Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
"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
The full article can be found on the "Research and Creative Activity," web
site at: http://www.indiana.edu/~rcapub/v22n1/p01.html
UP NEXT: The Appeal of Diversity
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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.