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Just-in-Time Teaching

Just-in-Time Teaching is a strategy which combines the use of web-based materials with in-class activities in order to optimize student learning experience.

  • The primary idea is to ask students preparatory questions which are due soon before instruction in order to garner an understanding of their initial knowledge state and use this information to inform in-class lesson.
  • The typical format of the in-class lesson is similar to Peer Instruction in that it alternates short lecturing (and/or demos) with various interactive classroom activities (such as class discussions, worksheet exercises, hands-on mini labs etc.)
  • The classroom activities are typically tailored to address the common difficulties that are revealed by the preparatory questions students answered before class.
  • After class, students answer exercises called Puzzles which build on the material learned in class and extend students’ knowledge. 

The essential aspects of this strategy which help improve student learning are:

  • The preparatory questions are designed by taking into account common student difficulties
    • Discipline-based education research and, to some extent, teaching experience can be very helpful in informing the instructor what kinds of issues are common and must be addressed
    • Students have to read instructional materials (textbook, materials provided by the instructor) in order to answer the preparatory questions
    • The complete and correct answers to the preparatory questions are often complex
      • Students are encouraged to answer these questions to the best of their ability
      • The complete answers are developed in class
    • Partially correct answers to the preparatory questions are used to spark in-class discussions
      • The instructor brings to class examples of typical student answers to the preparatory questions
      • It is often the case (for well-chosen questions) that different students will correctly describe different aspects of a particular question, therefore, the complete picture can sometimes be assembled from student responses during class. If that is not the case, the instructor can prepare other questions which can guide students to develop the correct understanding
  • The preparatory questions target a variety of specific issues such as: developing the vocabulary, connecting different concepts, understanding the scope of applicability of equations, developing estimation skills etc.
    • The issues targeted are closely linked to the learning goals of the course
  • The in-class interactive activities (and mini lectures and demos) are designed to address the student difficulties uncovered by the preparatory questions by helping students develop their own understanding through careful coaching and feedback
  • Feedback from what occurs in the classroom is used to design the Puzzle questions and the preparatory questions for the next class
  • When employing this strategy, it can be very helpful to explicitly use student responses to the preparatory questions as this has the effect of giving students a feeling of ownership (i.e., the instruction is tailored to them) because the instructor discusses and addresses their ideas.
  • Furthermore, because the students already worked on the preparatory questions before class, they come to class willing to engage with one another in order to improve their understanding (see for example, D. L. Schwartz, “A Time For Telling”).
Also, the researchers who developed and assessed this method (in physics) wrote a book about it available on amazon:
The ELIXR project has developed several videos on the effective use of JiTT methods.
  • The JiTT method was originally developed for teaching physics, but has been adapted to many other areas.
  • The Science Education Research Center at Carleton College has assembled a list of resources for the JiTT method in various areas (Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Engineering, Geoscience, Physics, Psychology/Statistics).
    • It also contains information about how to combine JiTT with other pedagogies.
  • The Just-in-Time Teaching Digital Library contains materials from Biology, Chemistry, Geoscience, Mathematics and Physics.
Also, see: