Saturday, June 16, 2012

Just In Time Teaching

Last post I explored the meaning of Blended Learning and decided that the definition needs to be fluid if we want to encourage instructors to move towards a blended approach - Another term I have been wanting to explore is "Just-in-Time Teaching" (JiTT).

The best definition I found for JiTT is from the Just-in-Time Teaching Digital Library at G. Novak defines JiTT as: 

a teaching and learning strategy based on the interaction between web-based study assignments and an active learner classroom. Students respond electronically to carefully constructed web-based assignments which are due shortly before class, and the instructor reads the student submissions "just-in-time" to adjust the classroom lesson to suit the students' needs. Thus, the heart of JiTT is the "feedback loop" formed by the students' outside-of-class preparation that fundamentally affects what happens during the subsequent in-class time together.

I really like the idea behind this definition, but I recognize the struggles with implementing it. As teachers we love to have a lesson plan in place often well in advance, but JiTT forces us to think on the fly and design instruction at the last minute. The last minute is key to this method being effective because as the teacher you want to know exactly where the students are at when they enter your classroom. Using the web to collect this information helps quickly collate the data from everyone rather than just from the few students who will speak up in class. I think this data would be best kept anonymous.

How do you motivate the students to complete the questions if the data is anonymous? Student motivation would be a major stumbling block to putting JiTT into practice. Unfortunately, many students want to only do work that is for credit. I think the way that we get around this issue, is by making sure that the activities we have the students complete are meaningful and important for their learning. There may not be a score or number attached to it, but if students can clearly see how important completing these web-based questions are in the actual lesson planning, then they will be more inclined to do it. Therefore, the ball is back in the instructor's court. If you are asking students to do these questions, then you need to actually use the data and not just present the same old lecture. 

Student response systems would be another example of an opportunity to use JiTT. Tools like SMART Response ( are becoming more and more popular these days, and we as educators need to meaningfully use the responses that these devices collect. This is hard to do! I have been having students answer multiple choice questions during my lessons through the use of response cards for the past few years, and it is great when you see that the entire class gets the question right, but what do you do when they all get it wrong? What about when only a handful of students get it right or wrong? This requires major flexibility as educators because you can never really predict the responses. You can't simply move on; it needs to shape your lesson going forward. You also need to ask questions that go deeper than just basic knowledge in order to find out if the students actually understand the content. These questions are hard to ask in a multiple choice format!

Here's a scary thought: When using JiTT, what do you do when the technology fails? As instructors we are depending on student responses to shape our lesson. What happens when the data doesn't show up?! Do we need a backup lesson in our pocket? Thanks to Faron Hrynewich for bringing this to my attention in his post

Thanks for reading! If you have ideas for different ways to implement JiTT or thoughts on this topic in general, please share them below.


  1. Interesting definition of JITT -- I wouldn't have been anywhere close to this if I were conjuring a definition from scratch. But the way it is defined here, I see it as the student activity (instead of student study) version of flipped teaching... Students work outside of class, and that determines what happens in class. I like the idea, but agree with you that there are some practical issues, not the least of which is asking teachers to walk into the classroom and fly without a net. Just like Nick Wallenda found out last night, there are a lot of winds and mist that can swirl around in a classroom and make the footing treacherous.

    But what a fun way to teach for those teachers who have the stomach for it. Some of the very best classroom experiences I have had in my life happened when my plans were blown away and I had to improvise on the spot. I remember one time getting laryngitis (literally could only squeak) shortly before a lecture, and had to figure out how to teach an entire class without saying a word. You know what? It was great (at least for me!).

    That's what I think is at the heart of the approach--Improvisation. Not technology. I'd suggest that if the technology fails, it means that you have to raise your game to a different level and improvise everything -- the setup in addition to the follow-up. Fun.

  2. I agree that this method is similar to Flipped Teaching in some ways and different in many ways as well. Students need to engage in answering questions before the lesson rather than just viewing something.

    This would be exhilarating for those that can handle it, but it would be so hard to walk into a classroom only finding out minutes before what your lesson will entail. Super effective for the students, but tough for the teacher to feel comfortable with. This is similar to using flipped teaching, where the instructor has to be much better at thinking on his or her feet.

    Technology has very little to do with JiTT other than being the means for collecting the data.

    Thanks for the comment!