Theses Doctoral

Speech and Debate Educators’ Perceptions About the Programs in Primary School

Jacques, Erin

Skills such as identifying evidence, evaluating the credibility of information sources, analyzing complex historical and geopolitical issues from multiple perspectives, asking good questions, and forming and articulating a point of view are useful for succeeding in school and in life. Speech and debate training can help students learn and practice these skills and is widely available in many independent elementary and middle schools, yet it is generally not available in public elementary and middle schools. There has been virtually no research on this topic.

The purpose of this study, therefore, was to explore the perceptions of speech and debate professionals with respect to benefits, curriculum and pedagogy, feasibility, and acceptability concerning speech and debate programs in public primary schools. Using the snowball sampling technique, 25 speech and debate professionals in different parts of the speech and debate ecosystem and in different parts of the United States were identified and interviewed using a semi-structured qualitative approach. The findings indicated that speech and debate training supports health literacy and social-emotional development in students as early as elementary school by contributing to multiple aspects of “whole child” wellness, including through the promotion of identity development, mental health, psychological strengths, and life skills at essential periods of development.

The findings underscored the importance of a culturally relevant pedagogical approach wherein students critically respond to, analyze, and interrogate larger social structural issues through the lens of their own cultural experiences and identities. Despite the consensus that nearly any educator can facilitate speech and debate instruction with limited training, there are several impediments to adoption and implementation, including time and school-community support. Speech and debate training requires many hours across multiple days to implement effectively. Gaining support across the curriculum from teachers and administrators was facilitated by these stakeholders having first-hand experience and observing positive outcomes for students. Policy and practice implications are proposed along with recommendations for future research relevant to increasing speech and debate programming in public elementary schools.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Health and Behavior Studies
Thesis Advisors
Basch, Charles E.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 23, 2022