What is Just-in-Time Teaching?

This material was originally created for Starting Point:Introductory Geology
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.

hands on keyboard

Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT) promotes active student engagement and increased learning by intentionally linking out-of-class and in-class activities. To begin, students answer a small set of web-based questions on upcoming course material outside of class and submit their responses online a few hours before class begins. Once submitted, the instructor reviews the students' JiTT responses and develops in-class active-learning exercises targeting
students working
learning gaps identified in the JiTT responses - "just in time" for class.

The JiTT Process - Connecting Out-of-Class and In-Class Learning

JiTT Two-Step Process
Implementing JiTT in your course is essentially a two-part process:
  1. Developing and distributing a set of web-based questions (JiTT exercises) for students to answer online prior to the next class, and
  2. Using students' JiTT responses to create meaningful in-class learning activities requiring students to address misconceptions, faulty or incomplete reasoning, and knowledge gaps highlighted in their responses.
Despite the simplicity of its structure, when carried out intentionally with specific learning goals in mind, JiTT provides valuable feedback on student learning processes that helps to make in-class teaching more efficient and effective.

Many Names – Similar Idea: JiTT exercises are referred to in various ways, depending on the discipline or instructor. The original JiTT developers referred to JiTT exercises as "WarmUps," but discipline-specific and institution-specific names are also used, including: GeoBytes, DinoBytes, TARs (Thinking About the Readings), and Pre-flights.

Using JiTT Exercises to Promote Pre-class Preparation

JiTT questions require students to "do something" to get them prepared for the next class – read a textbook or article, complete a simulation or experiment, watch a video, etc. – and often involve problem-solving, critical thinking, and analytical reasoning skills that encourage higher-order thinking skills. The questions refer to material or concepts that have not yet been covered in the course, requiring students to process information or apply concepts in ways that cannot simply be looked up in a textbook.

A Key to JiTT Success: A key to being successful with JiTT is developing effective JiTT exercises – small clusters of questions – that address key course learning outcomes, typical student misconceptions, conceptual bottlenecks, discipline-based critical/analytical thinking skills, or metacognitive skills. Thoughtful and intentional design of JiTT exercises greatly enhances the learning potential of this pedagogical practice.

In practice, JiTT exercises can be a combination of multiple choice and short answer/essay questions, but are most effective when they require students to reveal their understanding of the assigned material. To accomplish this, it is best if at least some of the questions are open-ended. A key benefit of JiTT is helping to make student thinking visible, something that is more difficult to do with multiple-choice questions.

After posting on a course management system such as Blackboard, Moodle, or Sakai, students are required to submit their responses to JiTT questions online by a specified deadline, usually just a few hours prior to the class. However, the deadline could be as much as one day before class if this is necessitated by instructor or student schedules.

Learn more about developing effective questions for JiTT exercises...

Using JiTT Responses to Inform In-class Activities

After the JiTT submission deadline, the instructor reads through student responses to the JiTT questions, looking for patterns:

  • What do the students understand?
  • What are they struggling with?
  • Are there misconceptions that need to be addressed?

A Window into Student Thinking: Carefully designed JiTT questions generate responses that provide a window into student thinking processes. Instructors can use this information, which remains hidden with traditional teaching practices, to develop activities that intentionally address student learning difficulties in the upcoming class, while the concepts are fresh in students' minds.

After grouping the responses into common themes, the instructor typically selects a few representative answers to be shown (anonymously) in the classroom (via a digital projector, e.g.) at the start of class. These responses can be used to frame an interactive (whole class or small group) discussion or (preferably) used to develop cooperative learning exercises addressing specific learning gaps observed in students' JiTT responses. Having students work on these activities in cooperative learning groups provides additional feedback and formative assessment on their learning.

Summary: Students' out-of-class JiTT responses are used to directly inform the in-class learning environment, providing a positive feedback loop that motivates further student learning.

Learn more about using students' JiTT responses to develop effective classroom activities ...

JiTT Extensions for Additional Out-of-Class Learning

While typically used to get students prepared for an upcoming class, JiTT-like exercises can also be used to assess students' knowledge of a topic after covering it in class or to encourage motivated students to dig deeper into course topics. See Extending JiTT for more information on these complementary uses of JiTT.

Additional Resource

This brief Tomorrow's Professor article ( This site may be offline. ) describes how JiTT transforms the teaching and learning process. As noted by the author, "In this pedagogy, student questions, student understanding (and misunderstanding), and student learning become the focus of instruction, and dialogue replaces lecture."