Competition, Community, and Educational Growth

Contemporary Perspectives on Competitive Speech and Debate

by Kristopher Copeland (Volume editor) Garret L. Castleberry (Volume editor)
©2018 Textbook XXII, 274 Pages


Competition, Community, and Educational Growth: Contemporary Perspectives on Competitive Speech and Debate is an up-to-date text providing informed academic thought concerning the impact of forensics. Its primary focus is to demonstrate how the forensic activity allows students to actively engage and learn outside the classroom. Specifically, Competition, Community, and Educational Growth focuses on how students educationally grow through the activity. The book frames methods and pedagogy as best practices to provide educational growth for students and explicitly connect learning outcomes for students. Coming from the perspective of higher educational instructors, the book provides insight beyond the high school experience. Competition, Community, and Educational Growth examines contemporary perspectives on competitive speech and debate theory, experience, and methods of instruction.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Competition, Community, and Educational Growth: Contemporary Perspectives on Competitive Speech and Debate
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Unit 1: Forensic Auto/Ethnography
  • Chapter 1: Forensics’ Impact on Lived Experience of Millennials: A Phenomenological Inquiry (Ameena Amdahl-Mason / Priya Kapoor)
  • Chapter 2: Narrative Ethnographies of Cultural Change and Coaching Challenges in High-Turnover Programs (Garret L. Castleberry / Stephanie Schartel Dunn)
  • Chapter 3: The Road to Critical Consciousness Is Paved with Smelly Socks: Travel Time as a Site of Torpification in Forensics (Steven K. Farias / C. Kyle Rudick / Josh Hamzehee)
  • Chapter 4: Interrogating Traditionally White Curriculum and White Savior Coaches in Debate (Luis M. Andrade / Jon Bruschke)
  • Unit 2: Forensic Methods
  • Chapter 5: Comprehensive Forensic Programs: A Holistic Approach (Amorette Hinderaker)
  • Chapter 6: Using Mentorship to Develop a Positive Debate Team Culture (Daniel E. Schabot)
  • Chapter 7: The Travel Agent, the Accountant, and the Paper Pusher: What Is a Speech Coach? (Connie McKee / Heather Goheen)
  • Chapter 8: Passing the Torch: Coaching Future Coaches in the Contemporary World of Forensics (Laura Jacobi)
  • Chapter 9: Exploring Virtue Ethics Through Contemporary Speech Activities (Kevin Minch)
  • Unit 3: Pedagogy
  • Chapter 10: Embracing the Dichotomy: Balancing Competitive and Educational Goals Within Forensic Program Management (Scott Jensen)
  • Chapter 11: Competition and Community-Building in Forensics (Kendrea James)
  • Chapter 12: The Value of Dissenting Opinion in Collegiate Individual Events Pedagogy (Ben Walker)
  • Chapter 13: The Global Warming Impact: How Forensic Pedagogy Can Reinforce “Just Sustainability” (Caitlyn Burford)
  • Unit 4: Forensic Praxis
  • Chapter 14: Forensics as an Application of Small Group Interaction (Kristopher Copeland)
  • Chapter 15: Forensics as Practice (Stephen Llano)
  • Chapter 16: Spreading the Forensic Gospel to Create Community: Targeting Traditional and Non-traditional Populations for Involvement in Forensics (Aaron Duncan / Abbie M. Syrek)
  • Unit 5: Forensics and Identity
  • Chapter 17: Meeting Students Where They Are: Using Social Justice as a Call for Participation (Ruth J. Beerman / Shavonne R. Shorter)
  • Chapter 18: Substantive Discourse and Pedagogy: Fostering Conversations About Race/Ethnicity, Sex/Gender, and Social Class Within Forensics (Tomeka Robinson / Sean Allen)
  • Chapter 19: Forensics as Culture: Navigation and Assimilation (Chad Kuyper)
  • Chapter 20: Soul Sharing: Forensics as a Cultivator of Empathy and Worldview Development (Anthony Woodall / Shawna Blake)
  • Unit 6: Forensic Administration
  • Chapter 21: Preserving Freedom of Speech and Forensics: Alternative Formats in Performance Communication (Jeffery Gentry)
  • Chapter 22: Enhancing Institutional Awareness: The Value of a Strategic Communication Plan for Program Growth and Development (Christopher J. Fenner)
  • Chapter 23: Telling the Story of Team: Forensic Program Management That Builds Enduring Identity and Community (Scott Jensen / Gina Jensen)
  • About the Editors
  • About the Contributors

← x | xi →



Kristopher Copeland. This book started as a discussion panel at the Central States Communication Association’s annual conference in 2016. My colleague, Sydney Yueh, sat in the audience and encouraged the panel to expand our discussion into a scholarly book related to multiple perspectives of forensics. I am forever grateful for opportunities to join scholars and discuss topics for future publications. I wish to thank my colleagues at Northeastern State University for the time to work on this project along with many supportive suggestions. Many thanks to Dana Eversole and Sydney Yueh for your support.

I was also blessed to find a partner in Garret Castleberry in the early phases of the project. Without Garret’s help, this book would have a very different outcome. Many thanks for his patience and willingness to gently guide the process to elicit a strong scholarly output. I look forward to many more partnerships in the future.

Finally, the book would not be possible without the love and support of my family. Many thanks to my wife, Ranee, who supported me through the project by allowing me the opportunity to carve out weekly time to put into the project. For that, I am extremely grateful.

Garret Castleberry. Thank you to Kristopher Copeland for bringing me on board early in this book process. We have developed a healthy collaborative partnership that accentuates each other’s strengths while (mostly) covering up each other’s weaknesses. Your organizational acumen holds no peers, and you did the dirty work ← xi | xii → of fielding all emails while I got to play “bad cop” in the editorial shadows. Bless you for that.

The administrative staff at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City University remain some of my favorite people to work with. Thank you Kristi Wright and Tory Doherty for receiving and processing the bounty of expense paperwork with grace. Thank you Eric Kramer for entrusting me with academic freedom but reminding me to stay focused on the bigger picture.

I must give thanks to the ongoing support from my family. I could not complete a fraction of my responsibilities without the grace and compromise offered by my wife Binet’. Thank you for your continuous love offerings of time that allow me to plot away at research endeavors. I am also grateful for a family that always supported my speech team activities, attending Reader’s Theatres while I was an undergraduate as well as and those valuable public showcase performances that we advocate for in this book. A final thanks to the many readers, volunteers, and writing centers that helped with the miscellaneous review processes in the late stages of our warm production experiences with Peter Lang.

← xii | xiii →



Allow us to begin this conversation with a bit of word association. Specifically, imagine the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word, “forensics.” The first concept most people associate whenever we have mentioned a job as “Director of Forensics” is a life devoted to scientific police work that solves crimes and makes the world safer. Almost. Everyone. This includes family that knows we hold a “Communication” degree (whatever that is) three times over. Solving. Crimes. And thus we arrive at the heart of our assigned case: to solve the crime of ignorance, of mistaken identity, toward an often relinquished field of argumentative practice and performative praxis, competitive speech and debate (aka, forensics). Indeed, for most unknowing parties it is easier to conceptualize actor David Caruso raising his sunglasses, after a bad pun on a hot Miami day, just as the scene breaks into the The Who screaming, “Yeeeaaaoooow!” than it is to picture a working profession where travelers roam the Interstate roads and highways to backwaters schools on weekends in an effort to display works-in-action of a liberal arts education.1 There is a crime committed, and our community does work in the shadows to bring justice in the most democratic of ways imaginable. Our mission with this book is to help fight this injustice in the best way we know possible, through voicing a collection of diverse and informed experiences, stories, philosophies, research, conformed to a style that we present as contemporary perspectives on competitive speech and debate. ← xiii | xiv →

Although the forensic experience can be found in high school and collegiate programs across the United States, many of our colleagues have shared with us the challenges of receiving little to no budget increases while tournament travel and expenses continue to rise. As a result, forensic educators have to justify the program to administrators, fellow faculty members, and outside stakeholders. It would seem that with funding cuts consistently looming over education, the educational experience for competitors is threatened and harmed. We see forensics as more than just a co-curricular activity; instead, students participate in a laboratory experience where they are exposed to and experiment with various ideas, concepts, and literature.2 Furthermore, a high-impact practice is an activity that allows students to engage in the learning process outside of the classroom walls through collaboration and feedback.3 Forensics has been described as a high-impact experience where students actively engage and learn the process of public speaking, argument development, refutation, and interpretation skills outside traditional classroom settings. Forensics, as a high-impact experience, provides many benefits to students, including educational growth, career-building skills, time management, and cultural enhancement.4

Those directing forensic programs are immersed with a variety of demands, which typically includes a formal teaching load aside from forensic coaching and team management. Additionally, directors of forensics are tasked with developing team culture, planning tournament arrangements, balancing competitive events with motivated students, and balancing budgets. With these various demands, it can be tempting to merely assess and describe a forensic program by displaying competition awards and trophies rather than meaningfully assessing the educational outcomes, vision-casting, long-term mentorship, and individual growth for forensic students.

Forensics provides a vast learning experience for students and coaches, equipping them with essential training in team competition while developing individual growth. Most forensic publications about competitive speech and debate focus on “how to compete” in the activity or provide directors/coaches with “helpful tips” on how to prepare students for tournament engagement. On one hand, these books present straightforward content useful to readers with broad sets of information applicable to novice and inexperienced audiences. On the other hand, traditional speech and debate publications often forego capturing rich details and dialectically diverse perspectives of the speech and debate experience. We argue such experiential ingredients represent an essential element of team competition, individual growth, and the synergistic co-creation of community. In this spirit we identify potential research and pedagogical gaps in which our collective work seeks to respond through a scholarly synthesis triangulating these measures.

We contend that qualitative data sets and critical pedagogy represent two key areas underutilized in forensic research despite their function as essential ← xiv | xv → training tools for contemporary high school and undergraduate college students, coaches, and organizations. This gap in advancing theoretical and methodological use becomes important when updating contemporary perspectives on theory and method within competitive forensics. The purpose of this book is to examine contemporary forensics, in a collective effort to progress a unique and creative update on forensic scholarship. This purpose is accomplished with personalized essays from scholars that derive from a variety of forensic programs and experiences. Our goal is to offer a well-rounded approach with broad application. Not every perspective aligns uniformly just as we experience comparable and contrasting coaching and judging paradigms in local, regional, and national competition. We recognize and welcome oppositional thinking to our own paradigmatic preferences and encourage readers of all backgrounds to entertain ideas as part of a larger, necessary conversation in the forensic field and beyond. We hope these dialectic and often firsthand scholarly insights stimulate readers, add dimensions to our scholarly conversations, and motivates present/future uses and users.

As a corollary, this book focuses on competition as a means of building community and providing educational growth for those involved. Therefore, this book works as a bridge for those within high school and collegiate forensics as well as a platform to remind the larger communication studies discipline of the values and educational opportunities forensics provides. To that end, we primarily focus on reflections of the activity, methods of coaching and teaching students, forensic pedagogy, the deep application and connection to the communication studies discipline, the role identity plays in the ongoing progression of our discipline, and administrative wisdom needed to combat ever-increasing complications and challenges within higher education. Our main focus is to unify contemporary perspectives by connecting academic thought and experience concerning the impact of forensics on six key areas: forensic auto/ethnography, forensic methods of practice, the pedagogical praxis employed by the coaching community, connections to the communication studies discipline, forensics and identity, and forensic administration. These six areas describe how forensics leads to educational growth for participants, building community between students and programs, and the role competition plays in and around these processes. The through line between these six tiers of inquiry embraces divergent perspectives in the democratic belief that inclusivity, even amidst points of disagreement, promotes community that may culminate in positive affect and improvement within the forensic body and the world we help shape. Thus, works might be read as actively reflexive and open to encouragement for present and future dialogues about the nature and practice of competitive forensics.

In the first unit, forensic auto/ethnography, authors describe how forensic educators engage in reflexive teaching practices and how forensics provides a discussion on issues related to social justice. Unit one starts with a stirring chapter ← xv | xvi → by Ameena Amdahl-Mason and Priya Kapoor that takes a phenomenological approach to examine the lived experiences of high school policy debate students in an effort to explain the educational benefits of competing. The results from such lived experience points to educational growth in areas including political awareness, communication skills, and the ability to perform research. The authors provide a localized case study that also makes a broader argument about domestic needs across the U.S. This unit continues with chapter two, which explores the hardships of high-turnover culture within a large-university setting. Co-authors Garret Castleberry and Stephanie Schartel Dunn orchestrate a narrative ethnography that draws from interviews highlighting the constraints facing numerous coaching changes that overlap varying student experiences. This chapter places the motives of administrative departments into the crosshairs by surveying the types of culture(s) created by turnover frequency. In chapter three, Steven Farias, C. Kyle Rudick, and Josh Hamzehee illustrate the necessity of team van rides as a means of consciousness raising. As a result, the authors describe how one forensic team sparked social justice advocacy through their experiential travels. Unit one concludes with an assessment from Luis M. Andrade and Jon Bruschke. Here the authors explore how coaches, as institutional agents of change, accomplish important community-building goals, such as cultivating social capital and helping students find a sense of belonging on campus. The authors argue that coaches are instrumental in shaping the environment for students of color. They discuss the squad room as a place of belonging, and forensic curriculum as a way to decenter whiteness.

Unit two concentrates on forensic methods. Authors provide reflections on various techniques and philosophies used by coaches and students. The unit highlights how “success” can be defined in competing ways within forensics. An overarching theme emphasizes how healthy student-coach relationships are as valuable and necessary as competitive wins or losses. Chapter five advocates the necessity of developing a comprehensive program. Amorette Hinderaker contends that as more programs make the choice to specialize in either Individual Events or a format of debate, the vision and benefits of the comprehensive program can (but should not) be lost. Hinderaker provides practical suggestions for how team builders can cultivate and coach a comprehensive program. Daniel Schabot follows in chapter six by discussing the importance of creating a positive culture through coaching. Schabot highlights the need for mentorship through the coaching process, and discusses some of the barriers for a coach. Schabot ends the essay by discussing an applied method helpful to teach debate students. Connie McKee and Heather Goheen structure chapter seven as a series of regimented (and successfully practiced!) “to-do” lists based on the contemporary history of the West Texas A&M program. McKee and Goheen recall team history, the value of traditions, and even the development of a team handbook. Laura Jacobi provides a ← xvi | xvii → practical guide on how forensic coaches should be trained in chapter eight. Jacobi’s qualitative findings suggest the forensic coach should be adaptable, inclusive, and passionate about the activity. Jacobi provides suggestions on how to train aspiring coaches. The final chapter in unit two discusses virtue ethics in relation to competitive events. Kevin Minch argues that by applying Aristotle’s virtues and vices, students can deepen analysis in impromptu speaking and oral interpretation events. Additionally, applying virtue ethics allows students to continuously explore ideas and concepts in the forensic laboratory.

Unit three highlights the value and power in forensic pedagogy. As we explore the art of teaching contemporary speech and debate, this unit specifically examines how we build community within competition. Unit three provides rich descriptions of how pedagogy is central to the forensic activity. In chapter ten, Scott Jensen examines the delicate balance between competition and educational growth for those participating in forensics. Jensen focuses on the worldview of the forensic educator and their role in shaping the choices made by the team. Kendrea James then addresses the perception of community that students experience as a result of forensics in chapter eleven. James notes that students describe the forensic community as supplying support and building cohesion. She also discusses the use of advocacy and politeness within the community. Chapter twelve follows up with an examination of the role that judge’s play in the learning process of forensics. Ben Walker discusses the importance of embracing dissenting opinions with relation to ballots and the ballot review process undertaken in forensic pedagogy. He refers to the sharply different judging paradigms, insights, and open feedback that vary from niche of lay judge that is on occasion referred to with derogatory connotation as the “squirrel” judge. However, Walker points out the value of dissenting feedback as important to review in order to continuously grow in the activity. Walker encourages coaches to stretch their pedagogical coaching paradigms rather than dismiss or argue against feedback provided by the controversially termed squirrel judge. Unit three ends with a discussion on forensic pedagogy in relation to contemporary issues. Caitlyn Burford focuses on climate change in chapter thirteen, and specifically how forensics can become a space to discuss important issues related to public policy and other eco-social elements parallel to climate change, such as the silencing of marginalized populations. Burford argues that the type of evidence presented can downplay the importance of climate change when presenting environmental impacts.

An applied focus of forensics as praxis for the field of Communication Studies represents the focus for unit four. Chapters in this section examine forensics as a lived experience for theory taught in communication classrooms. Kristopher Copeland begins this unit by exploring the direct application of group communication in forensics. In his essay, participants discuss deep application of the group process obtained through forensic practice. Implications for forensic educators ← xvii | xviii → and students are discussed. Stephen Llano interrogates the duality of forensics by questioning whether competition has stifled the art of practice. For chapter fifteen, Llano presents Buddhist Ethics form as a conceptual lens to practice forensics, which commits students to an act of freedom and an act of doing rather than preparation for the future. Forensic practice, Llano argues, is stifled by the tournament competition. Instead, forensic practice should be focused on practice, which allows for rich connection with what a student is doing in the moment rather than the self-gratification of a trophy for placement. Chapter sixteen contrasts theological metaphors of praxis, as Aaron Duncan and Abbie M. Syrek explore the importance of spreading the “gospel of forensics” within the department, university, and general community. Suggestions include building community allies, offering public colloquium showcases to the department and university, and using technology as a means to promote forensics beyond the competitive community.

Unit five considers the roles identity plays in forensics. This unit focuses on issues of identity by examining the marginalization of individuals and how similar topics become manifested through topic selection, competition, and forensic pedagogy. Ruth J. Beerman and Shavonne R. Shorter begin chapter seventeen centering on a model of debate that increases the outreach of a program to underserved students. Beerman and Shorter present suggestions for building community so that anyone can debate, and select personalized topics focused on local, state, and regional causes that deeply connect to student experiences. Chapter eighteen focuses on the role forensic educators play in fostering discussions of identity without contributing to the suppression of voices. Utilizing the spiral-of-silence theory, Tomeka Robinson and Sean Allen identify how coaches must mediate tough discussions concerning issues like marginalization in efforts to promote increased acceptance and inclusion within the forensic community. Anthony Woodall and Shawna Blake isolate how empathy functions within competitive performance. Chapter nineteen highlights how empathy is often used as a tool of persuasion. The authors argue that rhetorical empathy as a performative tool impacts at social and individual levels. Chad Kuyper closes unit five with an assessment of forensic culture. In chapter twenty, he specifically notes how coaches should approach forensic pedagogy through a cultural lens, which should then equip novice students to general jargon, customs, and the unwritten rules of conduct in forensics.

The final unit of this book opens a scholarly conversation often vacant from discussion in journals and edited volumes, forensics and administration. Content areas for this unit encompass the importance of managing a successful team. Jeffrey Gentry begins this unit by targeting approaches to budgeting forensics during lean years that face reduced funding. Gentry identifies each obstacle and proposes a series of low-cost and no-cost alternative formats to ensure the continuation of amateur performance communication deep into the century. Christopher J. Fenner discusses the value of public relations for a forensic program in chapter twenty two. ← xviii | xix → Fenner explores how the field of public relations can provide meaningful context and strategies for enhancing program visibility and strategic audiences’ knowledge of the forensic community. Unit six ends with Scott Jensen and Gina Jensen, who discuss in chapter twenty three the delicate balance of managing a forensic organization. Jensen and Jensen focus on administrative impacts from the perspective of the coach and the strategic role of meaningful pedagogy.


1. See David Caruso’s scenery chewing, courtesy of Ann Donahue, Carol Mendelsohn, and Antyony E. Zuiker (Creators). CSI: Miami, Florida/California, USA: Alliance Atlantis Communications/CBS Productions/Jerry Bruckheimer Television, 2002–2012, and The Who (Musical Group). Won’t Get Fooled Again. Lyrics by Pete Townshend. London: Track Records, 1971.

2. Don R. Swanson, “Forensics as a Laboratory Experience in Communication Studies,” National Forensic Journal 10, no. 1 (1992): 50; Raymond Bud Zeuschner, “Forensics as a Laboratory Experience in Small Group Communication,” National Forensic Journal 10, no. 1 (1992): 58.

3. George D. Kuh, High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter (Washington DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2008).


XXII, 274
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (April)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XXII, 274, 2 tables

Biographical notes

Kristopher Copeland (Volume editor) Garret L. Castleberry (Volume editor)

Kristopher Copeland (Ph.D., University of Arkansas) is Executive Dean of Liberal Arts at North Lake College. His most recent publication explores the educational benefits of forensics, which is in the journal Speaker & Gavel. Garret L. Castleberry (Ph.D., University of Oklahoma) serves as Associate Professor and Program Director of Communication, Media, and Ethics for the College of Adult and Graduate Studies at Mid-America Christian University. His scholarly writings are featured across academic journals such as Cultural Studies - Critical Methodologies and the International Journal of Qualitative Research, as well as numerous edited anthologies and digital media publications.


Title: Competition, Community, and Educational Growth
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