CDL Debater Development Benchmarks Know where you are headed in the development of your debaters. Know what benchmarks you are trying to achieve in their learning. Organize your instruction and assessment. Start with the debater benchmarks.

The Qualitative Assessment Project (QAP) measures urban debaters’ understanding and performance of key elements of competitive academic debate, connecting urban debate more closely to academic learning objectives. The QAP assesses students’ performance against the Debater Development Benchmarks. The Rubrics for assessment are below separated by experience level.

Year 1 In-Round Rubric
Year 1 Out-of-Round Rubric

Year 2 In-Round Rubric
Year 2 Out-of-Round Rubric

Year 3 or 4 In-Round Rubric
Year 3 or 4 Out-of-Round Rubric



Instructional Resources


 Flowing & Refutation

Flow Sheet There’s no real improvement in competitive academic debate that doesn’t start with the flow sheet. This electronic version of a flow sheet is useful if you are flowing on a laptop — a practice that can be more efficient and legible. Flowing PowerPoint: Teach your debaters the basics of flowing with this Powerpoint presentation.

A highly useful exercise in teaching one of the twin pillars of the educational value of urban debate — responsiveness, or clash: Teaching Line-by-Line Debating.

Prepared Flow Rebuttal Exercise

The basics of refutation are laid out in this Basic Refutation Powerpoint presentation. Teaching debaters refutation — direct response, clash, refutation when answering their opponents’ arguments — is perhaps the most important skill taught to debaters. This Refutation Exercise is a valuable tool that can help coaches accomplish this crucial goal.

Dallas Urban Debate Alliance Toulmin Argumentation Model (“Claim-Warrant-Data”) Presentation

The CDL has developed the Prepared Flow Rebuttal Exercise, practicing flow-based refutation and analysis of evidence, and practicing and developing the 1AR, 2NR, and 2AR.

We have created prepared flows for use with the Prepared Flow Rebuttal Exercise on the following issues:
Mid-Term Elections Disadvantage (positing the Wind Power case)
China Disadvantage (positing the Oil Exploration case)
Topicality Violation (against the Coral Reefs case)
Aquaculture Case — Solvency Attacks
This prepared flow uses the CMSDL version of the solvency arguments against and for the Aquaculture case. They are close to the high school version of the arguments, so this exercise is very usable at the high school level.


Twenty Steps to Prep for Tournament One: Get your debaters ready for a tournament in four weeks with this detailed, step-by-step handout.

This is a set of First Meeting Activities that have proven to be effective in interesting students in, and introducing them to, debate.

NAUDL Activities Manual: A great handbook that includes dozens of activities and exercises useful for teaching the fundamental skills of competitive academic debate, including a full chapter of exercises on flowing.

Recruitment Documents

Mini-Debates Exercise: Hold a mini-debate next practice with this document. Describes the format and details of a mini-debate lesson.

SPAR (SPontaneous ARgument) Debate Exercise: Hold a SPAR debate next practice with this useful document.

The CDL Evidence Analytics Exercise helps debaters analyze textual evidence, to identify the strengths and weaknesses of reasoning, warrants, and substantiation in evidence in used in a debate round. The exercise asks debaters to hone in on the connection between the argument label and what the textual evidence actually says.

Sometimes you need an activity to generate interaction, have fun and practice speaking. You always have the Hot Air Balloon Game

The CDL Blow-Up Drill has debaters prepare negative block argumentation on an off-case issue, in response to a set of 2AC arguments that they have not seen before but that you provide.

There is a great article on coaching confidence. Recommended reading for coaches at all levels.

Chris Baron’s Activity for Taking Debaters to the Next Level- Debaters sometimes struggle to include everything they want in time. Some of my thoughts on how to help them accomplish this are here. “Just read faster” is not the answer! You can also look at an activity for helping them highlight evidence here.

Affirmative Cases- write ’em, run ’em, beat ’em

Miscellaneous but useful tips for writing your own affirmative case are featured in How to Research and Write an Affirmative Case.

For the 2AC to be prepared against unexpected new positions, it is helpful for them to have frontline templates to help prompt a diverse set of answers. Check out the 2AC Frontline Lesson  and share these templates with your students:
Disad Frontline
Topicality Frontline
Counterplan Frontline
Kritik Frontline

Some debaters need help moving beyond the core files, particularly into the 1AR. If this describes your debaters, you may want to try the Lump Fu Lesson plan, with the accompanying 1AR flows.

For those debaters overwhelmed by new affirmative cases, they may need help strategizing about how to apply their own generic negative off case arguments. The missing link activity may be your answer.


Von Steuben developed this practical pre-tournament exercise, with a self-explanatory title, “How to Write a Politics Disadvantage”

The Disad Exercise both defines the core terms used in debating disadvantages and offers a very meeting-ready exercise in teaching disadvantages to beginning and intermediate-level debaters.

Counter Plans

This strong Prezi on Counterplans was made at the 2014 Chicago Debate Summer Institute.

Topicality and Theory

Advanced Topicality Debating is a presentation outlining how effective topicality debating is done.

Thoroughbred Theory Blocks has a set of blocks on both sides of many of the key debate theory issues, and can be used as a round-ready resource, or a kind of text book on key theory issues.

Alternative Debate Styles

A powerpoint on Alternative Debate Styles explains how performative debate arguments are run and answered.

Debating Framework Arguments introduces the theory argument of the “framework” and explains a little bit about how it is used in contemporary debate.

The Middle Passages Case is an example of a performative affirmative, and was written by Deven Cooper, debate coach at California State University, Fresno, and 2014 CDSI lab instructor.

Manuals and Debate Tips

Debate Manual: Introduction to Debate Coaching

The Emory Policy Debate Manual is for everyone from new to less experienced Varsity debaters.

Learning to Debate is a very concise manual for use in learning about policy debate.

The National Association for Urban Debate Leagues produced a manual in 2007 titled Introduction to Debate Coaching. Each of its chapters, below, are very useful guides to learning and beginning to master competitive academic debate coaching and teaching.

1.Guide for Starting the Team

2.Guide for Running the Team

3.Guide to Professional Development

4.Coaching Guide for Beginning Debaters

5.Coaching Guide for Speaking Style

6.Coaching the Affirmative

7.Coaching the Negative

NDCA Debate Resources

These are a collection of debate resources by the National Debate Coaches Association to utilize in the classroom. It provides innovative ways to convey debate concepts and styles of speaking to students.

Debate General Curriculum

Finding Your Voice, produced by the acclaimed Pittsburgh University Debate Union, is an excellent policy debate textbook, one that combines the fundamentals with currency and a high degree of practical usability.

Debate 101 is a instructional guide to everything you need to know about Policy Debate

Learning to Debate is a very concise manual for use in learning about policy debate.

Debate Glossary produced by Maine East (IL) Debate has useful definitions of many or most of the terms used in Varsity-level debate.

Paperless Debate Resources

Paperless Debate Templates are an intuitive way for debaters to digitise the debating process. Templates also allow for an efficient way to cut cards and organise files on a computer for in-round access.

One such template is the Verbatim paperless template, found here.

Check out this Emory University Debate Camp 2014 Lecture on Paperless Debating. Get Professional Development hours watching this video on the Online Training tab.

More Information about paperless debate can be found on the paperless debate website.