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Defining a primary school debating topic – 05. With Emily Kim

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EMILY KIM: Hi, everyone. My name's Emily. I am a university debater who is currently in my third year of university. I've been debating since I was in high school, and I did things like the Premier's Debating Challenge, which is what you've probably done before. But I did the Year 11 and 12 version and I was in the state final when I was in Year 12, and I also did some combined teams with people from other schools as well. And I've been debating in university, and recently was the best speaker in Australia at one of our university tournaments, which was really good fun.

So, today, I'm going to be talking you through one of the most popular topics from primary school debating last year. So, the topic we're going to be talking about is, that all homework and assignments should be done as group work. So, what I'm going to do is I'm going to talk through how maybe I would brainstorm about how I'm going to define this topic, and then I'm going to show you how I would actually structure that in a speech.

So, when I look at this topic a few things kind of stick out at me. I think, firstly, I obviously need to do all of the obvious things we do in every debate about when and where this is going to take place. But I also notice there are some words that I probably need to clarify, like what I mean by homework and assignments, what I really mean by group work, and whether this is going to replace all the homework that we usually do for instance. So, we really want to paint a full picture of how this will actually look when kids get given that homework that they have to take home. So, I'm going to start with those things that we should do in every debate.

So, because it's a debate about education, it's usually pretty easy to just say, you know, we would do this at all schools in Australia. We probably should make a bit of a decision about whether we would do this in high school as well as in primary school. So, I personally think that, as somebody for instance, when I was in high school and I was debating, I liked to keep things to high school and primary school, which is something I'd actually been through and I knew how the homework and classes usually looked, so this isn't something you have to do, but if you're not really sure, for instance, how assignments or homework work in high school or what classwork actually is like in high school and how it's different, it's totally fine in this topic to just say, we would have this just in primary school, because that's what you understand and you can use examples that are familiar to you. So, I think for this example version, let's just keep to primary school, just because things like the HSC obviously are a whole different ball game, and we just want to keep it nice and simple.

So, let's say that it's going to happen in primary schools around Australia. This change isn't one that's really difficult to implement, because it doesn't require that we change the whole curriculum or anything like that. So, I think it's OK for us to just give schools until the start of the next school term to get ready to do this. They can just change their assignment notifications and things like that by then. So, let's say, by the next school term, in all primary schools around Australia, we're going to do this thing.

So, what is that thing? Well, I think we should probably make it really clear that when we say we're going to change all our homework and assignments to group work, that doesn't mean that we'll add more assignments or homework than we already have. It just means that the individual homework you do right now, so taking home things like spelling lists to do on your own or making PowerPoints by yourself at home, those things will now not be done by yourself, they will be done with other students. So, we're just replacing the work you would already do. You're not going to have more hours of homework. You would probably still be expected to do around an hour or two hours a week, except that now you're just doing it with other people.

So, for instance, we can give some examples of what things might be done with other people. So, we might have to change how assignments work a little bit. So, it's good to think about that, because some things don't really work as group projects, right?

Like your spelling lists are good, but it would be kind of awkward to just sit around and all spell your words together, so maybe we could change those types of assignments to things like having reading clubs with your friends at somebody's house maybe and you could discuss those things and bring in a book review together. Or instead of making those PowerPoints on your own at home, now you have to make it a group presentation and you all have to take turns speaking in front of the class. Things like that. So, we would change how the homework and assignments work a little bit, but it would not necessarily be more difficult work and it wouldn't necessarily be more work. So, I think that's the things that we should remember.

The last thing I should probably think about before I go into the debate is, why are we even doing this topic? Like what's the point of changing all assignments to group work? And I think, probably, it's the reason why we get group work in the first place at all at school, which is schools are supposed to help you become someone who can go out into the real world and get a job and have a good life, right, and it's really important to prepare for that in all ways. Not just becoming smarter, but knowing how to work with other people and how to work with lots of other different kinds of people as well.

And maybe we can say that, right now, doing like one group project a year just isn't really cutting it. So, we should do it for all assignments. Because in the real workforce, you don't just get one assignment a year, and all the rest of the time you're just at home working by yourself. You have to work with people constantly and interact with them, and we should help you to become better at that.

And I also think there's one other maybe problem we can think about, which is, right now, if you're, for instance, finding particular assignments kind of hard, you can see the other kids projects and see who did well or who did better than you. And you can see, OK, that thing is really good and they did a good job, but you never really get to see how they produced that good thing. Like you don't get to see their actual process. You just know that kid handed in a great PowerPoint. I wish I could know how they did such a good job.

But now, because you're all working together, you get to see how other people think and you get to see how different people go about the same problems in different ways, and that's a really important skill for you to learn. Because it's not just about the effort you put in, it's about knowing how to use that effort well, and that's a problem and a skill that we should teach kids too.

So, I think we've covered everything that we need to have in our actual definition. So, now how do we say that? Well, you do it the way that you've been taught to do it before and you just slot in all of the things that we just brainstormed into the structure that you already know. So, we would maybe do something like this. I'll give you a bit of an example of how you would do it in real life in a debate.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a massive problem in society. Even though schools are supposed to be helping students prepare for the workforce and become the very best version of themselves who's able to independently learn, right now, by making kids just go home and make PowerPoints and make videos and do tasks by themselves, which is nothing like what you do in the real world once you go into offices, we are not actually preparing kids in the best way possible. We think if schools know that group projects are already good, why not make all assignments and all homework group projects? And that is what we are going to be discussing today.

We think that this should be something that is implemented in all primary schools across Australia. And we think that because it's nothing too difficult for schools to do, it should be implemented as early as possible from the start of the next school term.

So, what do we actually want to implement? We would like schools to change all existing individual homework and assignments to group versions. So, we do not want schools to add extra work or extra hours or harder work, we just would like them to change their existing homework and assignments to a version that suits working together with other students in the class. For example, we think that schools could do things like set assignments where students in small groups of say five or six have to join together and make a video together that they present to the class, or join together and work on a reading club where they share their favourite books that they read that week and present that to the class.

So, we just think that they should change the assignments they already have, which would mean that students don't have any more work than they already have to do. And we think that this would mean that students are doing about an hour or two hours of work outside of school every week. But instead of just doing that at their own house, maybe they're doing that at somebody else's house or over something like Zoom, which we all know how to use really well now. So, that is what we think we will be debating today.

Cool. So, doing something like that means that you're set up really well for the debate that's going to happen. And now the other team won't be confused about what it is you're actually saying.


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