Increasing Student Comprehension and Engagement

Submitted by James Cerven on

In my Ethics course I assigned students a criminal justice current events assignment. This was a written report in which students were given the choice of choosing an incident of unethical conduct. I found that about half of the students did not have a clear comprehension of what was involved and why it was a problem. Many students were not able to answer basic questions. Three semesters ago I changed the assignment to include an oral presentation in class. I hoped to find that by adding the presentation students would obtain a better understanding of the event giving them the information to answer questions. I found that by adding the oral presentation an increase in student comprehension of the event was noticeable. Students conducted additional research in their chosen current event. They were asked and able to answer specific questions during their presentations. Not only did this increase student ownership of the assignment but it generated interesting questions. Students became increasingly engaged in class during the presentations. Based on these findings I have incorporated an oral presentation to go along with the written report in this assignment as well as others.

Completed Full Cycle
Course Number
AJS 123
Average: 4.7 (3 votes)


Teri Graham Tue, 04/25/2017 - 8:15am

Thank you for sharing your findings.  I think anything that can actively engage students will generate more involvement.  I have found that with team roles - especially the spokesperson role which is switched every class period to "share the responsibilites" and build team work.

Becky Baranowski Tue, 04/25/2017 - 11:03am

Thank you for sharing this.  I firmly believe that when we teach others, our understanding goes up.  This is why I am such a believer in cooperative learning.  I am willing to bet that the dialogue following the presentations amongst the students was robust.  Out of curiosity, did you use the communication rubric that we have?  

Patricia Cardenas-Adame Wed, 05/03/2017 - 12:24pm

Very nice way to expand learning and engagement.  I, like Becky, am wondering if you have used the communication rubric?

Catherine Cochran Wed, 05/03/2017 - 1:48pm

Excellent teaching practice Jim!  It sounds like your students became more passionate about the events they presented on too.  I always share with my students: if you understand the material, you can teach it to someone else.  Great work!

Peter Turner Mon, 05/08/2017 - 2:07pm

Good stuff, Jim. I too teach ethics in one of my EDU courses and they struggle with understanding the correct ethical behavior. I did design a an "Teacher's Ethical Decision Making" guideline they had to complete and that did help. But your idea of making a presentation takes it to the next level! Well done.

Olga Tsoudis Mon, 08/28/2017 - 5:57am

Jim, Thank you for sharing your work in the classroom. This is an excellent method for students to share with each other and learn from each other. Learning the communication skills also helps with their future careers and opportunities. 

Thank you!


Rosalind Gaddy Sat, 10/07/2017 - 11:16am

Hello Jim,

I so enjoyed this assessment, the fact that you were willing to admit and acknowledge that your students didn't quite grasp the magnitude of comprehending ethics and the challenges in assessing ethical behaviror.  I know that being in the criminal justice field is constantly dealing with ethics from those who break the law, and to those serve as first responders to those who have to interpret and apply the law. Ethics always a challenging, evolving and intriguing subject-Great Job!