Communication and Media Studies 332

COMS 332: Argumentation and Advocacy

Prerequisites: COMS 130 or permission of instructor.

Credit Hours: (3)

Emphasis on the development and application of critical thinking and argumentation techniques, including argument development, use of evidence, reasoning and argumentation strategies. In-class practice debates facilitate implementation of argumentation and debate strategies by students.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

The course focuses on the theory and practice of effective argumentation. Students will read two textbooks, participate in three graded debates, write two papers and two examinations, and participate in lecture-discussion on the following topics: stock issues, presumption, burden of proof, refutation, flow sheeting, inventing arguments, testing evidence, testing reasoning, case construction, duties by side, cross examination, communication skills, affirmative strategies, negative strategies, refutation, rebuttal strategies, attack and defense strategies, counterplans, argument and society, and the limits of argument. Students will analyze the uses and limitations of argument in contemporary society.


Detailed Description of the Conduct of Course

Course Policies:

1. Attendance: Because of the importance of functioning as both a communicator and a listener during each class period, no class cuts on days when debates are scheduled will be authorized. Attendance is required on speaking days, and anyone with three or more absences for any reason is subject to dismissal or other punitive action at the discretion of the instructor. Any unexcused absence on a "speaking" will day "earn" you a zero for that assignment. Absences may be excused in two ways. First, if the absence is due to illness or medical problems, a doctor's excuse is necessary. Second, all other absences must be approved by the instructor prior to the time the absence occurs.

2. Tardiness: Since debates usually begin as soon as class begins, it is essential that you arrive at class on time. Courtesy dictates that you do not enter the classroom when someone is speaking.

3. Makeups: No make-up is allowed for a debate or any other assignment when the absence is unexcused; the debate or assignment will be recorded as a zero. If two or more debates are recorded as a zero, the student will automatically fail the course. Assignments that are missed for legitimate reasons and have been excused may be made up if time allows. The best policy is to complete all assignments on time.

4. Debates: All debates are to be conducted on the date assigned. Outlines are due before the debate is held. All written materials are to be handed in on the date due. Late written material will be penalized one grade level for each day it is late.

5. Examinations: There will be a midterm and a written final. The final is comprehensive and there will be no special exemptions from the final for seniors.

6. Grading: a. 33% of the total class grade is based on tests. b. 66% of the total grade will be derived from the grades on the debates and papers. c. Debates will be weighted so that those given nearer the end of the semester, which require more work, will count more than those given nearer the start of the semester. d. Both parts A and B must be passed in order to pass the course.

7. Academic Honesty: It is expected that all debates and written work for this class will be the original work of the student. By accepting admission to Radford University, each student makes a commitment to understand, support, and abide by the University Honor Code without compromise or exception. Violations of academic integrity will not be tolerated. This class will be conducted in strict observance of the honor code. Refer to your Student Handbook for details.

8. Debate Outlines: Each team must prepare a one page outline detailing the major constructive arguments they plan to present. One copy of this outline must be distributed to each person in the class before the debate.

9. Grading Debates: A group grade will be assigned to each debate team based on criteria to be given before each round of debates. Each individual on each debate team is to distribute 25 points among his/her team based on their total contribution to the preparation for and presentation of the debate. These ratings and instructor rating of individual performance in the debate will be used to determine individual grades. Group and individual grades will each count 50% of the grade for each debate.

10. Students will decide: a. Should one, two, or more topics be chosen for debate resolutions? b. How should choice of topic and side be determined? c. Should students be allowed to debate both sides of the topic? d. Should students be allowed to remain with the same team throughout the semester? e. Should decisions be announced and should decisions play a role in grading debates? f. How much total speaking time should be required of each participant in the debates (i.e., a minimum of 6 minutes)?


Goals and Objectives of the Course

The purpose of this course is to make students more aware of argumentation techniques and more effective in utilizing or resisting them. Why debate:

1. Debate skills broaden students' general education.

a. Debate provides training in organization.
b. Debate provides training in research.
c. Debate provides training in public speaking.
d. Debate provides training in analysis.
e. Debate trains you in thinking.
f. In general, there is evidence that indicates that training in speech serves to make students better students.

2. Debate training can help prepare students for a specific profession.
3. Debate activities offer opportunity for increased fellowship and fun.
4. Debate provides a stimulating intellectual environment.
5. Debate provides for the development of necessary social graces.

"Argumentation requires of those who understand it that they work to improve both the substance and the structure of public controversies. As more members of society's audiences become skilled in the application of argumentation concepts to public statements, false and shallow thinking will be less able to prevail. And as argumentation situations are restructured to provide more opportunities for critical examination of ideas, the substance of public disputes will be more thoroughly explored." (Ziegelmueller and Dause, Argumentation Inquiry and Advocacy, 1975,p. 234)


Assessment Measures

Students' understanding of argumentation theory and practice will be measured by:

1. Application-oriented midterm and final examinations.
2. Writing assignments requiring students to analyze and evaluate the use of argumentation in both debates and contemporary conflicts.
3. Analytical exercises similar to those used on the Graduate Record Examination will be completed and evaluated on a weekly basis.
4. Students will observe and submit a written evaluation of 12 debates over the course of the semester.
5. Students will participate in three debates and receive extensive oral and written critiques on their performance using the following criteria: evidence, reasoning, refutation, delivery, argumentation, and analysis.


Other Course Information

"The central qualities that make for successful teaching can be simply stated: command of the material to be taught, a contagious enthusiasm for play of ideas, optimism about human potential, the involvement of one's students, and--not least--sensitivity, integrity, and warmth as a human being. When this combination is present in the classroom, the impact of a teacher can be powerful and enduring."

-Ernest Boyer, College: The Undergraduate Experience in America,p. 154.

In evaluating my teaching keep in mind the following questions:

1. Am I enthusiastic about my work?
2. Do I set challenging performance goals for you and for myself?
3. Do I appear to you to be committed to education as a profession?
4. Do I project a positive attitude about your ability to learn?
5. Is my behavior consistent with the highest standards of the teaching profession as you have seen in the best teachers you have had?
6. Do I give evidence that I am concerned for the whole student and the student's whole life and not just his or her life in the classroom?
7. Do I treat students with respect?
8. Am I available to students?
9. Do I listen attentively to what students say and give honest, helpful, clear feedback?
10. Am I fair in evaluating student progress?
11. Do I present ideas clearly?
12. Do I create a climate that is conducive to learning?
13. Am I knowledgeable about the content material of the course and of methods for teaching that content?
14. Do I integrate current subject matter into classroom discussion and lecture material?
15. Do I respect diverse views while stating my views clearly, honestly and with sufficient evidence? Do I encourage independent thinking?
16. Do I work in a well-prepared, well-organized manner?
17. Do I provide students with a variety of ways to learn?
18. Do I stimulate intellectual curiosity?
19. Do I provide cooperative learning opportunities for students?
20. Do I encourage students to be analytical listeners?
21. Are the requirements of the course clearly stated, realistic in nature, and clearly related to valid educational goals?
22. Would you recommend that a friend or relative (that you like) take this course with me as his/her instructor?


Review and Approval

September, 2001 Bill Kennan, Chair