Impact Weighing Showdown


“Impact Weighing Showdown” is a structured debate activity designed to sharpen students’ skills in weighing the impacts of various arguments against each other. By focusing on key criteria such as magnitude, probability, scope, and timeframe, students will learn to evaluate and compare the potential outcomes of different arguments, a critical skill in advanced debate. This activity not only helps students develop a critical skill in debate but also fosters deeper engagement with the material, encouraging them to think beyond the surface of their arguments and consider the broader implications of their stances.


This activity is suitable for intermediate to advanced high school debate students who already have a basic understanding of constructing arguments and are ready to delve into more sophisticated aspects of debate, such as impact analysis and comparison.

Learning Outcomes

  • Advanced Argumentation Skills: Develop the ability to not just present arguments, but to effectively weigh impacts against each other.
  • Critical Analysis: Enhance skills in critically assessing the potential outcomes of arguments based on standardized criteria.
  • Strategic Thinking: Improve strategic thinking in debate by learning to prioritize arguments based on their weighed impacts.


  1. Introduction to Impact Weighing: Begin with a discussion on what impact weighing is and why it is crucial in debates. Explain the four key types of impact weighing: magnitude, probability, scope, and timeframe. See the section below for definitions. Explain that weighing is often the difference between a win and a loss because it’s a way to effectively explain why an argument matters.
  2. Preparation: Divide the class into small groups. Assign each group a topic with two opposing sides. Each side should have distinct potential impacts that can be weighed.
  3. Research and Argument Development: Allow time for each group to research their assigned topic and develop arguments, focusing on the potential impacts of their stance.
  4. Impact Weighing Analysis: Instruct each group to explicitly weigh the impacts of their arguments against the opposing side, using the criteria of magnitude, probability, scope, and timeframe.
  5. Debate and Presentation: Each group presents their arguments and their impact analysis. Encourage them to clearly articulate why their impacts are more significant based on the weighing criteria.
  6. Feedback and Discussion: After each presentation, conduct a feedback session where other students and the instructor can critique the impact weighing and offer suggestions.

Definitions for Weighing Criteria

  • Magnitude: Refers to the size or extent of an impact. Debaters should assess how significant or severe the impact is.
  • Probability: Pertains to the likelihood of an impact occurring. An argument with a highly probable impact may be more persuasive than one with a less likely impact.
  • Scope: Involves considering how many people or what area is affected by the impact. A wider scope can often mean a more significant impact.
  • Timeframe: This involves considering how quickly an impact will come to fruition and can also consider precedence, whether one impact will happen before another. A shorter timeframe can often mean an impact that should be considered first.

Possible Topics

Here’s a list of accessible and engaging topics suitable for the activity that won’t require extensive research:
  1. Implementing a Four-Day School Week vs. Traditional Five-Day Week
    • Impacts to consider: Academic performance, student and teacher well-being, impact on family schedules.

  2. Banning Single-Use Plastics vs. Continuing Current Practices
    • Impacts to consider: Environmental health, convenience for consumers, economic implications for businesses.

  3. Mandatory School Uniforms vs. Free Dress
    • Impacts to consider: Expression of individuality, economic burden on families, impact on school culture and discipline.

  4. Switching to Renewable Energy Sources vs. Sticking with Fossil Fuels
    • Impacts to consider: Environmental consequences, long-term economic effects, immediate infrastructure changes.

  5. Implementing a Higher Minimum Wage vs. Keeping It Unchanged
    • Impacts to consider: Effects on small businesses, purchasing power of low-income workers, potential impacts on unemployment rates.

  6. Nationwide Curfew for Teenagers vs. No Curfew
    • Impacts to consider: Safety and well-being of teenagers, impact on teen independence and social skills, effects on local businesses.

  7. Online Learning vs. In-Person Classes
    • Impacts to consider: Accessibility and inclusivity, quality of education, social development of students.

  8. Year-Round Schooling vs. Traditional School Calendar
    • Impacts to consider: Retention of educational material, impact on family vacations and student jobs, teacher workload.

  9. Public Transportation Expansion vs. Investment in Road Infrastructure
    • Impacts to consider: Environmental effects, convenience for commuters, long-term urban planning benefits.

  10. Government Surveillance for Security vs. Privacy Rights
    • Impacts to consider: National security, individual privacy rights, potential for government overreach.

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