Formats for presenting arguments

Formats for presenting arguments
In this class, we're mostly focusing on developing your skills of speaking and listening. But
speaking and listening don't just happen—they always occur in particular interactions. They
occur in particular places, with particular rules about who gets to speak when. And how these
interactions are organized can make a big difference in what happens in them.
Consider your experience in classrooms here at ISU.
Don't you expect that a
class in a room like this
(our classroom)…
…will be different
from a class in a
room like this?
Wouldn't your group work go differently if
you met in one of the new group meeting
rooms in the Durham Center?
(You can reserve these rooms, which also
have a lot of equipment in them, at
Because things like these matter, course goal #4 is about organizing argumentative interactions:
"You will be able to design interactions in which people can exchange arguments productively."
There is no one right way to organize argumentative interactions; instead there are a variety of
different ways, each of which can be useful in some circumstances. We're going to be
experimenting with three different ways, and asking about each: what is this good for?
Format #1: The Public Hearing. In a public hearing, the advocates on all sides face the people
making a decision. Ordinarily, the advocates can state their case. The decision-makers can ask
questions, but the advocates don't get to talk with each other.
Typical situations where Public Hearings are used include:
• The U.S. Supreme Court
• Hearings before committees of the Congress or Senate
• Public comments at the Ames City Council meetings
Format #2: The Roundtable. In a roundtable, there is no separation between "advocates" and
"decision-makers." Everyone gets to both argue and decide. There are no formal "sides."
Commonly, people sit so they face each other. There are no set rules about who gets to speak
when—it's like a conversation, in which everyone gets a turn and interrupting and dominating
are impolite. Sometimes there is a chairperson who is responsible for keeping order.
Typical situations where Roundtables are used include:
• The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives (with some modifications)
• Your group in this class
• Fraternities, sororities, and other self-governing organizations.
Format #3: The Debate. In a debate, like in a public hearing, some people are advocates and
others are decision-makers. The debaters face each other, and the decision-makers look on. The
debaters address each other, taking turns usually according to a formal procedure (to prevent
things from getting out of hand). Sometimes there is a moderator to keep order, and possibly to
ask questions. The decision-makers don't get to talk, but get to judge the debate at the end.
Typical situations where Debates are used include:
• U.S. Presidential debates (with some modifications)
• Panel debates on campus
• Debate team debates
• Jury trials
NOTE: If there is a quiz on this reading, the question will be:
You will get to organize your final arguments any way you like. Which of these three
formats do you think you will use? In one sentence, why? What will this format
Here's an interesting question—one we'll take up later in the semester. There is quite a bit of
evidence that men and women have different communication styles.
Notice, for example, how
women talk facing each other…
…while men talk facing the
same direction, or standing at
right angles.
Men and women often interact differently. Does this mean that they argue differently?