Virginia Debate Academy’s teaching team is composed of 7x Virginia State Champions that are dedicated to creating similar success for their students. Our instructors have success on the local, state, and national circuit in their respective debating and coaching careers. Current and former VDA teachers hold degrees from or are studying fields pertinent to competitive debate at top Virginia colleges, such as the University of Virginia and William & Mary. Our unique curriculum was developed by coaches who have experience or are career professionals at elite consulting firms and public policy firms.
At VDA, we understand how impactful speech and debate can be in a student’s academic and professional life. Our curriculum is designed to equip students with core skills they can use in their personal and later professional lives, even if they do not pursue a competitive team at their respective institution. In addition to their debate careers, VDA’s curriculum developers have professional experience at elite consulting firms, policy research institutions based in Washington, D.C, and some hold or held selective research positions in the social sciences at their respective institutions.
During camp, students participate in lectures, workshops, Socratic seminars, games, mock debates, and other public speaking activities to learn and practice competitive debate. They research and present on different topics, including past and present resolutions debated on the competitive circuit. Our low teacher-student ratio provides students ample time and resources to learn and practice the material. Students receive individualized feedback from instructors on their work, in addition to their classmates' responses.
Middle School Course:
Middle school and introductory courses cover all of the fundamentals of competitive debate, including public speaking, topic analysis, argumentation, framework, research, critical thinking, and more. VDA students are introduced to basic research skills and source analysis. During our writing sessions, students have the opportunity to practice source integration, argumentative writing, in addition to practicing the many other areas covered in class.
Parliamentary and public forum formats are used for mock debates, the most common formats on the competitive circuit. VDA students work with high school topics, allowing them to explore important and challenging topics and issues. Through mock and impromptu debates, extemporaneous speaking activities, evidence and crossfire workshops, students will have the opportunity to research a variety of topics of their interest.
Since 2015, VDA has worked with a number of middle schools—including Rachel Carson Middle School and Nysmith School for the Gifted—in the northern Virginia area. VDA instructors have worked closely with coaches, parents, and students to improve local debate programs, including establishing a program at Franklin Middle School. In addition to students attending our summer and winter camps and receiving private coaching, we have conducted mock tournaments, team coaching, case review, and provided input on team selection. Our students have won the Middle School National Championship and gone on to captain their High School debate teams. VDA’s continued work in the region helps us prepare middle school students for their competitive team tryouts and circuit.
High School Course:
Our high school course covers all of the fundamentals of debate, including public speaking, effective question and note-taking, critical thinking, research, and more. Students will research interesting topic areas related to debate, develop position papers and speeches on challenging moral and policy questions, and complete multiple mock debates throughout the week. Throughout the week, students will be introduced to both traditional and progressive debate styles.
Students in our varsity courses will build on their knowledge in the aforementioned areas and experience on the competitive circuit to hone their skills. VDA’s advanced courses dive deeper into specific forms of argumentation, speaking and case-writing techniques, research, and critical thinking activities to help students succeed on the local, state, and national circuit. VDA uniquely provides students the opportunity to learn from teachers that have professional experience in public speaking, public policy, and international affairs.
VDA participants often have national circuit and debate camp experience. Our students speak about their experiences at other national camps and tournaments, enriching the learning environment.
VDA has conducted similar work with high schools in the state. Students from successful programs—Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Oakton High School, Chantilly High School, Broad Run High School, Walt Whitman High School, and more—regularly attend or receive private coaching at VDA. Like our instructors, these students bring a breadth of experience on the local, state, and national circuit that improves the learning environment for the class. VDA has also taught coaches in the northern Virginia region, and our instructors have run debate teams at local schools. Such experience gives VDA faculty special insight into the competitive circuit on the local, state, and national circuit.
VDA alumni have championed Varsity and Junior Varsity WACFL Metrofinals, the Virginia State Championship tournament, the Middle School National championship, and reached outrounds at top national invitational tournaments.