An Empirical Assessment of the Relative Need For a Reformulation of Intercollegiate Debate Coaching Objectives

Date of Graduation

Spring 1980


Master of Arts in Communication



Committee Chair

Richard Stovall


Tournament debate has been the subject of numerous criticisms regarding its educational value. In light of current economic trends and declining college enrollments, the future of debate may well be imperilled if such controversy persists. Yet, these criticisms are frequently haphazard, lacking the presence of any global perspective. Hence, the purpose of this study was to scientifically assess the character and extent of the difficulties currently facing tournament debate. A sixty item questionnaire was mailed to 285 colleges and universities throughout the country, yielding 148 completed surveys appropriate for statistical analysis. The research findings demonstrate, in general, that most coaches admit contemporary tournament debate is deficient in some manner, that coaches are reluctant to assume responsibility for tournament practices exhibited by debaters, and that coaches are unsure whether the faults of debate will mend themselves over time. Further analysis revealed an inconsistency between coaches' beliefs about educational values of debate and how such values are represented by current tournament practices. This study implies that debate coaches objecting to current trends in tournament debate should re-evaluate their programs in light of what educational objectives are attainable and how they can best meet these objectives.

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© Frank J Macke