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About the CAA Innovation/Collaboration Grant Project

The Colonial Academic Alliance (CAA) awarded seven CAA institutions, led by James Madison University, a two-year $44,500 innovation/collaboration grant to design, implement, and assess the use of debate-based pedagogy on student civic learning skills.

The grant supports a cohort model for faculty development across two years. Each year has faculty participants engage in course redesign during the fall semester with implementation and assessment the following spring. The grant also supports a two-day insittute after year one to showcase, share, and collaborate with members of the year two cohort. 

Throughout the two-year grant, students and faculty will develop instructional resources, curriculum, scholarship, and explore additional collaboration and research opportunities. 

Why Debate for Civic Learning?

Debate for civic learning is an evidence-driven approach to integrate debate-based pedagogy across the curriculum to positively impact student civic learning skills. Debate-based pedagogy has students learn and practice argumentation, cooperative learning, research, and communication skills in carefully designed role-playing and simulation advocacy scenarios.

Skeptics of debate question the use of debate-based pedagogy to teach essential skills like listening and empathy, suggesting debate privileges agression, winning, and antogonism. Intentionally scaffolded, debate for civic learning can actually help develop empathy and perspective-taking through role-play, metacognition, and moments for guided reflection. 

Data from the JMU-VCU pilot show students across different disciplines reported an increase in their ability to listen to a variety of perspectives on political issues, compared to a reported decrease in a control group. Moreover, 79% of participants in the debate for civic learning intervention rated their ability to consider others’ perspectives a little or much better compared to before the curricular intervention. And 70% rated their ability to have a civil disagreement a little or much better than before the intervention.

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