Talent. Instruction. Determination. Success. NSD Does It Best.
Three Week Curriculum
NSD’s main session will remain our flagship institute: our premier camp focused on national circuit debate where the country’s best circuit debaters gather each summer to master their craft. The flagship institute now features a three-week curriculum. It is undeniable that national circuit LD has become a dramatically more complex activity over the last few seasons. The activity now demands that students wishing to compete at a high level master an unprecedented range of substantive content, debate strategies, and technical skills. For the past several years, we have seen a consistent increase in requests from students at every experience level for coverage in the curriculum of a wider variety of debate issues and skills at an increasing level of depth. Enabling our students to attain mastery in this new debate environment requires a more robust, longer running curriculum.
While we feel the need to expand our core curriculum, we do not want this to trade off with either the opportunities for students to work with faculty one-on-one, or the opportunities for students to focus on their areas of interest in additional, specialized lectures and workshops (both of which are opportunities that we know students—rightly—value highly). Our new three-week structure allows us to expand the core curriculum while also adding in more time for students at every level to work with faculty one-on-one and in small group workshops.
A three-week institute also makes room for a rigorous camp curriculum with wider and deeper coverage of the issues most important for today’s debate students, but it also gives students something they badly need at debate camp: time. With more time in our schedule, students have the chance to digest what they are learning, as well as to bond with their peers and make the connections with each other that are such a valuable, enriching, and competitively critical for students at camp. This means a three-week camp can simultaneously be more rigorous and more fun.
Accordingly, unlike old models of camp instruction which featured two-week curricula with optional third weeks, our flagship institute features a unified three-week curriculum designed to be experienced in its entirety. We recognize that the price for an added third week will be a concern for some students, and we have attempted as much as possible to keep the added cost of the third week low.
While our typical student at the flagship institute this summer will attend for three weeks, we recognize that—especially in this transitional year—some students may find it difficult to attend a three-week program. So, we will offer a very limited number of spots for students who wish to attend the flagship institute for two weeks (at an adjusted two-week price). Please note that, logistically speaking, capping the number of two-week attendees is required, so if you think this option is important for you, then we strongly advise that you submit your registration for camp immediately.
Students are grouped into labs based on experience level, and these groups form the heart of the NSD experience. All NSD labs maintain a 1:4 instructors to student ratio, and this calculation does not include additional administrative staff. NSD treats all students as equally important by assuring individualized attention to each and appointing veteran national circuit instructors to work in every lab.
Another unique feature of the NSD flagship is our move away from a traditional system of lab and modular lectures to a system of labs and “rotations”. Students will still do the bulk of their learning in traditional labs, but will receive outside instruction in rotations. Rotations consist of three 2-hour blocks of time (one a day for three days) during which labs receive instruction on some topic by two instructors who are not their lab leaders. Rotations will happen in lab groups, but from outside instructors who specialize in the content area. We believe rotations capture the benefits of the old lectures (introducing students to new staff, and allowing the staff to speak on their strongest topics) but retain the unique benefits of lab (hands on instruction, small size, and the ability to effectively and immediately reinforce topics with drills and homework).
While we believe that teaching in lab is the most effective way to teach, we acknowledge that there is value in being able to teach more specific topics for shorter periods of time, which led to the creation of Elective Seminars. These are one-off, two hour seminars (constituted of a mixture of lecture, discussion, and drills), taught by single instructors to lab-sized groups but not in actual labs, since students choose which seminars to attend. Staff propose the topics they would like to teach in elective seminars and so all seminars are taught by staff who are passionate about the subject they are teaching.
All students attending NSD will have at least 10 practice debates observed by instructors, who will provide feedback on what students should do to improve. Some of these rounds will occur in the annual NSD Camp Tournament, which provides a competitive opportunity for students to showcase the skills they have learned over camp.
Fourth Week Curriculum
All too often, students leave camp having done some extra practice, but without much concrete to show for it. Extra practice is a valuable aspect of camp, but it becomes significantly more valuable when it is coupled with a curriculum that guides students to produce preparatory materials that they will actually want to use during the season. This is the guiding thought that informs our curriculum for the fourth week.
In our fourth week, each student will be able to choose two “special topics” preparation labs that fit their needs. This will allow students to identify areas of debate where they would most like assistance improving their preparation before the start of the season. For example, a student might choose to focus on preparing for Kantian framework debates. In this case, the student can expect that in their preparation lab they will write and solidify their understanding of a few different types of Kantian framework, write detailed answers to common Kantian framework justifications, write detailed responses to these common answers, and so on.
In each of their preparation labs, students will be able to work intensively with expert faculty in order to produce preparation that they will use during the season. Preparation labs will be small groups led by faculty members that specialize in the given topic area, and they will meet at length each day so that students have ample help gaining mastery in their chosen topic areas.
Each student will leave the week not only having gained in-depth knowledge of their topics, but also having prepared files that they have perfected with guidance and feedback from faculty on each of the two areas of debate of their choosing. This intensive period of focus means students will get the chance to gain a competitive edge that would normally take months of coaching to achieve.
In addition to their preparation labs, students in the fourth week will be sorted into drill groups that focus on their technical skills. These drill groups, in conjunction with practice rounds, will help students improve their technical skills and solidify their understanding of how to execute the preparation they are working on in their “special topics” labs.