By Victor Domen
Tabbing is easier than ever. Tabbycat has all sorts of build-in features that allow for efficient and fair judge allocations and breaks based on the imported data. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion we currently do not use Tabbycat to its full potential. In this short article I will make the case we should use standardised tests to assess judges and create a more fair and equal judge break.
The decision of which teams will break is pretty objective. They get scored based on their team results and only in case of a draw does speaker score come into play. That in turn is based on a standardised scale. There are still humans involved and making decisions, but a lot of subjectivity has been removed. Nobody really complains about this. We roughly know what a 75 is, what a 70 is and what an 80 is.
The odd thing is, that we do not use similar standardised scales when it comes to judging. Judge feedback forms are increasingly used in the Netherlands, but do not always use standardised scaling to assess the qualit
y of judging. Moreover, not all CA-teams use judge feedback consistently in determining the judge break. Or, at least, that process is currently not standardised and far from transparent. Therefore, it is pretty hard to call a judge break in any way objective and therefore subject to all sorts of biases. The implication is obvious, the best judges do not always break, whereas traditionally good, or liked, judges tend to do so more easily.
Considering that breaks should be based on merit, we should find a way to make judge breaks more objective. Just like with team breaks, judge breaks should be based on numbers.
In a nutshell: standardised testing combined with standardised feedback sc
ores. Before the tournament judges must make test. This test gives their initial score/rank in the tab. A standardised scale, much like with speake
r scores, will be the basis of this test. Judges with higher scores have greater priority to break and chair. If a judges has scored below a certain threshold do not have the ability to vote on a call. This is a process currently done ‘randomly’ be the CA team. That is to say they will give judges scores based on their previous experiences with these judges. Similar problems to those already outlined exist.
During the tournament, these initial scores can of course be altered. This happens with the standardised feedback forms, released by the Debatbond at the beginning of this academic year. Simply put, judges are ranked on a scale from 1-10 and thus receive an average judge score. At the end of the tournament the judges with the highest score break. Tabbycat has built in systems for this exact purpose. It can keep track of submitted and unsubmitted feedback and change a judge’s score based o
n the feedback received.
For this to work as much feedback needs to be submitted as possible. It will be up to the tournament staff to determine how this is encouraged/enforced. One possibility is to deny breaks to those who do not submit feedback. Another is to wait with proceeding to the next round until all feedback is submitted. Each has their own positives and negatives.
This system makes it clear which judges should chair and are more capable and takes performance during the tournament into account. An experienced judge who does well during the tournament will start as a chair and will remain as chair. Novice judges whose skills grow throughout the tournament can also be noticed and rewarded. This system quantifies judging skill in a similar vein as is done to debating skill making the entire process more objective. Of course this does not eliminate subjectivity, but does minimize it’s influence to a greater degree than the way one decides judge breaks.
It will take some time to develop the standardised scale that lies at the heart of this issue. I’ve heard that Maastricht Novice used a judge test. In my opinion the test used there should be the basis of the standardised scale, but your opinion may vary.
Tabbycat should be used in every tournament, because it speeds up the process, negates human error and is easy to use. With some more effort it can eliminate one of the biggest problems plaguing debating tournaments. More objectivity is always good and thus a standardised judge test should be developed and more importance should be given to judge scores when determining the break.
By Linsey Keur
Over the Christmas Holidays, the World Universities Debating Championships took place in Cape Town, South Africa. The results have already been posted on facebook and the tournament ended over a week ago, but nevertheless there are my experiences as a participant of WUDC.
This WUDC took, as said, place in Cape Town. This definitely had some benefits for the tournament, one of them being the relaxed venue and accommodation. All participants stayed at the campus of the Univerisity of Cape Town, which had a lot of green scenery to relax in, as well as an amazing view from the main debate venue over the city. With all the surrounding beauty, it almost was a shame to go inside and debate. The actual rounds of debating started on the 29th of December. People definitely were nervous before the first round was announced, but nevertheless all Dutch people were in for judging and participating in some good debates. The results of the inrounds were mixed, with teams sometimes doing better than expected and sometimes doing worse.
After 9 rounds of debating, all teams and judges definitely had some chances of break night, so on new years eve, we were in for a nervewrecking evening. Luckily there was free Yakka to help us get rid of the nerves, and the break was already announced around 23.00. Eventually, David and Marike broke open and Daan and Linsey broke as judges. A great result for the Dutch Delegation. After a day for recovery on New Years’ day, the outrounds started on January 2nd. David and Marike got through a Partial Double Octo, but unfortunately got kicked out in the Octo finales. Gigi and her partner Tommy from Oxford made it through the Octo’s but got kicked out in Quarters. This meant that there were no Dutch teams participating anymore when it came to the last day of the tournament.
Finals’ day took place in CTICC, a big conference centre in Cape Town. From the high way it already showed that WUDC would take place there and everyone was all dressed up and excited for the finals. Now up until the open final, the whole tournament ran smoothly in the eyes of many particpants, but right before the open final was about to start African participants entered the stage while singing and dancing. They declared that they were done with structural racism in debating and were not going to leave the room until they had gotten apologies from different teams within the organisation. In this article I do not want to go into the discussion these actions caused, or my opinion about this, but I will describe how the event ended because of this.
When the protest was going on, other participants were led into the dinner hall, where we got food as soon as it became clear that the finale was not going to start soon. In the meanwhile, the protesters were negotiating with the organisation about resolving the issue at hand. This took a couple of hours and a lot of stories and gossip surrounding the event spread. Eventually, the organising committee and tab team apologized to the protesters and the protest ended. During the protest however, the open final, judged by Daan (!), had already taken place.
Given the situation the organisation also felt it was not the best idea to hold a closing ceremony, which meant that everyone just went there own way. Most of the Dutch participants went into the city center to drink cocktails and recover from the evening. Eventually, after midnight, the results of all finals and speaker scores were posted on Facebook. We found out that Gigi had become best ESL-speaker in the world, an amazing achievement! And just as impressive was Marike becoming 7th best speaker in the ESL category. The results of the tournament therefore were great, but to me, the ending in this way felt quite surreal. Nevertheless, we can look back at a good tournament with great results and great achievements from all teams and judges.
De afgelopen dagen vond het WK Debatteren voor studenten plaats. Het WK debatteren is één van de grootste jaarlijkse studentenevenementen ter wereld, waaraan ruim 400 teams meedoen van universiteiten uit meer dan 90 landen. Dit jaar vond het WK plaats in Kaapstad, in Zuid-Afrika. Nederland was vertegenwoordigd door twee teams (Leiden: Marike Breed en David Metz; Amsterdam: Zeno Glastra van Loon en Lana Moss) en drie juryleden (Linsey Keur, Daan Welling en Fabienne Ellemeet). Daarnaast deed de Nederlandse Gigi Gil mee namens Oxford University.
De Nederlanders hebben het uitstekend gedaan. Leiden is als derde Nederlandse team ooit gebroken in de Open categorie en standde pas in de 1/8 finales. Daan en Linsey mochten beide verschillende finales jureren. Tot slot werd Gigi Gil uitgeroepen tot beste spreker met Engels als tweede taal! Een fantastische prestatie! De Debatbond is trots op de deelnemers, die het Nederlandse wedstrijddebat uitstekend hebben vertegenwoordigd.