Victory Briefs Institute 2019 Internship Program
This summer we are offering a select group of campers the opportunity to be a part of our new internship program in addition to the traditional VBI experience.
The goal of the internship program is to teach VBI students how to teach so they can serve as effective instructors of debate in their own schools and communities. We believe this goal services VBI’s broader mission to support team building throughout the year.
VBI interns will still primarily attend lab, modules, and mentor hours as traditional VBI students, but will spend a portion of their day shadowing instructors in novice labs as well, helping to plan and execute drills, lessons, and practice rounds. On top of improving as debate leaders and mentors, students who join the internship program will refine their own debate ability and gain essential professional skills. We have outlined three major reasons for piloting this program this summer.
Reason #1: The program improves all students’ learning outcomes.
Education is strengthened when students help other students learn. This has been documented extensively esp. regarding effective curriculum creation. Fiorella and Mayer (2013) found that student comprehension increases when students prepare to teach and actually execute the lesson plans they created. More specifically, teaching leads to delayed outcomes, meaning “actually teaching results in a more persistent understanding of the material beyond that which is acquired while preparing to teach”. Given that for most debaters, camp ends a month or two before the season starts, this is a phenomenal method for retention of skills that will last all year.
Additionally, mixed-level learning where more advanced children teach lower experienced peers promotes a positive learning environment. Cohen et al. (1982) did a meta study on the effects of tutoring on learning outcomes. They not only found that tutored students “outperformed their peers on examinations and they expressed more positive attitudes toward the subjects in which they were tutored” but the students who did the tutoring also had similar outcomes.
While there is no similar debate specific study we have seen many students say messages to the effect of: “oh, I see what my judge meant when they said this” after judging JV or novice practice debates. We believe that when students adopt the role of the teacher they are able to observe when they have made the same mistakes as the younger students in front of them. Many alums tell us that they wish they had the opportunity to judge earlier – as it would have made them better competitors.
Additionally, novices who have access to already successful older students can find role models who can potentially reinvigorate their love of the material and keep them excited. Anyone who teaches novices knows how important—and difficult—it is to keep their attention. Using older students can provide the relatable component we all need to better educate new debaters.
Reason #2: Debaters should not have to choose between debate camp and an internship
This program eliminates the false choice of choosing between camp and internships as a senior. With the college application season coming up when the school year starts, students often ask themselves “what else do I have to show other than debate”? We need to start thinking about tailoring opportunities for debaters that allow for them to show off more than rankings, bid counts, and championships. Providing internships allows for students to develop professional skills that will help them standout in the college admissions process and beyond. Participation in the internship will provide evidence of maturity and engagement outside of the classroom-both traits which colleges seek in applicants.
We expect that, compared to just doing camp or an internship alone, the VBI internship program will be a more attractive opportunity for strong students with an interest in teaching debate. But the program isn’t just a way of bringing successful students to our camp. We do value and are proud of our history of attracting top senior debaters to our institute, but this is not the primary motivation for creating the internship program. Our aim is provide upcoming seniors a learning experience that will serve them in the short and long term, far after their graduation from high school and the end of their debate careers. Our hope is to help create future coaches, mentors and contributors to the debate and college communities.
Reason #3: We need to improve the quality and training of first year outs
LD and PF are fairly young activities. Unlike policy—which has the benefit of college debaters who stay in the activity—many coaches and judges in the activity are new to teaching. It is not an exaggeration to say that these events rely on first year outs in order to succeed. However, first year outs are seldom good educators when they first graduate; they are still kids teaching kids.
Although many first year outs are very good instructors, we have sometimes observed a lack of professional conduct, curricular planning knowledge, and patience needed to teach students of all levels. In some cases first year outs are former “top tier” competitors who only want to teach top lab or are unable to adapt to meet the needs of JV and novice debaters want to learn debate. In some cases successful debaters spend lab time sharing war stories of tournament success which do not help younger debaters grow.
Despite these shortcomings, these debaters still represent a strong opportunity for the community. They are—quite literally—debate’s future. Internships give hands-on experience to these students and reinforce best practices for how to educate debaters. Winning titles is not sufficient to be a good coach, judge, or educator. Instead, understanding pedagogy, learning to set professional teaching boundaries, understanding how to work alongside people who do not agree with you, and proactivity in planning are all skills our program will teach interns.
The internship program serves as a complement to, not a substitute for, the quality instruction received by all students at VBI. We offer our interns a discounted rate to attend camp which is a better offer than traditional internships which force children and young adults to work for free. Our internships also promote inclusion: seniors who may not have been able to afford camp before---can enjoy the opportunity to participate in camp without having to get a side job. Many debaters who are low income have been barred from attending camps that do not offer them large enough scholarships. While we cannot pay these students money to teach, we do ensure that their work helps minimize their financial burden. In addition, if an intern is a student who is already low income, they can attend our institute for free!
Future Discussion and Application Details
While there certainly are more reasons why this program is a good thing, these three reasons are arguably the most impactful. As we test out this program for the first time, we hope to remain committed to the principles outlined in this article and are open to community discussion.
Interested students are encouraged to apply below by May 17th. We will prioritize applicants who demonstrate a commitment to teaching debate and ideally spreading the knowledge, skills, and connections they gain at VBI to their communities back home.
We hope to accept 2 PF interns and 1 LD intern at the Philadelphia Session, 2 PF interns and 2 LD interns at the Main Session (LA I), and 2 PF interns and 2 LD interns at the Topic Prep Session (LA II). PF students interested in internships may apply as a partnership if they choose.
Cohen, P. A., Kulik, J. A., & C., C.-L. (1982). Educational Outcomes of Tutoring: A Meta-analysis of Findings. American Educational Research Journal, 19(2), 237–248. https://doi.org/10.3102/00028312019002237
Fiorella, L., & Mayer, R. E. (2013). The relative benefits of learning by teaching and teaching expectancy. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 38(4), 281-288. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0361476X13000209