Murray State University, Biology
Time. (2007) mat_n/Flickr
We know that new learning builds on prior learning. Therefore, as educators, we need to know what our students already know and understand and what they do not know and do not understand in order to use class time most effectively. An exciting approach that is user-friendly, takes advantage of short web-based assignments and incorporates the effectiveness of active-learner classrooms is JiTT – Just in Time Teaching.
What is JiTT? Based on student responses to web-based questions, the instructor identifies gaps in student understanding of concepts before class; “just in time” to modify the upcoming class session so that it focuses on the students’ specific learning needs.
Some key benefits of JiTT are:
How does one implement JiTT? The first and most time-intensive component of JiTT is developing online exercises that effectively probe for student misconceptions, as well as their understanding. These exercises can take many forms, including short essays, puzzles and problems, and podcasts and simulations that incorporate quiz questions. Students earn credit by submitting answers to questions that focus on specific concepts or issues a few hours before class. Next, the instructor compiles the responses, identifying sources of misunderstanding and lack of in-depth comprehension. Once gaps in student knowledge and skills are identified, the instructor then modifies the conceptual plan for the upcoming class session so that the in-class activities target those gaps. The instructor focuses specifically on active-learning activities that target learning goals for which students demonstrated the least progress. Modifications of a class session typically involve allocating more time for working on some concepts or problems and reducing time spent on concepts in which most students demonstrated competency.
Fortunately, many resources for JiTT exercises are already available to instructors through JiTT websites. I recommend that you look at examples at some of the following websites to find activities that are ready for your use or to guide you as you develop modifications that are suitable for your classes.
JiTT is fun, easy to implement, and makes class time efficient and effective.
“Assessment: The Silent Killer of Learning” was the title of a prestigious annual lecture at Harvard University in 2013. How can assessment detract from learning given the ongoing emphasis on assessment in higher education? Can assessment be used to enhance learning? Although not frequently addressed or implemented, the very practices that we use to improve learning in the classroom can also be used to improve the amount of learning that occurs during assessments.
A major form of assessment used in higher education involves students working individually to complete a task, quiz, or exam. At these times the classroom is typically silent. The individual-assessment approach is in contrast to modern classroom strategies that increase student engagement in the learning process through increased student interaction (e.g., think-pair-share, online discussions, collaborative work, and peer review; resources are available at http://www.nea.org/home/33508.htm).
We can increase the learning that occurs during individualized assessments by incorporating:
Assessments can be an important part of the learning process by incorporating strategies that are known to improve student learning. I highly recommend viewing Dr. Eric Mazur’s lecture as a means of developing collaborative approaches to assessment.
“I Tried Something New and the Students Hated It!”
Overcoming Barriers to Learner-Centered Teaching
Murray State University, Biology
Faculty work hard to help students learn but student interest and motivation can be difficult to sustain. Being knowledgeable in two areas can help in improving student buy-in to more interactive approaches to learning.
Just as one must learn how to conduct and use new research techniques, so must one learn how to implement new teaching methodologies.
There will always be some student resistance to any teaching method, but you can find simple solutions to many sources of student dissatisfaction through user-friendly and accessible resources (e.g., http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/Student-Centered.html#CD)
Be knowledgeable about sources of student resistance to new teaching techniques. Most of us are not experts in the psychology of cognition and student learning, but we can strive to understand student difficulties and work to mitigate or overcome them.
Learning and implementing new approaches to teaching is a challenge, but the rewards are well worth it. Be encouraged by your successes and persevere.
Brookfield, S. D. 2006. The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom, 2nd ed. Jossey-Bass. 320 pp.
Smith, G.A. 2008. First-day questions for the learner-centered classroom. The National Teaching and Learning Forum, 17 (5):1-2.