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How to Use 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) intentionally links students' responses to out-of-class web-based questions with 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
students working
exercises targeting learning gaps identified in the JiTT responses - "just in time" for class.

A Step-by-Step Approach to Implementing JiTT in your Course

Because of its flexibility, Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT) can be applied to a variety of assignments, courses, and disciplines, and can be easily combined with other pedagogies. JiTT is an excellent way to get students prepared for class, but it can also be used to uncover student misconceptions, provide examples for classroom activities, extend textbook/classroom learning, and develop disciplinary skills. Follow the steps below to get started using JiTT in your courses.

STEP 1: Getting Started with JiTT - Pre-planning is the Key to JiTT Success

Some questions that you should consider before actually implementing JiTT in your course:
  • In what course(s) do you want to use JiTT? What are the characteristics of those courses (large or small classes, introductory or higher-level, theoretical or applied, discussion or lecture-oriented)?
  • What do you want your students to be able to do and know at the end of your course? That is, what learning goals do you have for this course, and how will JiTT help you and your students more effectively achieve those goals?
  • How often will you use JiTT exercises? What percentage of the course grade will JiTT account for?
  • How will you use students' JiTT responses in class? What activities and teaching strategies will you use as a follow-up to students' JiTT responses?
  • How will you prepare students for completing JiTT exercises?
For classroom-based advice on the questions above...

STEP 2: Developing Effective JiTT Questions

The key to achieving success with JiTT is developing effective JiTT questions. Making decisions about JiTT questions is somewhat different than writing homework or exam questions because the intent is not to determine whether the students have mastered the subject. Rather, the purpose is to elicit a rich set of responses that illustrate students' thinking processes and inform follow-up in-class activities.

As a result, good JiTT questions are typically open-ended and leave room for multiple explanations and interpretations; often, they ask students to apply new concepts or ideas in ways that cannot simply be looked up in a textbook. From a pragmatic standpoint, JiTT questions should focus on key ideas to be discussed in the upcoming class and allow students to answer with relatively short responses so that you'll have time to read them prior to class.

Effective JiTT questions align with student learning goals for your course, facilitate higher-order thinking skills, and are grounded in learning sciences research.

For detailed guidance on developing effective JiTT questions, including examples...

STEP 3: Reviewing Student Responses

Timeline for Reviewing Student Responses

You will need time to read and process student responses to the Just-in-Time Teaching questions you've posed before the class period in which you will use their answers. How much time that takes will depend on the complexity of the questions, how many students are in the class, and how quickly you can process the information.

Using Student Responses to Inform In-Class Activities

The most immediate task is to use student responses to inform the activities you will include in your next class. You don't know how you're going to use students' JiTT responses until you read them. Typically there are patterns in the responses that allow you to cluster those responses in groups. These "response clusters" provide valuable insights that can be used to develop in-class activities that directly target learning gaps highlighted in the JiTT responses.

For additional information on reviewing students' JiTT responses...

STEP 4: Implementing In-Class Follow-up Activities

Implementing JiTT in the classroom can be as simple as showing a sample of students' responses (anonymously) at the front of the room and following up with classroom discussion asking students to point out incomplete or incorrect thought processes, expand on submitted responses, or extend the highlighted concept.

However, JiTT is particularly effective when student responses are used to develop interactive, cooperative-learning exercises that target learning gaps made visible in students' responses or extend the concepts included in the exercise. The student responses can be used directly to create small-group exercises ("Which one of these is right? Why?" or "Use the sample of responses shown here to develop a new, comprehensive response.") or used to inform both the form and practice of the activity.

Maintaining a close linkage between out-of-class responses and in-class activities provides motivation for students to complete JiTT exercises, supports ongoing formative assessment in the classroom, and promotes learning while concepts are fresh in students' minds.

For ideas on how to develop and implement JiTT-based in-class activities...

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