Classes in  Detail: Argumentation and Debate
Argumentation and Debate
Class Description:
The class introduces the principles and skills of effective argument. Topics include the process of advocacy, how to develop an argument through reasoning, the psychology of argument, and motivational techniques of argumentation. Combines theory and practice in argument through individual presentations and team debates. As such the class fall into two mutually supportive aspects: Detailed understanding of the structure of sound reasoning, and practical application of argumentation theory in practical debate. 

After finishing the course students should: a) Understand what an argument is, where it derives its normative force from, how it works and how it can be stopped. b) Have a significantly improved ability to persuade others in reasonable discourse (debate). Topics covered in this course include fundamentals of argumentation theory, argumentation schemes, critical questions / objections, and methods of effective debating in some of the major competitive formats (WUDC, APD, OPD, Floor debate) and in real life. 

I use Ericson/Murphy/Zeuschner: The Debaters Guide as text for the debating section. This is a great little textbook for the introduction to competitive debating and case construction. For the argumentation theory section we analyse  the User Compendium of Argument Schemes in Walton/Reed/Macagno: Argumentation Schemes and compare it to other argument taxonomies in order to develop our own set of Critical Questions for use in the weekly debates.

Sample Syllabus:  Download (pdf)

Student evaluations of this class: 
(all scores out of 5.0 maximum)

5.0 (Spring 2012)

Selected student comments:
  • Spring 2012: "Michael Hoppmann is the best professor I've encountered in two full years at Northeastern University. Michael is passionate about his subject, very well informed, and highly adept at communicating the information to students. This class has given me more skills to use in real life than any other. Michael treats students with respect, uses class time well, and keeps us interested. If Northeastern University is committed to giving their students the best possible education, Michael Hoppmann should be a permanent part of the Communications Department."
  • Spring 2012: "I have taken several courses with Professor Hoppmann and he is still as great of a teacher as he ever was. Having instructors of this quality is what makes me enjoy being a student of Northeastern."
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