Encouraging Students to Come Prepared for Class

Hosted by: Mary Hoftiezer

In this podcast we are exploring methods to encourage your students to come to your class prepared for learning.  We introduce the topic of Just in Time Teaching.

download this episode’s infographic

Hi! This is Mary Hoftiezer, Instructional Designer, with the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and here is another episode of the Cerebro Series.  Today we’ll be exploring how to encourage your students to come to your class prepared! 

Do you struggle with how to get students to come to your class prepared to learn? As an educator myself I get frustrated with students who come to my class and have not completed the required out of class learning activity whether it is a reading assignment, watching a video, listening to a podcast or anything else. Consequently, they are not fully prepared for the next step in their learning process which happens in my class.   

The learning objective of this podcast is to help you to find, create and implement a simple strategy to ensure that your students are motivated to come to your class prepared for learning!   

A proven and effective method to motivate students to come prepared to your class is to use Just in Time Teaching.  JiTT improves students’ preparation for classroom learning, enhances student motivation for out of class learning, promotes ongoing formative assessments of student learning (both for faculty and students) and can even inform in-class activities that target student learning gaps.   

Our colleagues at Dalian Polytechnic University and Kansas State University conducted a study researching the effectiveness of the JiTT method based on students taking a college physics course.  The study combined JiTT with the SPOC or Small Private Online Course method.  The results show that the exam mean score and pass rate of the experimental group were higher than those of the control group.  Researchers also noted that this model of teaching improved student participation and can make instructors aware of the degree of students understanding in real time.  Furthermore, JiTT enables teaching activities to be carried out in a more targeted way.   

So, what exactly is Just in Time Teaching?  Just in Time Teaching involves creating an activity that require students to do something to get them prepared for the next class.  For example, read a textbook or article, complete a simulation or experiment, watch a video or even listen to a podcast.  The key is that the activities involve problem-solving, critical thinking, and analytical reasoning skills that encourage higher order thinking skills.  The questions associated with the activity should refer to ideas or concepts that have not yet been covered in the course, and require students to study information, think more critically or apply concepts in ways that cannot simply be looked up in a textbook.   

Our colleagues at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine conducted a study from 2010–2011 where JiTT was piloted in 31 core curriculum sessions taught by 22 faculty in the general surgery residency program. JiTT combined with Peer Instruction (more about this on another podcast) required preliminary and categorical residents to complete web-based study questions before weekly specialty topic sessions. Responses were examined by faculty members “just in time” to tailor session content to residents’ learning needs.  

More than 70% of resident survey respondents showed that JiTT aided in the learning of key points. At least 90% of faculty survey respondents reported positive perceptions of aspects of the JiTT/PI strategy. Resident engagement time for JiTT/PI sessions was significantly greater than for prior lecture-based sessions. Significantly more review session multiple choice question responses were correct for residents who had attended corresponding JiTT/PI sessions than for residents who had not. 

So, how does this work?  One key to being successful with JiTT is to develop effective exercises such as a small group of questions that address key course learning objects, typical student misconceptions, conceptual inaccuracies, discipline-based critical thinking skills or even metacognitive skills.  It is through thoughtful and intentional planning that JiTT exercises can be very effective at enhancing the learning potential of this practice.   

JiTT exercises can be as simple as a combination of multiple choice and short answer/essay questions, however, the most effective exercises require students to reveal their understanding of the assigned material that relates to your course learning objectives.  One benefit to JiTT is helping to make student thinking visible, something that is more difficult to do with standard multiple choice questions.  You, as the instructor, can use this information to develop activities that intentionally address student learning difficulties  

You may be wondering—how does this really work?  For each JiTT exercise you will post JiTT questions in a course management system and students respond online before class or you may also have the students bring their responses to class.  After the posting deadline but before class begins you will take a look at students’ responses, group them into clusters reflecting similar thinking processes and select a sample of responses to show in class, create an in-class activity or a mini lecture.   Now you will be able to develop interactive in-class activities that can extend critical thinking, and or target learning gaps.  Imagine the possibilities!   

What’s the catch?  Before you create your JiTT questions ask yourself What do I want my students to remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, or create prior to class?  If that sounds like the Bloom’s Taxonomy hierarchy—you are correct (stay tuned for a podcast about that as well)!  What do your students need to have thought about or have done in order to be fully prepared for the learning activity that will take place in your classroom? 

JiTT questions should be brief and only require about 15-30 minutes to complete.  The more involved the question then the fewer questions you should plan to give your students.  Your course learning objectives should determine what types of JiTT questions will be most beneficial to your students. 

It’s a good idea to include a question asking what was most interesting, important, or confusing about the pre-class reading, video or podcast.  This is a great way to jump start an engaging classroom discussion!  Other examples include  Describe the difference between two components.  Solve an equation or problem. Compare two points of view about a topic.  Defend your point of view about a topic.  Investigate and analyze a case study.  Conduct an experiment.   

There you have it for how to easily use Just in Time Teaching in your class! 

JiTT is a way to engage with your students and encourage them to come to your class prepared for additional learning.  First, you assign students a learning activity, then present them with questions that will require the students to show their thinking, collect the student responses and then build in class discussions, lectures and other activities to extend your students thinking, or address misconceptions.   

Identify 3-5 questions, preferably open-ended that will require your students to read a section a textbook or article, watch a video, listen to a podcast and then answer the open-ended questions.  Remember that these are questions that connect to your course learning objectives and involve higher order thinking skills.  Think about what you want your students to have a good depth of knowledge about and your course learning objectives.   

Thanks for joining me today as I explored a method to motivate students to come prepared when attending your class.  Be sure to check out another insightful tidbits at The Cerebro Series.  Until next time, keep those brain juices flowing.