Thursday, September 27, 2012

Peer Teaching at the STJ Debate Society

At the St. John's University Debate Society, we are big believers in the idea of peer teaching. Based on the work of Paulo Friere and others, the idea is that once the line between student and teacher is blurred, everyone has access to both positions. This activity was not authorized or assigned by the director of the program, but spontaneously emerged as an initiative of the students.

Why is peer education so valuable? One reason among many is that it helps students master difficult material, such as this lesson - how to select the best arguments in preparing for a debate. There is no right answer, but there are answers that are better strategically or better for the requirements of the form of competition. Here the student-teacher must work on her own ethos in order to convince the other students as to the quality of their own answers, as well as her own. This helps the teacher-students in the audience develop a paradigm of self-evaluation for their arguments in other spheres of their lives.

Another reason is that this is the only ethical teaching the University has to offer these days. In a situation like this, unique knowledge can be generated, as opposed to the transition model of education where nothing is generated, everything is spelled out and received, and all things feel dead. In teaching debate, and other subjects, a vibrant and living exchange is needed for students to gain what is most important out of any lesson - understanding that they can then apply to whatever issues come their way, according to the needs of the situation.
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