Monday, August 23, 2010

WDI Uses Debate to Help Chinese Students Bridge to the USA

 Students from China who participated in the "bridge" program stand in from of the Vermont state capitol

A program sponsored by the University of Vermont and Kaplan Centers has brought 28 Chinese students to the University of Vermont for a ten week program. These students prepared last year to study this fall in USA universities, and this "bridge" program in the USA at the University of Vermont was designed to complete that process before the students enroll at the university in the fall.

Continuing Education at the university was involved in designing and implementing the program, and thought that a great last step in this program would be to teach them how to debate. Thus, they called on the World Debate Institute to design and implement a program for the last week of the bridge summer term. "It seemed clear to them and to me," said instructor Alfred Snider of the World Debate Institute, "that if they can debate, then they should also be able to participate in the classroom, asking and answering questions, making presentations and participating in seminars. After being in debates where your positions get attacked logically and where you have to answer difficult questions, most classroom situations will be something that they can handle."

The students learned the World Universities Debating Championship format, engagedf in public speaking, argument construction and related drills, and then participated in four debates. "I think it was learning the brainstorming process that may have helped them the most, because they saw academic creative thinking as it should be -- logical and organized. Plus, they were pretty good at it," said Snider.

The program used undergraduate debaters as tutors and also created friendships and bonds between students that will help them get oriented in a new environment. "I hope some of them will join the debate team," said program English tutor and star debater Sarah Anders, "and several of them have already indicated that they will."

There are plans next year to expand the program and include college bound high school students as well.
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