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Just-in-Time Teaching

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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"Research and Creative Activity," a publication of the Office of Research

and the University Graduate School at Indiana University, devoted its

entire April 1999 issue to the scholarship of teaching. The posting below

is an excerpt from the article, "Just In Time Teaching," by William Rozycki

In it Rozycki describes the nearly four decades of innovative teaching by

physics professor, Gregory Novak. The excerpt below focuses on a process

Novak calls "just-in-time-teaching" or "JiTT", in which physics instruction

is carried out mainly through dialogue, both student-student, and

student-teacher. The approach has clear applications to teaching in many

other disciplines.

The full article can be found on the "Research and Creative Activity," web

site at:


Rick Reis

UP NEXT: The Appeal of Diversity

Tomorrow's Academy


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Reprinted with permission

"Research and Creative Activity,"

Volume XXII, Number 1, April 1999

Copyright 1999, The Trustees of Indiana University

by William Rozycki

excerpt taken from full article



The culmination of Novak's thirty years of experience and research is a

Web-based, classroom-linked strategy termed "JiTT" or Just-in-Time

Teaching. Novak developed JiTT jointly with Andrew Gavrin, assistant

professor of physics at IUPUI, and Evelyn Patterson, associate professor of

physics at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado. Now in use in

introductory physics classes at IUPUI, the Air Force Academy, and other

universities, JiTT promotes physics instruction as dialogue. "Much of the

dialogue, whether student-student or student teacher," Novak points out,

"can occur outside the classroom, thanks to the maturation of electronic

technologies." Interaction is not simply electronic, but also occurs in the

classroom with fellow students and with instructors. Student feedback shows

the approach meets its primary goal: engaging students by allowing them to

control the learning process.

"The core element of JiTT is the interactive lecture" Novak explains. At

IUPUI, students do World Wide Web-based preparatory assignments, termed

Warm Up Exercises, which are due by electronic transmission a short time

before class begins. Instructors in the interactive lecture then adjust and

organize lessons based on those student responses. "In that way," Novak

says, "the students largely determine the way the physics is presented in

the classroom." The student input is "Just in Time" for the lesson, hence

the name. With knowledge of those responses to the subject matter,

instructors engage the students at their level of background knowledge and

use their answers as input for class discussion.

A second part of the course, the collaborative recitation, is held on

alternating days from the interactive lectures. The recitations do not use

the Web for communication; instead, interactivity is promoted by breaking

students into groups of two to four, and these teams then solve problems on

a whiteboard, sharing their ideas and communicating solutions. Instructors,

graduate assistants, and student mentors circulate among the groups, giving

input when needed.

"The recitation portion of the course is designed not only to give hands-on

experience in problem solving," Novak explains. "Because students work in

groups, they have to attempt explanations to their peers. They often learn

that a particular method or idea is more complex than they realized. The

exercise improves both critical thinking and communication skills."

Most importantly, students find the JiTT approach helps learning. Of those

surveyed after two semesters of JiTT courses, 92 percent preferred the

approach to a standard course. A former student, Jerry Travelstead Jr.,

recalls, "The Web provided a level of connectedness to the class that

otherwise would have been lacking."

With JiTT now in successful use in introductory physics courses at IUPUI,

Novak spends some of his time promoting its principles for wider use.

Several times a year, he gives workshops to show how the approach can be

used by other physics faculty in their courses; Novak also presents at

national conferences, including a 1997 Project Kaleidoscope-sponsored

conference on urban campus issues held in New York City. Project

Kaleidoscope is an informal national alliance of individuals, institutions,

and organizations committed to strengthening undergraduate science,

mathematics, engineering, and technology education. Prentice-Hall will soon

publish a guide to the JiTT approach, written by Novak and his colleagues.

Why has Novak devoted so much time to finding better ways to engage his

students? He thinks for a moment and then answers, "I like the challenge.