Presentations in Professor Cowen’s Class: A Case Study in Providing Scaffolding


Professor Cowen teaches a capstone course in computing. Students are required to give oral presentations discussing their final designs. Professor Cowen is concerned that a student in her class, Amy, will have difficulty with delivering her presentation. Although Amy has not expressed concern about the presentation assignment, Professor Cowen is concerned because Amy is autistic and rarely joins classroom discussions.

Access Issue

Professor Cowen is looking for a way to support Amy so that she can successfully deliver a presentation on her final design.


So as not to single Amy out, Professor Cowen provided all students in the class with an outline that they could optionally use to organize their ten-minute presentations. The sample presentation suggested spending one minute giving an outline of their presentation, two minutes discussing the problem they were trying to solve, two minutes discussing potential designs they considered, four minutes discussing their final product, and leave one minute at the end for questions.

Amy gave her presentation successfully, following precisely the structure that Professor Cowen suggested. Many other students in the class also chose to use the suggested outline to organize their presentations, suggestion that the example benefited them as well.


This case study illustrates that providing scaffolding, as Professor Cowen did with these oral presentations, can help students with and without disabilities achieve success.

For more information about students with autism, consult the following: