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Structured-Academic Controversy (Contemporary Debate): World War I Technology!

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This was easily my most SUCCESSFUL assignment of the year.

Think of a structured-academic controversy (SAC) as a DEBATE, but with no winners or losers. In a traditional debate, the students who "lose" have to accept that their points were not valid. As we know, there are many correct answers to social studies questions. The SAC debate allows students to utilize important skills in order to look at and argue BOTH sides of a controversy. It is only afterwards that students reflect upon the entire controversy and then choose a view point.

Students will be given documents to utilize in their consideration of a question which has a “yes or no” answer. During the lesson students will have to read, analyze, interpret, and present both sides of the issue using the knowledge gained from the documents as well as from background knowledge. Work will be completed in groups of two, obliging students to discuss the arguments and effectively convey information to others.

TOPIC: World War I Technology (ethical use)

PROMPT: To what extent was the leadership responsible for the carnage of the First World War?

TO CLARIFY: Students will argue both sides of the issue of whether or not the leaders of the Allies and Central Powers were responsible for the bloody consequences of WWI through the technology they developed and used in battle.

EXAMPLE: A trench can be viewed as a protective measure - therefore, they are not guilty. However, a trench can also be viewed as deadly in that it allowed troops to hurt others from the protective safety of its confines.

MODERN APPLICATION: Are weapons used for harm or for defense?


1. Student Introduction
2. Four sets of data (A, B, C, D) which included narratives, images, etc...
3. Note-taking chart
4. Document analysis chart
5. Teacher tips
6. Step-by-step directions for teacher
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