How Debating Skills help your child to think clearly

Clarity of thought is a transferable skill of a lawyer, leading to a clear, persuasive argument. In our latest workshops in Bath, we debated the issue of whether computers can ‘think’. After children had chosen their standpoint and argued their points, we interrupted the debate and asked them to pause and define what they meant by the word ‘think’. In defining the word, they realised that some of them had assumed thinking meant ‘processing and organising information’, some had meant it as ‘creating new ideas’ and some as ‘feeling emotions’.

We replayed the debate and once the first speaker had clearly defined what they understood ‘thinking’ to encompass, the children were given the chance to move positions. Their arguments and counter-arguments were immediately clearer and more pertinent.

We pointed out how pausing to define wide or ambiguous terms can help in a number of situations:

  1. To avoid confusion and unnecessary disagreement in a debate, or in social situations
  2. In school interviews. In a recent workshop we looked at how some interview questions deliberately involve ‘blue sky thinking’, designed to see how you approach complicated problems. For example, if you said that you were interested in animals, a blue-sky question might be ‘Can animals think?’ We looked at how you might reframe such a question, pausing slightly in order to define it more sharply, before addressing it.
  3. In essay writing – often an essay will require a student to discuss a deliberately broad title, for example: ‘Is this a good law?’ A student would need to set out what they understand the word ‘good’ to mean in their introduction, citing appropriate sources for their definition. The vital skill of finding and using appropriate sources online is something we also cover in workshops.

The tutor for the workshops is a trained barrister with many years of experience as a University Principal Law Lecturer, interviewing, assessing and grading both University applicants and law graduates.

For upcoming workshops please email:

The JLC runs a series of Saturday workshops for 8-13 year olds, with fast-paced, fun activities which develop confidence and ability in a number of areas:

  • mental agility – being able to think on the spot
  • public speaking – how to persuade your audience
  • exam skills – developing clarity of thought when presenting arguments
  • interview skills – how to present