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What is JiTT?

Just in Time Teaching, or JiTT, is a model first proposed by Novak, Patterson, Gavrin and Christian (1999) that combines web-based resources that help students prepare outside of class with active learning techniques in the classroom. JiTT has recently drawn attention as a part of a “flipped classroom” strategy, in which students do much of the work of absorbing new information outside of the classroom so thatflower buds faculty can focus their time in the classroom on those content areas and concepts that students need more help understanding. Flipped classroom strategies also use principles of active learning, asking students to apply knowledge or work problems during class time with the professor and with other students.

JiTT Exercises: Student Prep Helps Faculty Prep Too

JiTT exercises are one way to help students prepare appropriately for these in-class activities. Most JiTT exercises are short, web-based assignments students turn in before class that require them to complete the assigned reading or other coursework. While preparing for class, the instructor quickly reviews the student responses to the JiTT exercise and tailors the class to correct misconceptions, practice applying concepts or explore in areas where student work fell short. At least part of class time is spent reviewing a sampling of student JiTT exercises and/or going over pre-class quiz results. When student responses are on target, in-class exercises can offer students opportunities to further demonstrate and deepen their understanding through exercises that link course materials to real world applications or to other material within the course.

Is JiTT really new?

JiTT has been around since the late 1990’s, and a number of studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach. My reaction, on first hearing about JiTT, is that the idea itself is quite a bit older than the web-based medium on which it relies. Faculty in many disciplines have used techniques ranging from reading questions to reaction papers or submission of discussion questions to accomplish the same outcomes: encourage and support students’ preparation for in-class activities, and provide information about their level of preparation and understanding to the instructor prior to the start of class. While JiTT may not be, in fact, “something completely different,” what is different is that JiTT initiatives, particularly in the STEM disciplines, have focused on larger, content-heavy introductory courses which have traditionally emphasized lecture as the main in-class activity. In addition, the submission of the JiTT exercises through a Learning Management System like Blackboard allows students more flexibility in when they prepare and turn in the JiTT exercises, and faculty more flexibility in how they organize and view the responses. For example, faculty at UVM can use the Test, Assignment or even the Survey tool to collect JiTT responses before class.

What do JiTT exercises look like?

JiTT exercises vary depending on the course level, structure, and staffing. Some JiTT techniques require students to produce lengthy responses on which they receive feedback before or after class. These are appropriate for small to medium-sized classes or classes where the instructor has grading assistance. Other techniques require little or no grading on the part of the instructor, such as automatically graded tests, or a brief sentence or two submitted by each student indicating which parts of the material they would like to review further.

This Carleton College website offers a comprehensive explanation of JiTT methods and has a library of exercises developed for the geosciences.

www.jitt.org is run by Gavrin and Novak, two of the original authors of the JiTT model. It has more information on JiTT as well as guidelines for crafting JiTT exercises.

 

JiTT across Disciplines

While JiTT is widely associated with STEM disciplines, some recent studies have highlighted its value for social science and humanities courses. For example, Pace and Middendorf (2010) discuss the use of JiTT techniques to develop critical thinking and writing skills in an introductory history course. They found that JiTT exercises promoted a feedback loop that improved student writing for the course, and also felt that it improved the quality of class discussion, as students had an opportunity to develop arguments and opinions in the JiTT exercise, and came to class prepared to debate and discuss the points raised in their classmates’ assignments.

Simkins and Maier (2004) tested a JiTT model in an introductory Economics course. While their results show some difference in exam performance between JiTT and non-JiTT courses, they, like many faculty who have tested JiTT techniques, emphasize that students in JiTT courses came to class better prepared and took on more responsibility for their own learning. These factors, as well as the value to faculty of having a better sense of students’ understanding of the material and tailoring their teaching accordingly, are difficult to measure. Ideally, they contribute to long term retention of and engagement with course ideas and materials, and in the near term, can also increase faculty satisfaction with their teaching experience.

JiTT: Key Lessons

For some of you, the strict definition of JiTT sets parameters that are too constraining. Perhaps you do not want to use web-based exercises, or you would like to incorporate the exercises into the face to face class time. Maybe you have considered using a student response system like iClickers in your classroom and expect to use responses to iClicker questions to guide how much time you spend reviewing different parts of the material. These activities may not fit exactly with the JiTT models that have been so rigorously tested, but they do retain the “spirit” of JiTT, which is designed to:

  1. motivate students to prepare material before class so that they can benefit more from active learning techniques
  2. gather information on their understanding of the material
  3. utilize that information to improve student understanding, and where possible, apply that knowledge during face to face class time

If these goals coincide with where you would like to head with your teaching, JiTT exercises may give you a jumping off point for redesigning your course to focus less on lecture, and more on active learning experiences for students.

Want to know more?

CTL is offering a three-part workshop on October 16th from 2:30-5:15. You can sign up for one, two or three of the parts.

Here’s the link to all three events

All of the events are in 303 Bailey-Howe, starting at 2:30:

    1. A workshop with Laura Bermingham, a Plant Biology faculty member at UVM, highlighting flipped classroom techniques she uses, including Just in Time Teaching and the Peer Instruction model (2:30-3:30)
    2. A 1/2 hour video featuring Eric Mazur, a Harvard physicist who is a leader in the flipped classroom movement (3:35-4:15)
    3. A one-hour workshop with CTL’s Hope Greenberg on using different technologies to enhance flipped classroom design or to just bring in some techniques without flipping your classroom completely. (4:20-5:15)

    Faculty are welcome to sign up for one, two or all three of these workshops to find out more about what “flipped classroom” “peer instruction” and “just in time teaching” can do for them. These workshops will be of particular interest to faculty teaching large classes or introductory classes that they would like to redesign to have less lecture, and more active learning by students.

    Sources cited:

    Pace, D. and Middendorf, J. (2010) “Using Just in Time Teaching in History.” In Simkins and Maier, eds Just in Time Teaching: Across the Disciplines, and Across the Academy. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. Pp. 153-162

    Novak, G., Patterson, E., Gavrin, A., & Christian,W. (1999). Just-in-time teaching: Blending active learning with web technology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    Simkins, S. and Maier, M. (2004) Using Just-in-Time Teaching Techniques in the Principles of Economics Course , Social Science Computer Review, 22 (4). Pp. 444-456.

    A recent New York Times article on effective study techniques also points the way toward good course design that supports learning and retention of material and concepts. For me, the real “takeaway lesson” of this article was that diversity of stimulus associated with learning is a key element in information retention. How many of us throw up our hands when we get students in advanced classes who have forgotten basic ideas from their intro sequence? Reading this article, it becomes even clearer that weaving key concepts throughout our courses, testing students’ knowledge of the same concepts frequently, and linking concepts to each other are all important aspects of increasing learning and retention of those concepts as students move through their coursework.

    Here’s the link:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/07/health/views/07mind.html