ODYSSEY, Oxford Debates for Youth in Science Education

This initiative aims at introducing debating into STEM subjects, thus building students' capacity to discuss, speak publicly, use correct arguments and respect various points of view, while at the same time fostering not only debating skills, but also understanding of science, natural phenomena and human development.

Education systems in most European countries face the same challenge: to raise the level of achievements in the field of basic skills, including reasoning in STEM. In addition, students' rhetorical skills – argumentation, oral presentation – are insufficient, which leads to inaccurate use of language and susceptibility to 'fake news'. Rhetoric education supports critical thinking and the ability to use various sources of knowledge, with an emphasis on verifying their credibility, and civic education, and contributes to creating an ambiance of tolerance and democratic values.

The main goal of the ODYSSEY project is to increase reasoning skills in STEM by participating in Oxford debates among 40% of students (13-19 years) taking part in the project from at least 32 schools: in Poland, Estonia, Serbia and Greece, during the project duration.

Additional goals of the project are:

  • to increase the interest in STEM and encourage students to undertake a scientific career in this area among 40% of students participating in the project during the test phase of the project
  • Development of communication skills in mother tongue, argumentation and public speeches among 40% of students participating in the project during the test phase of the project
  • Development of the ability to use Oxford debates in school practice among 75% of teachers taking part in dissemination events

Moreover, the project will develop students’ abilities to successfully convince, argue, reason and speak correctly, it will improve their ability to compose texts and use rhetorical apparatus in oral statements, speak in accordance with the rules of debate, and interpret texts.

The target groups of this project are:

  • within the testing phase: students (13-19 years old) and STEM teachers from at least 32 schools, at least 8 from Poland, Estonia, Serbia and Greece, including at least students and 32 teachers
  • at the dissemination stage: around 300 STEM educators and teachers and their students (about 7,500 people) aged 13-19, from at least Poland, Estonia, Serbia and Greece.

The project consists of 5 phases:

  • Preparatory phase - development of a desk research report, preparation of project implementation methodology for institutions / scientists, national project implementation framework, guide on the rules of Oxford debates, educational packages for use in STEM school practice (5 packages in Polish, Estonian and Serbian, Greek, 19 packages in English), elaboration of competition regulations for school debates;
  • Recruitment of at least 32 schools from 4 countries;
  • Testing phase will begin with a workshop for teachers, during which the rules for conducting the debates will be presented and the proposed topics will be discussed. Next, the teachers will prepare their students for the competition using the prepared materials for the debates. Each school will use "expert mentoring" - meetings with scientists. At the end of the test phase, in each partner country, there will be a competition in which two winning teams will be selected.
  • Dissemination phase, during which national conferences and workshops for teachers in partner countries are planned. The conferences will make it possible to present the experiences gathered by schools, present materials, and discuss the role of debate in STEM education. During the conference, the final debate of the winners will take place. During the workshops, the teachers will play "mini-debates" and get acquainted with the materials prepared within the project.
  • Wrap-up phase includes the preparation of reports on the implemented activities, as well as practical possibilities of using the materials and the proposed method in school practice, including in other European countries.

It is assumed that participation in the project will positively affect both students and teachers, as well as institutions participating. Among pupils there will be an increase in interest in natural sciences and in reasoning in STEM. Students will be more eager to look for information about natural phenomena. The increase in rhetorical skills will be extremely important –freedom of oral expression, selection of arguments, principles of debate, culture of discussion.

STEM teachers, thanks to ready-made tools to work with students, will begin to use the Oxford debate in school practice, also within science clubs, extra-curricular activities etc. Scientific institutions will become more open to presenting the results of their research to a wider audience, including recipients who do not yet use professional scientific vocabulary. Representatives of the institutions involved in the implementation of the project will enrich their tools base and develop skills in using modern information technologies in scientific and didactic work.

Basic information

Country: Estonia, Greece, Poland, Serbia

Coordinator: Institute of Geopshycis, Polish Academy of Sciences, http://igf.edu.pl

Programme: Erasmus+

Project Acronym:

Target groups: primary school students, secondary school students, teachers, trainee teachers

Topic: Education

Start year: 2018

End year: 2021

Url: https://odyssey.igf.edu.pl/

Contact person: Agata Goździk, gozdzik (at) igf.edu.pl

ODYSSEY is not a research project, although it offers an interesting insight into use of debates in school practice, mainly due to ongoing evaluation process. Also, the project has developed new debating formats adapted to junior secondary/secondary schools, based on elements of OXFORD and PUBLIC debate.

Main reports from researchers' point of view are:

  • School debates – desk research.
    The report includes an analysis of debate initiatives within the four project countries (Poland, Greece, Estonia, Serbia). The aim of the report is to explore the conditions for the reliable and efficient use of debates in education, especially in science education.
  • Methodology of project implementation
  • Good practice report
  • Evaluation, recommendations and follow up

The activities include:

  • workshops for teachers
  • mentoring for schools (with webinars for students)
  • competition for schools with debate festival and conference

The following materials have been prepared:

  • National frameworks for implementation of Oxford debates in STEM in school practice
  • Methodological Guide for Teachers, introducing ODYSSEY debate format, judging rules, preparation tips, etc.

SOMR available to any teacher, Ministry of Education, STEM expert during the current COVID-19 lock-down period:

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