BASIC GUIDE TO TRAINEE ADJUDICATING
Adapted By John BP from things written by Richard D’Ath and Seb Templeton over the years.
New Zealand competed well above its weight in international debating circuits as debaters and as adjudicators. A factor often cited at being at the heart of this competitiveness is that we have an accreditation system for our adjudicators that you must pass before you are allowed to adjudicate at our national tournaments. In the words of a past CA, Sebastian Templeton:
Our judges are the best in the world, and prove themselves so time and time again. At home we have good decisions, useful feedback, and ensure that debaters grow and are not disillusioned.
The accreditation system is a vital part of our system of debating, and it is perhaps the most important part of it. The accreditation process is a grueling one, but one that we want ensure you have the greatest opportunities to grow as a debater and adjudicator. This document is intended to help guide you through the process and answer any preliminary questions you may have. However, it is likely questions will remain pertinent, so please do not hesitate to ask for advice or clarification from the adjudication core, or your campus leaders.
PART 1: WHAT IS TRAINEE?There are two ways to accredit in New Zealand
- The first is the orthodox method that most people accredit through (and the one I deal with here), it is through the trainee process. The trainee process involves you being taken under the wing of a adj core and judging pool an an authorised tournament and tested on your ability to decide and reason through debates.
- The second avenue for accrediting is via ‘break’. This is the method that allows speakers who have ‘broken’ or advanced to the knock out rounds of of two or more of NZ Easters, NZ Joynt Scroll, Australs or Worlds.
In regards to the trainee process, there are four official tournaments for the purpose of accreditation. The major two are New Zealand Easters and New Zealand Joynt Scroll, these tournaments have all New Zealand campuses invite to compete and send trainees.
At these tournaments, there is an adjudication core, four people elected by the NZUDC campus presidents as the adjudicators to lead the tournament, one of these four will have been elected the Chief Adjudicator, the rest are the Deputy Chief Adjudicators. They are responsible for running the debate-side of the tournament including: setting motions, running the tab and draw, allocating judges to rooms, and accrediting trainees.
There are also the regional novice tournaments, Thropy in the North Island and Claytons in the South Island. These tournaments have shared Chief Adjudicators from each campus by convention. At all of these tournaments you are able to go through the trainee process to become an ‘accredited New Zealand Adjudicator”.
HOW ACCREDITATION HAPPENS “THE TEST”:
The people responsible for accrediting trainees at a tournament are the Adjudication Core, led by the Chief Adjudicator and their three Deputy Chief Adjudicators. The general test that we will be assessing when looking at whether to accredit a trainee is
“Are we convinced that this individual will be a competitive member of the New Zealand adjudication pool”.
There are several conventions that are followed in attempting to answer this question.
The Adjudication core must be confident that a trainee can do the following:
- Will be able to get the result right in top rooms of the tournament, almost all of the time;
- Will give oral adjudications which demonstrate
- Accurate understanding of the core issue(s) of a debate
- Demonstrate an ability to explain why those issues were important and how teams grappled and won or lost them.
- Will give speaker scores which;
- Rank speakers well relative to each other;
- Use the marking range reasonably
- Don’t use scores unjustifiably (say; to make a speaker feel better)
- Will be able to provide useful feedback to their monitoring judge(s) about speakers in the debate.
In assessing these criteria, the Adjudication core adopts some conventions on who you have to satisfy, at minimum to accredit (though it should be noted, that we don’t make guarantees of accreditation ever).
- You will need to be seen by at least two super adjudicators (current or previous members of adjudication cores in the past five years) from different campuses in order to be eligible to accredit.
So, now you should have some understanding of what an adjudication core is looking for in a trainee in order to advance into being an accredited adjudicator. This section outlines what the process for a trainee looks like at a New Zealand tournament such as Easter’s or Joynt Scroll.
- You will be allocated to a room to judge, like all accredited judges, there will be accredited judges on this room as well;
- Go to that room and judge the debate
- Come to a decision and filling out a ballot;
- Talking to your judge(s) about your decision;
- Potentially giving an oral adjudication to the teams;
- Leaving the room to wait for the next round while the judges discuss trainees and design the draw for the next round
PART 2: HOW TO ADJUDICATE
CALLING A RESULT
When you watch a debate as an adjudicator, your job is to reflect what happened in that debate to determine a winner.
The basic approach is to ask “which team was the most persuasive that their side or position in the debate was correct”.
As a judge, you will watch two teams present cases with various points attached to those cases. Some debates will be very messy, others less so. As the judge, your job is to reflect what happened according to conventions of reason and debate.
You need to think about the points that were raised in the debate and find the ones that you think were the most important to proving that a team won the debate. Seb’s advice on this is to think about debates as a tug-of-war, ask yourself “did this point take the affirmative team over the line, or did the negative team pull it back?”.
To put it in terms that you may hear at a debating tournament, which team discharged their ‘onus’ or ‘burden’ in the debate. The burden of proof or onus of each team is generally simply whether or not the affirmative team persuaded the judge that there side of the motion was “better”.
In some debates teams may take on other more specific onuses (for example, if a team states that they want to prove that “our policy will cause Iran to disarm its nuclear weapons”, it will be difficult for them to win if they fail to establish this, even if their policy has other benefits they can establish).
In debates, the motion of the debate will likely provide the onus to the team. In the debate “That we should ban animal testing”, the Affirmative must defend the idea of banning animal testing. The Neg must prove that the Affs idea is a bad one, they can do this by simply proving that the Aff has no basis to proceed (a straight neg where a team simply proves the other team has no ability to discharge their onus), or prove that this would be a net negative change, or propose a mutually exclusive counter-model (a different way to solve the problem).
Importantly, from the initial onus of the motion, teams can set themselves higher burdens depending on how they set up their debate. For example, on the “ban animal testing” motion, if an Aff says the reason to ban animal testing is because all animals have human rights, they will likely (assuming a competent neg), need to defend that proposition as the rationale for their case. But this is an art, you need to keep track of what teams say and what that measn for their ability to prove their side, and keep in mind that things can change rapidly in a debate!
The burdens of the respective teams in the debate when you consider the points that were made. Points can wield any degree of force, and aren’t equal. In some debates there truly is just one point. If so, don’t make up two more. Different points have different weights and purposes. This is the most difficult part of judging debates.
I have found that a useful tool for starting my thoughts on an adjudication is to think about the debate that the Affirmative set up, what were they trying to prove? Did they do so? If so, how? Consider the challenges the Neg made to the Aff’s case, to what degree were these successful?
Think about the arguments given by the speakers, but only as they were given by the debaters? Ask yourself why you find certain points more persuasive, the answer to that question will likely form the basis of any decision you make. It is important when you do this that you consider the arguments that the speakers themselves made, and not arguments that the speakers could have made or that you think they should have made. You have to judge the debate as it happened. (Sometimes however, speakers will make points in ways that aren’t perfectly clear, or that don’t seem to explain a point fully. It is a matter for your judgment how persuasive such arguments are, but remember that if you thought ‘I’m not sure about this’ when it was said, then that suggests the argument could have been made more persuasively.)
Ultimately, you can usually trust yourself and ‘go with your gut” on a result, a good judge knows who has won the debate from being there and thinking about the debate from the point of view of an adjudicator. That’s not to say you can’t spend time reviewing your notes, but you should have some idea of what you think has happened after the debate. The art of adjudication is then ensuring that you have sound reasoning to back up your conclusions.
The Affirmative team set up the debate attempting to achieve ‘x’
The argument’s they made in favour of their position were ‘y”
Neg challenged these arguments on two major areas ‘z’ and ‘a’.
So on the first challenge neg made
- I found Aff’s argumentation to be strong as it outlined a clear reason for acting
- The Neg’s challenge to this was not so persuasive because of ‘your reasoning here”
At a very basic level, that kind of template is what an adjudicator is looking for in a trainee. You need to be able to sort through the core of the debate and explain what made certain points more persuasive that others.
WHAT MAKES A POINT PERSUASIVE?
Answering that question is a little bit of an art. I’m going to start with what is not persuasive in order to limit the field a little. Don’t fall into the rookie trap of summarising who won a point by leaving it at “In the end I was more persuaded by the affirmative team.”
If an argument plainly doesn’t make sense, it isn’t persuasive. So “And when the TPP passes we lose due authority”, likely doesn’t make sense. That would especially be so if a team didn’t explain a) what due authority is (it doesn’t exist) and b) how the TPP would remove it, and c) why that is important.
Points also don’t contain much persuasive value if they are asserted. If a speaker just says “this will happen”, there is little basis for you as an adjudicator to agree with them.
So what is a persuasive point? It will differ slightly between adjudicators, but a good toolset to follow could be:
- Does the point connect to the debate in a logical way? Test by considering how the team tryied to connect it to the debate (Does a point about world war three exist in a debate about climate change? Well, what did the team’s do to try and show the connection?)
- Does the point explain how the argument works, if it is a change from the status quo, did the team explain how that change occurs?
- Have the speakers explained why the point is important in the debate (have other teams contested that?)
Some points don’t need to be simply won or lost. Imagine that the affirmative needs to prove that there is a moral duty to do something. The negative might achieve what we call a parry of that – so that at the end of the debate we have the equivalent of a sentence each way – we’re not sure, or the point is drawn. The affirmative could lose because of that. The logic of the debate and their case may have been such that they actually needed to positively win that point.
Equally, losing some points can mean that other corollary points can’t be unlocked for a team. They may have been able to prove that a state of the world has three benefits, but they also need to have proven that they can reach that state of the world. The benefits may have been clashed with and won, but that team still needs to reach them.
Most importantly for me: assess the world of the debate. Given the speeches, do hypothetical actors take the actions that one team suggests they will? Does the world look like the one described by one team?
SOME FINAL COMMENTS:
First:nobody cares what the topic was. The debate is what the affirmative set it up to be. Forget the topic. Instead, focus on how the Aff set up the debate and what discussion, if any, followed from that set-up. The only convention we really hold to is that a set-up needs to be within the ‘spirit of the motion’, basically – “is it broadly connected to the intention of the adj core when this debate was set”.
Don’t be scared to enjoy a first affirmative speaker saying things that the negative were never going to disagree with. It is important to set up a good debate. That first affirmative actually gets to subtly colour the world the way the affirmative team wants to, and it’s hard for the negative to challenge that characterisation. Being the team that first triumphs a right, for instance, simply gives more persuasion to that team’s points, regardless of the other team also supporting that right.
In theory, teams can define a debate that is clearly outside the spirit of the motion, this is called a ‘squirrel’ and is perceived as an ‘unfair’ definition. If this happens, the debate continues. The Neg can briefly whine about the squirrel, but then needs to change their case to combat it. Squirrelling teams are extraordinarily rare, much rarer than accusations of squirrelling. If it happens, or you think it might have, don’t worry about it. The negative always gets there in the end, relax.
Second, there is no right style for a speaker to use, what’s important in debating is the overall contribution a speaker made to the debate, that’s mostly about content speakers add. Of course, style can help content to be persuasive, but it is not in and of itself a meaningful contribution to a case,
Finally, when it comes to judging, do it your own way. NZ has different schools of adjudicators. Some write very few notes, some take ages to decide, some use different coloured pens, some use just one sheet of paper. It goes on. Do it your way. We currently have a school of very fast decision-makers. You don’t have to conform to that.
SCORING A DEBATE - THE NEW ZEALAND SCORING RANGE
Scoring ranges are different depending on the circuit you are in. In New Zealand we have adopted a universal scoring range where debaters are marked between 60-80 points for their speech. The rationale for this is, according to former Chief Adjudicator, Richard D’Ath, based on politeness, we could mark between 0-20, but that would be perceived as mean if someone received a zero.
It can be difficult to master the scale, many judges continue to disagree about speeches that they see and where they sit on this twenty point metric, but we all aim to be as objective and universal as possible when we apply it.
The CA of the tournament will outline the expectations of the scoring range at the tournament you are at, but the general outline is the following:
SPEAKER SCORE RANGES·
- 62 – 63: Very poor speech, lots to work on
- 64 – 66: Poor speech
- 67- 69: Below average speech
- 70: Average speech
- 71 – 73: Above average speech
- 74 – 76: Very good speech – probably breaking
- 77 – 78: Grand Final / Best Speaker quality
HOW TO SCORE THE DEBATE:
Speaker scores are one of the most controversial areas in adjudicating, and both speakers and judges have strong views on them. One thing that is universally agreed though is that speaker scores matter; they affect the likelihood of teams breaking through to the knock-out rounds and who gets speaker prizes.
Since judges can reasonably differ as to how they view an individual speaker (and do differ), what the Adjudication Core is looking for in a trainee is that they score consistently with their view of the debate. You need to be able to score well, but we care more about how you scored rather than what you scored.
With this in mind, the cliche thing to say is “your speaker scores should reflect how you saw the debate”. What is meant by this is that the speakers who you found more persuasive (and whose arguments mattered more in your decision) should get higher scores (and vice-versa). You should always be able to explain why you gave a speaker a particular score, especially in relation to another speaker. Did you find them more persuasive? Did they make a point that was a significant one in the debate, perhaps the point that won their team the debate (or made it most effectively)? These are the kinds of questions that you want to ask yourself, and that your judge will ask you after the debate.
In addition to this, the scores you give need to be an accurate reflection of the quality of the debate. This is also hard, because many trainees won’t have seen that many debates and won’t know what kind of debates qualify as ‘above average’ or below average. Look at the descriptions the Adjudication Core gives for the scores however. If you give a 76 for example, then you’re saying ‘I think this person is likely to be in the semi-finals’. If you give a 69, then you’re saying ‘I think this person’s speech is a little less persuasive than the average speech I’ve seen in New Zealand debating’. If you can think this way (and explain it to your judge) then you’re on the right track.
Some final comments about scoring:
- “Use the range”: don’t just cluster speakers around the same score. If you think one speaker was better than another by a notable margin, it’s OK to give them notably different scores. You don’t have to keep the margins between speakers to one or two points.
- Don’t inflate your speaker points because you’re worried the debaters will be hurt or angry at the scores you give them. Scoring is a part of your reasoning, and has to be a reflection of the debate. Be firm but fair.
- Be careful not to adjust your scores too much when given feedback by your judge. This is difficult, because we want to see that you’re listening to the feedback you get from the judges you’re seeing, but if you veer all over the place in the scores you give that’s a worry. Try to keep adjustments between rounds to a minimum.
GIVING AN ORAL ADJUDICATION
An oral adjudication is difficult to give. Judges are assessed just like debaters and, like a debater, your oral adjudication has to have authority, useful language, good pace, and all of the persuasiveness we expect from a speaker.
Don’t be arrogant and disrespectful to teams.
Don’t be overly lengthy in adjudication. The debaters know what their points were, and they don’t really care about the minor or obvious ones. The bulk of what you say needs to be assessment of the debate, not a rehash.
Don’t be too quick to dismiss things either. It’s a difficult balance to strike but try to strike it by thinking hard about what’s important, and by thinking about which points the teams will care about. An irrelevant point, if one team thought it critical, will need to be briefly addressed to convince that team of its irrelevance.
The debate will have evolved and likely moved away from the specific clash the debaters expected or wanted. You don’t have to assess the debate on the points the first speakers set out, and probably won’t do that very often.
BASIC CONCEPTS AND TERMS
Many trainees will have recently come to debating and will not know some critical concepts about adjudicating and the New Zealand Debating circuit, here we will briefly touch upon comes crucial elements.
There several debate styles that exist for the purpose of the trainee process, they are:
- New Zealand Easters (The first tournament of the season), is a 2v2 style with 6 minute speeches and 5 minute prep, no points of information and 3 minute leaders replies. The style stresses impromptu debating.
- Thropy (the North Island Novice Tournament), is a 3v3 style, POIs, 6 min speeches (Except for the finals where the time is bizarly extended to 8 min), 30 minutes prep.
- Claytons (the South Island novice tournament), 3v3, POIs, 6 min speeches, 30 minutes prep.
- Joynt Scroll (The final NZ Tournament where accreditation occurs and the only NZ Prepared tournament), 10 minute speeches, POI’s, motions prepared and released am month in advance.
The standard employed for judging these tournament’s should be consistent with the New Zealand scoring standard (ie// regardless of the tournament, the scores should be allocated out on the New Zealand standard, not the standard of the tournament that you are at).
NB: This may not be true fro Thropy, but it is for Easters, Joynt Scroll and Claytons.
Judges come to their decisions independently; this is the same for trainees. Do not attempt to discuss the debate or look at the scores/decisions of other judges beforehand, doing so is bad.
- We’re not trying to hide anything from you, if you have questions ask! Some of the most useful people to talk to at the tournament will be the adjudication core, they may seem busy but but they will be able to help you find someone to answer any questions you have.
- Not accrediting: this sucks, but it also happens to the vast majority of trainees, the process is intended to be hard. We want this to be a process where you learn and develop, so don’t hold yourself to a standard where you feel like you must accredit right away.
- Engage with your adjudicators, every judge is different and will look at debates in a slightly different way, discuss the debates you see with them and ask them questions about how they saw the debate. That is an excellent way to develop your understanding of this faux-science we attempt to engage in.
- Hold your ground, judges have egos and are often certain that they are correct. Further, they will often try and test your conclusions after a debate. If you have come to a conclusion, hold your ground and explain it.
- Don’t be a dick. There’s too many of those already, when you’re discussing with teams or judges about a debate, remember that at it’s core, this is a game and being nice to people is a good thing.