MERLOT Mathematics Portal Visit Main MERLOT

Developing Effective Questions for JiTT Exercises

Initial Publication Date: January 7, 2011

The key to achieving success with JiTT is developing effective JiTT questions. 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 align with student learning goals for the course.

Some Practical Considerations

• Before you write your questions, ask yourself: "What do I want my students to know, understand, apply, analyze, synthesize, or evaluate prior to class?" In answering this question, it is useful to work backwards from the in-class activity you plan to use. In other words, what do your students need to have thought about or done in order to be fully prepared for that activity?
• JiTT questions should be relatively brief and take students only 15-30 minutes to answer.
• The more involved the problems, the fewer questions should be given to the students. Three to four questions is a typical number, and sometimes they include both multiple choice and short response questions.
• It is useful to include a question asking what was most important, interesting, or confusing about the reading. Responses to these questions help to target in-class teaching and can jump-start engaging classroom discussions.

Linking JiTT Questions to Course Learning Objectives

Starting with the question "At the end of this course, what do I want my students to know and be able to do?" focuses student and instructor attention on the most important concepts, ideas, and skills in the course, reinforcing course and program goals. For example, do you want to use JiTT exercises to:

• develop and extend students' critical and analytical thinking skills?
• improve students' quantitative reasoning skills?
• increase students' facility using multiple representations (verbal, graphical, quantitative, and/or analytical) of models?
• scaffold disciplinary thinking processes – e.g. the use of evidence in making causal claims?
• enhance students' problem-solving skills?

The course learning objectives you have for your course will determine what kinds of JiTT questions will be most effective in achieving those objectives.

Linking JiTT Questions to Bloom's Taxonomy

Bloom's (1956) taxonomy, represented here as a hierarchical model of cognitive thinking processes, provides another useful guide for developing effective JiTT questions. This taxonomy classifies learning goals according to their complexity. The higher-order thinking required for goals in the more complex levels presupposes mastery of goals at the simpler levels. Keep in mind the level of cognitive thinking you want your students to practice and achieve in your course when creating JiTT questions.

How can JiTT exercises be used to move students from one level of Bloom's taxonomy to higher levels?

Before you write your questions, ask yourself: "What do I want my students to know, understand, apply, analyze, synthesize, or evaluate prior to class?" You may very well want to work backwards from the in-class activity you plan to use. In other words, what do your students need to have thought about or done in order to be fully prepared for that activity?

• Knowledge and Comprehension
• Application and Analysis
• Synthesis and Evaluation

• Making use of Learning Sciences Research

Learning sciences research suggests the importance of helping students uncover (and confront) pre/misconceptions, develop expert-like thinking processes, transfer knowledge to new, unfamiliar situations, and build metacognitive skills. Intentionally linking JiTT questions to the principles summarized in How People Learn (2000) and Angelo and Cross (1993) increases the impact of JiTT pedagogy on student learning outcomes.

• Making visible student pre/misconceptions about important course concepts and topics
• Developing expert-like thinking processes
• Improving transfer of knowledge from one learning environment to another
• Promoting self-regulated, reflective learning
• Using Questions Developed by Others
ConcepTests are conceptual multiple-choice questions that are used for in-class formative assessment, often incorporating classroom response systems and used in conjunction with Peer Instruction (references). ConcepTests often make good questions for JiTT exercises.

 Main MERLOT Home | MERLOT Communities | About MERLOT | Contact MERLOT Copyright 1997-2006 MERLOT. All rights reserved.