In 2018, every Round of the Schools Competition will have a Skills Focus Area, intended to afford debaters an opportunity to improve their skills in relation to a particular aspect of debating. The TDU will accompany each announcement of topics with a brief guide to the Round’s Skills Focus, and adjudicators will provide teams with feedback relating to that area after each debate (although it should be noted that the Skills Focus Area will not be granted extra weight in scoring).

Round 1 Skills Focus: Models

The Round 1 Skills Focus will be models.  In debates with topics beginning with the phrase “that we should…” (also known as policy debates), it is important that affirmative teams explain to the audience the way in which they would implement the policy proposed by the topic. This method of implementation is known as a model. Models should be presented by the first affirmative speaker, but every speaker should understand what their team’s model involves.

Negative teams may not propose a new model for the policy supported by the affirmative team, although they are permitted to argue that the affirmative’s model would not work in practice. Instead, negative teams should tell the audience the policy they would support as an alternative (sometimes known as a counter-model). Are they happy for the world to stay the way it is? Or is there a substantially different, better way to address the issues raised by the affirmative team? The negative team’s counter-model - even if it involves making no change to the status quo - should be presented by the first negative speaker, but again, every speaker should understand what their team’s model involves.

Models and counter-models don’t usually need to be very detailed, but they should give the audience all the basic information they will need to understand how a proposed policy would work in practice. As a rough guide, a speaker should not spend much longer than twenty seconds explaining their team’s model. Models do not replace one of a team's arguments, and should be presented before a speaker begins to present their arguments.

As an example, in a debate on the topic that we should colonise space, the affirmative team’s model should answer the following questions:

  • Who will coordinate the colonisation of space? The United Nations? Individual governments? Private companies?
  • Who will get to go to space? Can anyone apply? Or will people have to pay to go?
  • Where in space will we colonise?
  • How many people will colonise space? Will everyone eventually leave Earth?

The affirmative team’s model does not need to do the following things:

  • Provide an exact cost of space colonisation, or explain in detail the manner in which it will be funded
  • Explain the technology that will be used to colonise space
  • Provide an exact timeline for space colonisation
  • List every location in space that could be colonised

In developing a counter-model, the negative team should consider the following questions:

  • Is there a better way to spend the money that space colonisation would cost?
  • Should we continue with existing space exploration programs?
  • How else could we solve the problems space colonisation might aim to address?