Having effective points Coming up with arguments Ineffective Arguments

Coming up with arguments
Having effective
Consider All Factors
Big or
Create or
Ineffective Arguments
Help or Hurt?
Help or Hurt?
Often our arguments are ineffective because:
• We have too few arguments
• We are narrow minded about what we are arguing about
Help or
Advance or go
• We fail to be clear about the principles at stake.
All of these things we can teach our students to do. Here are a
number of strategies:
Clear or
Fair or
Respect or
Consider All Factors (CAF)
The CAF strategy works most effectively for developing arguments for proposition style debates. In any debate, including
proposition debates, we will often think about one or two factors
when we argue, but there can often be many more factors that
are relevant to an argument. On the next page (and attached as
a Handout) you will find a CAF chart. When students are initially
How is
Good or
Clear or
brainstorming arguments, get them to identify all the factors
In terms of the
impact on this
factor, would
would be a
What is a
possibility that
could be either
positive or
negative? What
question is
there about the
impact of this
proposition on
this factor?
from this page that are relevant to this issue.
It’s important that when students are identifying factors that are
relevant to the issue, they not narrow their thinking by considering whether they are for or against a topic. We want students to
initially think as broadly as possible about a topic, before they
decide where the strongest case lay.
List factor here
Once students have identified the factors they believe are relevant, this can be shared and discussed as a class.
In terms of the
impact on this
factor, would
would be a
List factor here
Afterwards, students can then identify which are the five most
important factors and which factor is likely to be most important
to the target audience of the debate.
CAF + Plus, Minus, Interesting (PMI)
Plus, Minus, Interesting is a thinking tool that can be used to
consider the advantages, detractions and questions that arise
from a proposed action or topic. It’s an effective tool for students to think critically about the impact of a proposition in
terms of a range of factors.
List factor here
For example, if we were arguing that soft drink should be outlawed, a PMI chart might look like the one on the next page.
Students might not be able to fill out all boxes in the grid, but
we should challenge them to fill in at least two boxes in each
Once students have completed their PMI, they can then assess
which is the strongest side to the argument.
Once students have identified factors and narrowed these down
to the most important five using the CAF activity listed above,
they can then put these factors into a PMI chart such as the
one on the next page.
Soft drink has
known links to
obesity - getting
rid of it would
people be able
to have soft
drink as part of
a balanced
Would people
just drink or eat
something else
There would
need to be
people to
regulate soft
drink bans
Lots of people
would lose jobs
at soft drink
Would the
money we save
on health out
way the money
we lose in jobs?
Less soft drink
bottles and cans
The bigger principle
The CAF activity above is very much about helping students develop a ‘nuts and bolts’ thinking strategy to support them to identify the best arguments possible for a case.
The ‘bigger principle’ is a more advanced strategy. Unlike the
CAF activity, the bigger principle is about students identifying
the most important principle at stake in the issue and developing arguments that support a case in terms of this one principle.
The idea is, that using this method we can develop a more sophisticated argument and win our case by claiming the highest
From here we consider these questions:
• How would the proposition under consideration help achieve
this ideal world or harm this ideal world?
For example, in the issue about banning soft drinks we might
contend that: this essentially is a public health issue. In an ideal
world, we want people to have every opportunity to be their
best, fittest selves. The sale of soft drink prevents this.
This strategy requires a higher level of understanding and thinking than the CAF activity - so it won’t be for all students all of
the time.
To use this strategy with students, give them the Bigger Principle Handout and ask them to identify which is the bigger issue
underlying the proposition.
Public Health
Democracy, Free Speech & Human Rights
Is this an issue to do with what is in the best
Is this an issue to do with our freedom to make
interests of keeping us all healthy and safe from decisions and to decide who governs us? Is this
physical dangers?
an issue to do with our democratic rights and
our rights as individuals?
Is this an issue about what governments should Is this an issue to do with the rights of people to
be doing to best help their people?
control information about themselves?
Is this an issue to do with how well we are
educating the people in our society or what
opportunity they have to access quality
Is this an issue to do with the traditions,
institutions, and ways of behaving of groups,
communities or nations?
Environmental/Animal Rights
Is this an issue about how best and most
sustainably we can use our resources?
Economic & Productivity
Is this an issue about money or employment and Is this an issue to do with people’s spiritual or
the opportunities individuals and families have religious beliefs?
to financially look after themselves? Is it about
how efficiently we are using our resources?
Justice, Fairness & Equality
Moral & Ethical
Is this an issue about people being treated fairly Is this an issue about accepted codes of conduct
according to the law or according to what most in certain situations?
people would perceive as fair? Is it about
people being treated the same?
We identify the principles at stake in an issue by locating what
the bigger issue at play is. The bigger issue might be economic,
social, moral or educational (see list on the page to the right
and also attached as a Handout).
Social / Welfare
Is this an issue about how we behave and relate
to each other as individuals and groups? Is it
about how well we look after each other in our
• What would most people agree to be an ideal world in terms
of this bigger issue?
The Bigger Picture / Principle
moral ground.
Ask students to then consider the two dot points at the top of
this page page.