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The Great Schism Debate
Submitted by Melissa Pineiro, North Brunswick Township High School

Core Questions Addressed:

  1. What is the changing nature of religion?
  2. How has religion changed throughout history?
  3. How has the role of religion changed through history?

Time Frame: 2 - 4 days (dependent upon amount of research time given)

Suggest Grade Level: High School

New Jersey Core Content Standards: 6.2, 6.4, 6.5

Instructional Objectives:

  1. Students will be able to identify the time period in the Roman Catholic Church known as the Great Schism or Western Schism.
  2. Students will be able to use research to form an opinion and debate that opinion.

Resource Materials:

  1. Great Schism Power Point Presentation
  2. Media Center of Library

Strategies and Procedures:

  1. Provide students with background of the Great Schism by using the Great Schism Power Point Presentation.
  2. Break class into three groups.
  3. Explain that each group represents one of the three popes:
    • The Roman Pope
    • The Avignon Pope
    • The Pope elected by the Council of Pisa
  4. Explain to students that they are to research the Great Schism and compile reasons that the Pope that they represent is the true and all powering Pope of the Catholic Church. They will also need to research reasons why the other two elected Popes should not have authority over the Roman Catholic Church.
  5. Clarify any student questions.
  6. Allow research time in the library or Media Center.
  7. Allow some in class time for group members to share their research and prepare for debate.
  8. Allow 1 class period for The Great Schism Debate.


  1. Evaluate each debate group for:
    • Research
    • Persuasiveness
  2. After debate, have students write a position paper as to who was the Great Schism Pope who really deserved to hold the position. Have students state their reasons why he should have been Pope, and why his competitors were undeserving.

To learn more about the influence of Religion and Spirituality on our global society, click on the links below:
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