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20 December 2009

Koc WUDC Debating Guide: Appendix for Judges

What am I doing here?

Go to the debate. Write down the things the debaters say. Evaluate those things as honestly as you can, based on how persuasive they were to an unbiased intelligent observer. You then allocate speaker marks and positions accordingly. For the first six of the nine preliminary rounds, you give teams their positions (not speaker marks) and feedback. For the latter three rounds, you tell the teams you saw nothing at all until after the break has been announced.

I've heard a lot about something called 'holistic judging'. What is that?
The short answer: judging any particular thing in the context of all the other things (i.e. as opposed to judging being an exercise in ticking boxes).

The long answer: judging persuasiveness holistically means that strategy, content and style are interdependent. Deploying arguments persuasively is impossible if they are not explained clearly, if their importance is not emphasised, and if the interest of the audience is not maintained to listen to them. Without decent argumentation, style is empty rhetoric, a façade which the intelligent observer would easily see through. As for strategy, brilliantly analysed arguments are unpersuasive if they are irrelevant to the position that is meant to be advocated or if they ignore the central claims made by the other side.

Therefore, judges should not seek to ‘value’ one of these elements above or below the others; they should judge the three holistically. A speech cannot be truly persuasive without decent strategy, content and style. We believe that holistic judging is what the intelligent observer of a debate would and should be expected to do. Judges should also not forget that debating is fundamentally about persuasiveness, not the technical fulfilment of various debating guidelines such as ‘have three points’ or ‘headline all your arguments’. A speech can be extremely persuasive without ticking such boxes.

How do I assess content?
The content of arguments should help you to assess whether teams have effectively shown their claims to be true and important. Effective analysis should not be confused with ‘complication’. Both complex and simple arguments can be effective; what matters is whether the claims are adequately substantiated. A team’s arguments should be interpreted charitably, but you should not reconstruct them as having said things which they clearly didn’t, or attach much greater weight to arguments because you think they were ‘trying to express’ a brilliant idea of your own.

There is an unending dispute every year at WUDC about the relative importance of ‘principled’ and ‘practical’ arguments. This is not a productive way to think about content. In proposition, a team needs to show both a) that the place they want to be is worth getting to, and b) that their policy gets them there. Opposition teams need to dispute at least one of these things. It may be better to dispute both, but if they can conclusively refute one of them, the proposition falls. The relative importance of so-called ‘principles’ and ‘practicalities’ depends on the actual pattern of clash in the debate. Knowledge is good, but only insofar as it creates a persuasive case for one side of the motion.

How do I assess style?
Style will often be very important, but you mustn’t ‘double count’ it: style matters to persuasiveness, but not over and above the extent to which you are persuaded. Please also remember that there are lots of ways to be stylish; there is no one correct way to do it. For example, teams should not be penalized for not telling jokes; if the style of a speech was Churchill-ian oratory, a joke might have undermined the style. Equally, if someone is ‘stylish’ in a way irrelevant to their persuasiveness on the issue (for example, by telling a joke unrelated to the motion at the start), this should not be rewarded. Generallywe believe that style is everything you do in conveying your content to maximize its persuasiveness.

Speaking with a pronounced and unusual accent is not bad style and you should allow reasonable leeway for English as a second and foreign language teams. Examples of things which are unequivocally bad style include (but are not limited to) speaking too fast to be followed, shrouding your claims in evasive and unclear language, constant hesitation, and sounding bored with your own speech. You will note these sins are not particular to ESL or EFL teams.
How do I allocate marks?
The four teams must be ranked first, second, third and fourth. The speakers must be accorded speaker marks consistent with those positions (i.e. the team which won must take more speaker points combined than any other team’s combined speaker points, the team which came last must take less, etc). The speaker scale is appended to the end of this document.

Can more than one team take the same position (for example, come fourth)?

What if a team doesn’t turn up?
A swing team will be sent to replace them. Mark them as if they were a real team (otherwise the other three teams in that room would have an unfair advantage: it would be impossible for them to come fourth). Those marks will then drop out of the tab and not be allocated to the team that should have been there.

What if the teams say something I think is a clear equity violation?
Do nothing during the round unless someone in the room is clearly extremely upset. In that case, you may want to intervene but even then continue with the debate. In the vast majority of cases, however, an immediate response is not needed, and we would prefer if you didn't give one. Mark them as usual afterwards, not taking the alleged equity violation into account. It is sometimes said that if the argument is really offensive it is probably not a good argument. We are not that optimistic. Our priority here is to separate evaluation of the analysis (your job) from evaluation of the offence (not your job). Find the equity officer after the round and describe the alleged violation. It is then their decision as to what sanctions would be appropriate. This is vital if the equity policy is to be consistent, and fair: debaters must be able to reasonably anticipate what would constitute an equity violation. In order for this to happen, equity must be administered by a single source, rather than hostage to the extreme varied standards of taste and decorum across different debating regions, and within them.

During the discussion, what do I do?
This depends on if you are a chair or a wing.

If you are a chair: your job is to manage a discussion, the end goal of which is a consensus on the way the debate went. Try not to give your view of the result right at the start of the discussion because that may bias what other people say. You want to (politely) interrogate your wings as to their opinions, and their reasons for them. If there are any disputes about the rules, or about what was said in the debate, it is usually easiest to resolve these first. You can then concentrate on the meat of the discussion: the evaluation of the teams. Please note: your wings are not deadweight to be bullied, dismissed or duped. If we thought they were that bad judges, we would not put them in the judging pool. Koç Worlds has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to judges. We anticipate your wings will be intelligent and helpful people.

If you are a wing: your job is to assist your chair in coming to a consensus position. This is not a fight, or (God forbid) a debate, but a reasoned discussion. You can be most useful to us if you can be clear about your initial call, and your reasons for that from the start. Nobody will reproach you for changing your mind – the point of gathering initial opinions is to structure a conversation

Can wings ‘roll’ (i.e. outvote) the Chair?
If consensus proves impossible and your runner tells you that you have to call a vote, then yes. Remember that your Chair is a chair for a reason (i.e. we have reasons to believe they are very good at this sort of thing, and – crucially – better than you), but also remember that you are there for a reason too. That is not to say that your chair is infallible, merely that if you are going to outvote your chair, you should probably be sure, really sure, that they have simply got it wrong.

Will I be binned (i.e. send to rooms with teams on lower points) if I roll the chair?
Firstly,there are no bins at Koç Worlds. Every single team here has paid registration, and part of what they are paying for (apart from your drinks, accommodation, etc) is your time and your respect. Every single team at this tournament merits considered judging and feedback. In fact, less experienced teams (who may well be in rooms with less points) particularly merit your time.

Secondly, being sent to a room with lower points is not a punishment. Please do remember that this is a tournament with three breaks (Open, ESL, EFL). That means a huge number of rooms remain live until very late at the tournament. A room with lower points is likely to be on the edge of a break, making it extremely important. Even in rooms where it is not possible for a single team to break, all four of those teams deserve feedback. If we want to punish you, there are plenty of other things we could do.

Thirdly, no. We will not seek to punish in any way judges for rolling their chair. We want wings to take rolling very seriously, but we do not want it to never happen (otherwise, we would simply not bother with wings, or not give them the power to roll). However, if we have good evidence that you have not thought through sufficiently rolling of a Chair, we are likely to rank you lower within the judging pool.

This guide is from the briefing published by the adjudication team of Koc Worlds 2010. The adjudication team is Can Okar (CA) Josh Bone (DCA), Julia Bowes (DCA), Suthen Tate Thomas (DCA), Will Jones (DCA), Handan Orel (ACA), Ozan Mert Ondes (ACA). This document is based on one drafted by Anat Gelber, Daniel Schut and Will Jones in 2007 for the Amsterdam Open.

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