Erasmus+ Training Course ‘Debate for Understanding’ was organised by the organization ‘Tautasvara’ and it took place in Gauja, Latvia on 3-11 April 2018. It involved 23 participants from 21 different European countries – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, The Netherlands, Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark, Poland, Macedonia, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey. We were represented by 1 participant whose project report can be read below.

My name is Annalies Outhuijse, 26 years old. I work at the University of Groningen as a Ph.D. researcher. As a lawyer, debating and convincing others of your point of view is an important skill. My education did however not provide me with the chance to develop this skill optimally. Also, the plan to improve this skill optimally myself did not get realised until now because of personal reasons, while debating gives me great satisfaction. That is why I applied to participate in the training course ‘Debate for understanding’ which in particular caught my attention because of the international element.

As the title suggests, the training course was about debating. My expectations were that the week would include many types of formal, competitive debating (two opposite sides which have as their main task to bring forward arguments supported by evidence to convince the public that they are right and the opponent is wrong.)

This training course was however based on experiential and non-formal learning in which working together, understanding each other and reflection was very important. During the week many different types of assignments were on the programme. Some activities involved role-play and simulations, which gave the chance for the participants to understand the situation from someone else’s perspective and defend a point of view even if they do not personally agree with the position of the role they were given.

New for me was the idea of collaborative (instead of competitive) debating which involves helping your opponent by improving his arguments by listening and giving feedback instead of simply attacking everything the person is saying. We also had the chance to work in groups to create our own collaborative debating event which we later presented to the rest of the group as facilitators. I organised the Air Balloon Activity together with two other participants. In this simulation, the participants are in an air balloon which is too heavy and only a few of the participants can stay in the balloon. The decision who will stay in the balloon and who has to go was made on basis of one-minute pitches given by the participants in which they answer the question ‘why do I deserve to be saved?’. The extra element was that the participants are not themselves, but represent a celebrity, fictional person or an object. Other activities included outdoor activities, group discussions, moral dilemmas, etc. Each event was followed by a debriefing session.

A tip for debating which is really important, but often forgotten, is that in real life it is not only important to focus on how well your arguments are formulated, but also the way you deliver them. In others words, rhetoric (the art of persuasion) is a vital element for a successful speech.

I would like to organise two events to spread the knowledge that I gained during the training course. The first event will be organising the Air Balloon activity for youngsters of different ages and different backgrounds. This to practice their ability to express ideas and standpoints into words via non-formal learning method. The second event, which will take place in June, is an introduction to collaborative debating for Ph.D. researchers of my university. Debating is an important skill for young academics. While normally this debating goes in a competitive way, collaborative debating should be stimulated for the common good. Ph.D. researchers, mostly aged 22-30 years, are an important target group. These young researchers usually want to stay in the academic world and academic researchers play an important role in the debates in society and should in my view serve as an example. By organizing a debate training course for young researchers, I want to bring collaborative debating to their attention and practice this with them via non-formal learning methods.

More photos and participant insights can be found on EIDP’s Facebook page!