The Use of Debates in ESL Class as a Strategy of Engagement

Paper Type:  Research proposal
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  972 Words
Date:  2022-03-29


In today's society, people weigh issues and express themselves through debate dialogue and opinions. Critical thinking, public speaking, and debate play a key role is classrooms where English is being taught as the second language. Having conversations by engaging through these methods helps learners prepare for their language needs in future. With these language needs in mind, teaching based on content has found its way to institutions of ESL learners. Debating is used by ESL students to practice English in real-life. Therefore, the research paper is focused on determining whether debating increases engagement in ESL students classrooms. Background

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Debates are great tools for livening up a curriculum. Students learning English as the second language require activities which propel them to practice English properly in and out of the classroom. Debate is a form of public speaking which is interactive and requires a higher level of coordination and preparation. Debates require a higher level of organization compared to other speeches or tasks like public speaking. Public speaking requires addressing a rally or an audience. Debates are held between two or more students, and can be highly structured or simple. Debate tasks cover different language objectives. Debates require that ESL students master conceptual knowledge and content. This demands that the students make decisions regarding what to include in the presentation as they sort through information. Using debates, will benefit ESL students in many ways. These benefits include; enforcing their language skills as learners become effective speakers and they also learn to listen to others. In addition to this, students develop the skills to take notes and strong reading skills during the preparation of the debate.

Problem Statement

Students trying to learn English as their second language are faced with many challenges because interaction is limited, thus teaching them difficult. Therefore, using debate as a teaching tool can be very helpful in promoting interaction. Debates also promote the learner's ability of creating proper sentences.

Research Questions

  • Does the use of debate in ESL classrooms promote engagement?
  • Do ESL learners face difficulties in engagement with other students?

Literature Review

Ginna Iberri Sheah's literature talks about content-based instruction (CBI) which is flexible and important in the ESL classrooms (Iberri-Sheah, 2013). According to the author, debates play a key -role in CBI because they help in integration of content. Debates also sharpen writing, speaking skills, autonomy and collaborative learning (Iberri-Sheah, 2013). The article by Zare and Othman asserts that debate has the potential of nurturing engagement of students (Zare & Othman, 2013). This piece asserts that debate has many advantages to students, including improving speaking abilities. This literature also supports the work by Shah, because it gives other advantages of debate as improving speaking abilities and critical skills. Alasmari and Ahmed's book on the other hand propose that debates make students open their mouth to challenge views; hence helping a student in being conversant in learning a language (Alasmari & Ahmed, 2012).

An article by Dewaelsche (2015) shows how students overcome socio-cultural obstacles by engaging in conversations. This piece suggests that conversation improves speech and even helps in overcoming socio-cultural obstacles. Additionally, the book by Pitt on the other hand, provides lively research and introduction to ESL (Pitt, 2005). Pitt, (2005) asserts that using debate promotes participation, self-confidence, and self-direction. The book by Friederike (1984), Keep Talking, encourages activities which promote talking. The book asserts that activities which involve talking promote knowledge and mastery of English language. This view is similar to all the books above, which advocate for debate. Another piece, by O'hare (1973) asserts that debate promotes combining of words and formulating sentences thus helps learners in improving the English language. The literature by Hall (2016), also suggests that debate promotes interaction and sharpens communication skills just like all the above literature.


This research is a desktop study and field assessment. The desktop study and field review will provide information regarding the existing structures and legislations on ESL learning. These strategies will help in merging the challenge in practice and gaps so as to make recommendations on good debate strategies. The desktop review will show the studies which have been carried out in the field of debate in ESL for learning English. The study will include journals and articles which already have done field research and come up with conclusions. Similarly, a field review will show a different aspect of debates for ESL learners and the advantages, gaps and show researchable areas for possible recommendations. The research is limited by time; the proposal submission is based on given timelines, hence limiting the study. The scope of the study will be limited to books which discuss how debate promotes engagement of students through debate and journals which also discuss the same.


In countries where students use English as the second language, there has been the problem of not practicing/using English outside the classroom. Moreover, ESL teachers are limited in the proper implementation, methods, and approaches which can be used in ESL classrooms. Therefore, it is important that students go through activities like debate, which help them, practice the English language.


Alasmari, A., & Ahmed, S. S. (2012). Using debate in EFL classes. English language teaching, 6(1), 147.

DeWaelsche, S. A. (2015). Critical thinking, questioning and student engagement in Korean university English courses. Linguistics and Education, 32, 131-147.ournal, 28(11), 1506-1513.

Hall, G. (Ed.). (2016). The Routledge handbook of English language teaching. Routledge.

Iberri-Shea, G. I. N. A. (2013). Teaching English through debate in classroom contexts. In 4th international conference on argumentation, rhetoric, debate, and the pedagogy of empowerment (pp. 129-136).

Klippel, F. (1984). Keep talking: Communicative fluency activities for language teaching. Cambridge University Press.

O'hare, F. (1973). Sentence combining; improving student writing without formal grammar instruction (No. 15). Natl Council of Teachers.

Pitt, K. (2005). Debates in ESOL teaching and learning: Culture, communities and classrooms. Psychology Press.

Zare, P., & Othman, M. (2013). Classroom debate as a systematic teaching/learning approach. World Applied Sciences J

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