Your role as a judge in our tournaments is incredibly important to ensuring we have a quality tournament. Our most common concern from volunteers is that they are not qualified to judge. No need to fear. At tournaments, all volunteers receive onsite training to teach you the keys of debate. All you need to be able to judge is some basic critical thinking skills, and an eagerness to learn.
Check out our calendar to find upcoming tournament to volunteer
Talk to your child’s coach, find a tournament, or Contact SEDA to sign up to judge
To be extra prepared, take a look at our judges ballots
Things to remember as a judge
Everyone interprets a debate differently
Even very experienced judges can disagree about which team won a debate and why. There is no perfect assessment of a debate. As you become more familiar with the criteria for judging, you will find it easier to judge more consistently. Anyone who is open-minded, thoughtful, and prepared to apply judging criteria can make a good judge.
In some tournaments, judging is conferral, meaning the judges will discuss the round and reach a consistent decision. Less experienced judges should not automatically defer to more experienced judges when opinions diverge. Apply the judging criteria given to you and back up your opinions with the judging rubric and evidence from the debate. After deliberation, scores should roughly mirror one another with some variation
Follow the criteria established in the rubric.
While some elements of debate are subjective, objective measures allow judges to reach similar decisions about a round. In order to be considered a good debater, a student must demonstrate their ability in argumentation, refutation, style, and other skills. Each of these skills are broken down into levels in the rubric that make it easier for judges to determine how well a debater meets the criteria for a skill. Pay attention to the judges briefing and read over the rubric carefully to ensure you are as informed as possible.
Sometimes a member of tabs room need to clarify scores given by judges. This means that your score might have fallen out of the typical range and they just want to hear your justification for the score. If your assessment was fair and aligns with the rubric, there will not be any issue.
Your decision matters to debaters
Debating requires a lot of time and training for every student, so it really matters to students that rounds are judged fairly. Debaters want to feel as though the most qualified teams are winning and they are being given legitimate critique. Win/loss records are important to debaters, but they care more about the quality of judging. This means you should be taking your position as a judge seriously. Hosts will do their best to have three judges in every room, to recruit good judges, and to provide a comprehensive briefing for judges. There is only so much we can do to make it fair. But we should do all that we can because competitive debaters take it very seriously.
Feedback is incredibly important
Your decision on the outcome of the round is important in terms of the greater result of the tournament, but the feedback you choose to give debaters will have a much greater impact on them. Whether written, oral, or both, comments demonstrate to students that you have legitimate reasons for your assessment, but it also gives debaters advice about how to improve.
Constructive criticism is one of the best ways for students to develop their skills. Debaters want real feedback-- trying to express how great you found the round is not helpful for them. You do not need to be an expert to provide legitimate feedback, just express your reactions in carefully worded comments. Try to find the balance between positive and negative feedback.
Oftentimes when giving feedback to debaters it is tempting to spend time talking about what you would have done (this is especially a problem for former debater). Before you give a piece of feedback, ask yourself if the comment will help your debaters in the next round. If it won’t, hold that comment unless your debater asks for feedback on specific argumentation in the round.
Feedback should always be phrased in a positive light, even if your feedback is designed to be constructive. Feedback that is descriptive expresses what is seen in the student’s work rather than pronouncing judgment. For example:
You speech was very persuasive; the loaded language that you used in the introduction really hooked the judges. Try adding more concrete examples to drive home your argument.
Your speech needed a lot of work, put more effort into the material next time.
Good feedback is important because it addresses learning and motivates your students. Feedback shows students the next steps they should take to be successful. It allows them to feel in control of their own learning and provides motivation.