Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT) is an innovative approach to education that integrates real-life and virtual instruction to maximize the efficacy of both. This teaching method is created by a team led by university professor Gregor Novak. This model involves a two-step series of learning activities:
- Students complete a focused set of activities (e.g., reading from the textbook or using other resources etc.) online (through a course website, or through a learning management system) before coming to the class. These pre-instruction assignments called warmups. These activities often require complex answers even though they are open to interpretation. Then, students submit their assigned work to the instructor a few hours before class starts.
- The instructor collects students’ responses and identifies the areas of understanding and misunderstanding to adjust teaching activities in a meaningful way. This will let the instructor to focus class time on cooperative problem solving activities.
This method lets the instructor to maximize the efficiency of class-time to allow for more focused and more meaningful exploration of the teaching materials. According to Novak (2011), “successful implementation of the JiTT strategy depends critically on the teacher and students’ total buy-in. If students see the on-line assignments merely as an add-on to the course, to be completed perfunctorily in the shortest time possible and then discussed briefly at the beginning of class, before the “real” lecture, they will resent the extra work and will not get any additional benefit from JiTT. ”
The process begins, as always in education, by asking questions. These are posted online for students to consider well before any class meeting. The questions do not have predigested multiple-choice answers, or blanks to fill in. Rather, they require the student to be thoughtful and take action: consult a reference, perform an experiment, analyze a video or interact with an outside source. Thus, the JiTT approach begins on the students’ own terms, organically familiarizing them with the material at hand and putting them in the headspace for stimulating class participation. Teachers also have time to review the responses so that they can be categorized and addressed during the class session. Learning disparities can also be more quickly identified and targeted. By structuring their first interaction this way, students and their instructors can start out on the same page, which advances the learning process.
STEP 1: Considerations for JiTT Success
JiTT is applicable to every subject, but is not a “one size fits all” methodology. Specifics are paramount to using the approach effectively, as are setting goals for the coursework and tailoring it to the students themselves. As an instructor, you should reflect on questions of your own before implementing JiTT in the classroom. Factors to consider include:
- Class size
- Student level/aptitude: How advanced are the students expected to be with the subject?
- Spectrum of progress: How will you define success for the average student in your class?
- Dominant pedagogy: How can JiTT best complement the favored approach to teaching this course
- What share will JiTT represent of the grading process?
- How much time (in and outside of class) can be dedicated to discussions and exercises?
- How will you and your students make use of the results generated by JiTT?
The JiTT approach you develop in this step cannot be underestimated, as it will affect the subsequent stages of the entire process as outlined below.
STEP 2: Crafting the Right Questions
JiTT questions are designed to help learn more about the student, not determine what the student has learned about the subject. Therefore, they are very different from traditional assignments, tests, and quizzes. They should provide much more robust and detailed information illustrating how the student thinks and processes information. This allows the instructor to mold the curriculum in response, fostering better communication and a sharper evaluation of the pupil’s ongoing progress. Good JiTT questions are not conclusive, and do not point to predetermined responses. They are jumping off points that reveal multiple “landing areas.” To allow yourself sufficient opportunity to read the replies before class, student answers should be relevant to the subject and precise in their thinking, but not tethered. The opening questions must complement the determinations you made in Step 1, and give you the insight to encourage students to elaborate on their ideas in class.
STEP 3: Assessing the Responses
JiTT Steps 1 and 2 have direct bearing on the next phase, as the work you and your students put into the questions and responses will be of limited value if you lack the time to review them before class. So it is important to keep in mind that JiTT is an ongoing process that builds upon realistic benchmarks determined at the outset. You will base the course approach on this initial interaction with your students, so you’ll want to ensure the results are compatible with the time available to read their responses. In most cases, depending on sample size, they will fall into place along a spectrum that can be broken up into groups or “response clusters,” with more than one student comprising each category. Arranging them this way will be very helpful in crafting the exercises and activities that will enrich the course experience. It makes the work load more manageable and encourages a cooperative environment while at the same time promoting individual achievement.
STEP 4: Keeping JiTT Active
Step 4 can follow many avenues. The simplest use of the student results is to share a sample response from each “response cluster” to facilitate group discussion. This should of course be done without compromising anyone’s identity, as the sample response will ideally be dissected to reveal strengths and weaknesses, and further expound upon the subject matter. But to get the most out of JiTT, these results will be employed to address any disparities revealed in the spectrum of responses. This will take the form of generating high levels of engagement within the class, requiring students to learn from one another and figure out solutions within a group. JiTT activities will be cultivated both inside and outside of the classroom, which will keep students enthusiastic about the course and allow the instructor a sturdy framework to evaluate their progress.
Novak, G. M. (2011). Just‐in‐time teaching. New directions for teaching and learning, 2011(128), 63-73.
See also: Flipped Teaching