Discourse Resolution Debate: A Model For Community Intellectual Discussions (The Final Part)

Introduction To Discourse Resolution Debate

The Discourse resolution debate model is a model of debate which seeks to reorient debate from competitive game form of debate, to a civil critical dialogue which seeks truth and tolerance for difference over technique and clever tricks. In that spirit, the Alford critical debates do not have expert judges, but rather an educational advocate, whose role is to act as the problem-poser and educator, who gives feedback to the debaters and forum from a qualified position. The topic will be chosen and consented to by the debaters and audience.

Education Goals

1. Critical evaluation of our times through topics focused on the most relevant and divisive issues

Discourse Resolution Rules

A. Why we have rules.

Rules exist within the critical debates to provide constraints and structure to the conversation. It is the role of the critical educator to enforce any rules or standards mentioned hereafter, or created by the body.

B. Problem Posing education and purpose of debate.

These rules exist to ensure that the discourse resolution is structured in a way to provide a constructive and educational experience with problem-posing education. As such, the motion is the epicenter of the debate. The resolution is the problem which is posed by the house, to which the method of competing arguments is to be applied. We apply these arguments in pursuit of truth, the ultimate goal of any debate confrontation is not purely to win the argument, but instead to seek a synthesis and perspective through debate and dialogue with the forum (Ehringer, 1958). A competitive cooperation is the goal, and the removal of decision by judge removes one aspect of functional distortion in debaters argumentative orientation and provides an intrinsic motive to excellent debaters rather than a game one.

C. Burdens of proof

The burden of proof for any particular statement always exists to the person who has proposed the particular statement. If a statement is challenged by a test of validity, the following opportunity to speak, the team who has been challenged should provide at least one argument in favor of the point they have made. This is based on Habermas’s concept of testing criticisable statements with tests of validity.

D. Resolution, preparation, and disclosure

The Resolution:

The resolution should be appropriate for educational debate. Three resolutions for each week will be selected by the critical educator and/or debaters themselves, and presented to the body for a vote to consider the topics. Should the majority of people not vote in favor of the topics, another topic should be presented and the floor should be opened to resolutions presented by the body. Resolutions should be focused on the most divisive and relevant debates of our times and for the community of debaters who have gathered. That said, topics should not encourage discussion on overly traumatic experiences or information, and all heavy content should be prefaced with a trigger warning. We encourage resolutions which are particularly relevant or divisive for the local community of the debaters in the forum, we do not encourage personal attacks or debate over the legitimacy of various folks identities in the room.

Types of Resolutions:

The house may consider three primary types of questions. Those of policy, critical, and value. This reintroduces the discourses of the trichotomy, but with the addition of critical resolutions rather than fact, because fact resolutions have long been difficult to negotiate, and are less helpful for the development of discursive resolution than the addition of a self-reflective type of resolution.


Research will be done ahead of the debate, in the days leading up to the debate. Students will be assigned the topics the week before, so they may have ample time to prepare. Debaters should prepare their arguments and provide detailed warrants and analysis for their arguments. This is not card debate, all warrants may be in a single google document which is offline during the debate. Flowing is expected to be done on laptops, to save the trees.


The affirmative should inform the negative of the basic premise of their argument if it is requested. This is to reduce uncertainty for the negative, and to ensure a better prepared debate for all members involved. This is also to ensure that the negative debaters are comfortable with the material being presented by their opposition, and vice versa.

Roles of the teams:

The role of the affirmative (proposition team) is to define and explain the motion, and make an affirmative argument in favor of passing the motion which is being considered. The interpretation of the resolution should be within topical boundaries, and should be considered to be a reasonable interpretation of the motion in the context of the current cultural moment.
On intentionally non-topical affirmatives. These are appropriate only if the debaters can establish a framework which explains why the activist argument and format is justified and makes a difference, and should be situated within an exigence for the performance.

F. Research burdens

1. The purpose of the discourse resolution debate model is to provide a forum for students to engage in problem posing education and civil dialogue with those that they disagree with. As such, the goal is always to correctly represent reality, the arguments and any authors cited in the debate. Students should be well researched and concrete in their approaches to issues, and be able to provide the sources of their arguments if needed.

Round Format

A. The debate format welcomes input from the house, so debaters are expected to be in attendance even when they are not debating.

V. The Speaker of the Forum (Critical Educator)

There is no judge in this form of debate, only a speaker of the forum, who ensures that the debate goes about smoothly. They are there to offer their expert opinion at the end of the round, and the pose the problem to the debaters (the motion). Their special insight should extend purely to the information and techniques used in the round, and they should refrain from presenting their position as the “correct” position. If you are the speaker of the forum, you should lead the meeting. This means calling the meeting to order, making sure that the rules and standards are upheld, and answering any questions the people around my have.

VI. Standards for speaking

Debaters should present their arguments as they would to a public forum. In other words, debaters should keep the speed and technique of their arguments within the limits of what one might consider comprehensible to the average listener.


This alternative provides an innovative way of thinking about debates purposes beyond its competitive motives, an embodies a type of debate space that could be developed outside the demands of intercollegiate competition. Wickelgren (1989) suggested that competitive forensics should rely less on unwritten rules to solve format issues, and instead should implement more creative events. This format attempts to answer this call. The game aspect of debate has clear material impacts on the speech situation within the round of debate, and changing the format by eliminating hierarchal judging, introducing a mixed audience, and introducing a more discursive and civil orientation to the space could make debate a valuable space of inquiry and discovery for a broader base of students.



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Aaron J. Alford

Aaron J. Alford

Media critique and memes. Writing about rhetoric and society. MA in Communication They/He