In a learning environment where university students study EFL in large classes with relatively few opportunities for communication, and where students’ learning history tends to emphasize memorization and direct recall of knowledge, classroom debates can provide a vehicle for improving students’ listening and speaking skills, developing important aspects of their pragmatic competence and enhancing their critical thinking skills. Though rewarding, the use of classroom debates can be challenging to both teachers and students. Choosing a suitable format for the debate, familiarizing students with this format, guaranteeing students’ interest in and knowledge about the topic of debate, getting all the students involved in the debate and managing classroom during the debate are only some of the concerns for which a teacher needs to plan. This article offers suggestions for handling all the concerns related to the use of classroom debates. Aiming to optimize the use of debates, the article concludes with presenting a number of proposed techniques for their use in the classroom. Through these techniques, teaching functional language and critical thinking are interwoven to develop students’ both pragmatic competence and critical thinking skills simultaneously.
Classroom debates, critical thinking, life skills, pragmatic competence, developing fluency