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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. 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.

    Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework, based in cognitive neuroscience, that encourages the design of flexible learning environments to accommodate a variety of learning styles and differences. This post focuses on one of the three core principles in UDL: multiple means of representation.

    This means moving beyond textual representation by presenting information and conceptual knowledge to students in a variety of formats, e.g., images, video, and audio. Not only does research indicate that this practice can enhance student understanding and retention of course content, it can also be used to engage students and prime discussion. Students responding to an image, song or movie clip can spark reflection and debate. 

    Effective use of multimedia in your teaching is non-trivial. It takes time to find the right image or clip and prepare it so that is accessible and available to all students. Fortunately, UVM has some resources to help you every step of the way.

    Step 1: Finding Multimedia

    There are so many sources of multimedia, and so little time. To help you get started, CTL has collected a list of websites where you can find images and videos film strip of flower applicable to many disciplines. Check out this link for information about copyright, fair use, and using multimedia in your courses, as well.

    Additionally, Bailey/Howe Library has several new, searchable databases for streaming media that provides access to licensed documentaries with relevance across the curriculum.  Features for some of these databases include synchronized, searchable transcripts, editing capabilities to make video clips, and an embeddable video player that can be used in Blackboard courses. 

    Step 2: Making Multimedia Accessible

    Multimedia used in class or on the web needs to be ADA compliant. Video/audio content needs to be captioned. Captioning not only benefits the deaf or hard of hearing student, but can also benefit students for whom English is a second language, and individuals with learning disabilities (hearing and reading at the same time can improve comprehension). For information regarding captioning services on campus, please see the ACCESS offices captioning website.

    Images on the web also need to be accessible and take into consideration not only people with blindness, but also those low vision, color-blindness, or cognitive disabilities. For a comprehensive discussion on effective and appropriate use of images to facilitate comprehension, see Creating Accessible Images on the WebAIM website.

    Step 3: Making Multimedia Available on the Web

    If you want students to access your own audio/video content on the web, or if the content falls within Fair Use copyright guidelines, use the UVM Media Manager tool to upload the files to your UVM server space, also known as your “zoo space.” The Media Manager makes it simple to share your media by broadcasting it, linking to it, or embedding it on a webpage such as a Blackboard course page. See Media Manager directions here.

    Another way to add media to your Blackboard (Bb) course is to use the Bb “MashUp” tool. This tool allows you to search YouTube, Flickr, and SlideShare (a site for viewing and sharing PowerPoint-like presentations), select content, and then embed this content directly into your Bb course. While the media content resides on their respective websites, students view the media content without ever leaving the Bb course. View this tutorial on the Bb MashUp tool

    Interested in Learning More?

    For more information about the Filmmakers Library Online, attend the upcoming CTL Sound (Teaching) Bite on “Teaching with Streaming Media” facilitated by Daisy Benson of the B/H Library, on October 9, 12:00 – 1:00 pm. Visit this page for information and to register.

    For more information about the Media Manager, attend the upcoming CTL Sound (Teaching) Bite, “From DVD to Blackboard” on October 3, 12:00- 1:00 pm. Visit this page for information and to register.

    For my first post to the CTL blog, I wanted to share some resources with the larger UVM community as a follow-up to my Sound (Teaching) Bite this week that offered a few strategies and tools for educators to help students assess their own learning styles and abilities to read, comprehend, understand, and learn course materials.

    The focus on getting students in gear for learning is really about preparing students to become their own active learning agents—accountable for and engaged in the process of learning.

    As with creating courses, the course objectives are the first step. Before we go there, here are some guiding questions I shared to help with this discussion:

    1. How do you know if your students are understanding, comprehending, and learning their course reading material?
    2. How do you get your students to do the readings?
    3. How do you know your students are learning and absorbing content? 
      Guess what? They may not know either!
    4. How do I help students be accountable for their learning process? I propose that with consistent assessment and evaluation deeper learning can happen.

    So how do we do this? Remember, as mentioned above: 

    Evaluation needs to connect to learning objectives.

    As you start this process, ask yourself, why are you evaluating? 

    To make sure that students prepare for classroom discussion? (formative)

    To prepare students to succeed on class exams? (summative)

    Here are a few tools for evaluating student learning: 

    • Anonymous quizzes for “just in time teaching” (JiTT) – formative assessment
    • Readiness assessment tests (RATs) or online mid-semester and end-of-year survey (ungraded) – formative assessment
    • Pre- and Post- exams (graded) – formative and summative assessment
    • Using iClickers in the classroom – formative assessment

    Examples and resources for preparing students to succeed and help them get to know their learning process:

    Reader’s Guide
    Developed by Tiffany F. Culver, PhD this reading guide is a great tool that you can adapt and give to students as a helpful roadmap to help them figure out what they are reading. It is broken down into 3 parts: Planning (preparing students to focus), Reading (how to read – techniques to help with retention), and Evaluate (promoting critical thinking). This 1 page guide (2 sided) is helpful to all students and makes reading accessible and efficient. It also makes me wish I had something like this when I was in college! 

    Reading Strategies
    In this blog post, MindTools authors provide helpful tips and resources for pulling out the important information when reading (including info on mind-mapping for active reading). What I like about this post is that it breaks down the process of “Reading Efficiently by Reading Intelligently” and looks at how the technique for reading efficiently changes based on the type of material that is being studied and provides tips along the way.

    Using Reading Prompts to Encourage Critical Thinking
    In this article on Faculty Focus, Maryellen Weimer, PhD reviews highlights from Terry Tomasek’s book, The Teaching Professor and takes a look at  using reading prompts to help students read and write more critically. The prompts in the book are organized into six categories to assist students connect to and analyze what they are reading. Here are the categories: Identification of problem or issue, Making connections, Interpretation of evidence, Challenging assumptions, Making application and Mechanics.  

    Making the Review of Assigned Reading Meaningful
    In this article, Sarah K Clark, PHD gives us 4 strategies to promote meaning making when reviewing assigned readings both in the classroom and at home. I really appreciate her candid writing about the importance of engaging students, especially when it comes to assigned readings. Sarah shares techniques and ideas that have been helpful to her in her class: The Top Ten, Secondary Sources, Journaling, and Divide and Conquer (for larger size classes)

    Key Terms: Assessment
    In this blog post from the Bok Center at Harvard University, assessment is highlighted and examined in reference to student learning. This post offers some assessment-related tips to get you started in measuring student learning.
    Here is another from the Bok blog that speaks directly to the question “How Do We Measure [Student] Learning?”

    Authentic Learning
    Marilyn M. Lombardi talks about the important role of assessment in relation to successful teaching and learning in this EduCause Learning Initiative paper – Making the Grade: The Role of Assessment in Authentic Learning.
    Here is a clip from the abstract that captures the heart of this paper, “Educators who strive to bring authentic learning experiences to their students must devise appropriate and meaningful measures to assess student learning and mastery of concepts at hand.” 

    More information about Assessment—Formative and Summative by Richard Swearingen at Heritage University, take a look at

    *Don’t forget about the
    Writing Center at UVM, and the
    UVM Learning Co-op in L/L
    These are helpful resources on campus to share with your students to help enhance their writing skills and to get assistance with studying. 

    By providing students the tools and resources to guide their learning, they can begin to assess their own process, making themselves active agents in their own learning process. Which in-turn helps students by giving them a sense of what skills they may need support to strengthen in order to succeed. 

    Next Steps:

    If you would like to sit with a member of the CTL to talk about ways to use these tools to assess your students, request an appointment by emailing If you would like to contact me (Henrie Menzies) directly, send me a note at

    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:

    We’ve come to expect innovative ideas from CHNM and this week has been no exception. Funded by a grant from the NEH, the One Week/One Tool project’s intent was to bring together twelve practitioners in the digital humanities to decide on, and develop, a useful tool. The project was announced in June 2010 and the event was held in late July. True to the premise, Anthologize was delivered at the end of the One Week. There were several finalists that we hope will be developed in future.
    Anthologize is a plugin for the WordPress blog application. It allows one to collect their own blog posts, or import blog posts from others, combine them, and produce a text. Currently the text formats are ePub, PDF, TEI, and RTF. An active community has sprung up around the project, contributing bug reports and feature suggestions. Work will continue on what promises to be a simple but useful tool.
    There are several educational uses that immediately spring to mind:
    1) Bringing together class blogs from a course
    2) Collecting individual student’s blog posts as a ‘takeway’ for students
    3) As an assignment or class project, having students search and compile posts on a topic
    4) For organizations, an easy way to compile news and updates from the year as a document for use in applying for, or continuing, grant funding
    5) Using WordPress as a drafting space, then compiling the results as a TEI document for forther markup and processing (Your WordPress postings do not have to be publically posted: you can build Anthologize documents from drafts)
    6) Teaching students the importance of creating their materials digitally, especially using standards like TEI. Digital, done right, means multiple opportunities for repurposing.
    7) Pulling together blog postings for a quick ebook that can be downloaded to your ereader device for offline reading.
    8) Building course packs or readers of relevant articles
    9) Building a CV or portfolio of your own work, or teaching your students to do the same for their own eportfolios
    I’m sure we will all be thinking of more as the program develops. Meanwhile, here is a short video of Anthologize in action. It’s done without audio overlay as a way to show how easy it is to use, though I’ve also highlighted some of the current bugs that are already being addressed.
    Unnarrated Screencast of Anthologize
    If you are at UVM and would like to try it, contact me and I’d be happy to get you started (, Center for Teaching and Learning, UVM).

    Perspectives on intellectual property in higher ed vary widely and the one expressed by this speaker (15 min. video) favors the open education movement and places the idea of information as personal property to be protected in an historical context that’s both controversial and interesting. I’d be curious to hear thoughts and reactions to it from our community.

    The speaker is Dr. David Wiley, Associate Professor of Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University, at TEDxNYED, a March 2010 conference on new media and education held in New York City.

    Because of some recent trouble with spam filtering, we’ve had to turn the comments feature off, but please feel free to email me ( and I’ll post your reply.

    The Center for Cultural Pluralism will celebrate its 10 year anniversary on January 29, 2009. The Center has announced their spring programming, which includes guest speakers Dr. Lee Kneflekamp speaking on “MicroAgressions in the Classroom” (Jan. 30) and Dr. Scott Page, “The Science of Complex Systems and Systems Scholarship” (Feb 2009). For a full list of films, workshops and events visit their web site.

    The Office of the President and the Office of the Associate Provost for Multicultural Affairs and Academic Initiatives are hosting a multi-day celebration honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Most notably, human rights advocate and community activist Martin Luther King III will speak on Thursday, Jan. 22 at 4 p.m. in Patrick Gymnasium. For details about all events, please visit the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Academic Initiatives web site.

    This fellowship program is designed as a seminar to help faculty develop a strong background in service-learning pedagogy. By developing a service-learning course, participants will strengthen service-learning knowledge and skills. Fellows will meet every other week during the Spring 2009 semester for 2 hours and commit to offering a service-learning course within a year of completing the program.

    To learn more about the program, visit the CUPS web site

    Applications for the Fellowship program are due November 7,2008.

    oxford_union.jpgThe Economist (Economist.Com) is sponsoring a series of debates on the future of education. Each debate topic considers the educational impacts of technology, globalization, and changing nature of social relationships. The third (and final) debate, which runs from from January 15th through January 25th, focuses on “social networking,” specifically on the proposition :

    Proposition: Social networking technologies will bring large [positive] changes to educational methods, in and out of the classroom. .

    The debate is based on an online variant of the Oxford Debate rules – each speaker has three chances to advance his view – an opening statement, a rebuttal, and a final summary. Observers (who must register) may participate, mainly though a discussion with the moderator who will raise relevant points to the debaters. In addition, Observers may also vote for the side of the proposition they most agree with.

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