16 two-person teams will get first round bids. The majority of varsity-level national tournaments will be won by those same 16 teams. If your program doesn’t make the list, you need another way to promote yourself to your institution. Novice debate allows you to point both to pedagogical successes (numbers of students you teach/coach/travel) and to competitive successes (coaching teams into elimination rounds, winning tournaments and speaker awards). Many institutions are also reticent to spend upwards of $50,000 on travelling 4-6 students; novice debate allows you to get more “bang for the buck”. Certainly your travel budget may slightly increase but you are able to point to a much larger group of students who have access to debate. Given that financial constraints have caused the demise of many debate programs over the past 10 years, an ability to justify our (admittedly very large) travel budgets through number of students served is certainly worth the effort of fielding novice teams. Finally, coaching novice debate is incredibly rewarding. Of course, coaching debate is often rewarding, but the thing about coaching teams with significant experience is that all you really need to do is help them cut evidence, wind them up, and point them towards the door; they already possess the requisite skills needed to be successful. While they may need practice in honing those skills, you’re not necessary to their acquisition. When you are coaching college novices, you’re coaching bright young adults who can grasp concepts fairly quickly; so you get to see them have one “aha!” moment after another. Many times, you can see your debaters go from not understanding an idea or concept at all to entirely grasping it in less than a minute; watching debate “click” for your students is an incredible feeling that nothing else can really replicate. I am proud to be serving as the president of the American Debate Association and one of the reasons for my strong commitment to this organization is its love for and support of college novice debate. It is my hope that college novice debate continues to grow, and the ADA will support it wherever it exists. Danielle O’Gorman is the Director of Debate at the United States Naval Academy and President of the American Debate Association.
Hey all - I know that many / most of you are in the place where you are thinking about big schools and eventually getting to the NDT. I honestly remember that space when I was leaving high school myself. However, the option that I would like to present is a little bit different. This last June I took the position of debate coach at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri. It's a small, private liberal arts college with about 20% international students, a huge percentage of first generation college students, and a really welcoming environment for people across a huge variety of cultures. The school hasn't had a debate team in 25 years (and even then, it was really just a team that did interp at a couple of local tournaments) but the president of the college wants a debate team and so the school is putting a large amount of money behind scholarships for debaters. What I have to offer you (besides scholarships) is the opportunity to be the beginning of a legacy. Right now, the plan is to start out doing NFA-LD to give you the best chance to do well, without needing to depend on a partner since we are just starting. NFA-LD is a one-on-one policy event that uses evidence, has plans/ DAs/ Kritiks/ etc. on one topic all year (this year's topic is USFG should substantially increase actions by US Cyber Command to protect critical infrastructure and/ or prevent complex catastrophe). However, as the program grows, we would be open to looking into NDT/ CEDA/ ADA in the future. My background is in policy. I started in 1994 at a high school that just traveled the local, parent-judged, circuit. I then debated at Missouri State before I started coaching at a small rural high school. In 6 years at that school, the squad grew from ZERO to having multiple teams clear at NCFL, having wining records at NDCA, clearing at a majority of circuit tournaments, etc. Last year I coached in Morocco and the school I coached at was the only school on earth to have students receive speaking awards in policy debate at NSDA Nationals in both middle school and high school (pretty impressive since the students I was coaching spoke English as their 3rd or 4th language). If you are interested in helping to build a legacy at Missouri Valley send me an email (I don't check these forums very often). My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, Chris Roberds