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Speak Up! Debating Critical Voices
In this activity, a role-play exercise is used to teach students to engage in a constructive debate with dissenting voices and boost their confidence in their debating and communication skills.

By: Shirin Betzler (Osnabrück University) and Lisa Hollands (University of Vechta)

Session type: Single session, Undergraduate level, Small/Medium size


  • Communication

  • Critical thinking

  • Debate/argumentation


Introduction to the teaching example:

The purpose of the activity is to teach students how to navigate challenges in their social setting in cases when a conversation partner denies the concept of sustainability or climate change. It gives students a chance to express their viewpoints and learn effective communication techniques for respectful discussion that is frank about the subject matter but helpful in its approach. The exercise also enables students to boost their position and endurance in stressful circumstances by simulating practice arguments.


Two rounds of smaller group interactions between students are followed by a plenary discussion that is held during the third round. Students form small groups for the first round. Each group encounters or creates a unique "critical moment" when opposition to sustainability activities arises from others. Collectively, each group creates arguments and rebuttal tactics. The groups are swapped around for the second round. Each student performs their role in an imperative scenario as their partner shows pushback. After this, students receive comments from a third group member who holds the role of an observer. The activity is completed with a group discussion where participants can share their experiences, review certain "imperative scenarios" and compile useful reasons and communication techniques for handling pushback.

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