Debates and Advocacy

Debates are widely used in other disciplines, such as political sciences, business, and psychology. Classroom debates can also benefit economics students.


Pernecky (1997) and Vo and Morris (2006) describe debate formats adapted for economics instruction. They used these formats for various topics, including farm subsidies, affirmative action, and monetary policy. Wolla (2018) provides a lesson plan for covering minimum wage that includes a classroom debate.


Treme (2018)  recommends using "speed rounds" to engage more students during debates. Typically, "speed rounds" limit a participate to a short argument in the debate (20 seconds or one sentence) and allow for more students to speak and participate in the exercise.

Owings-Edwards (2021) proposes to expose students to the concept of effective altruism by creating a class contest where each student chooses a charity to advocate for why someone should donate to that particular charity. For this contest, students must prepare a report that the instructor judges. The top 5 reports move to round 2, for which students prepare a classroom presentation. Then, the instructor decides whose advocating best for a charity based on both the report and the presentation. Besides providing extra credit points to the top 5 students, the instructor also donates real money to the charity that was best advocated for.