Breakout session A:
JiTT in Large Introductory Psychology Classes

Breakout session A
JiTT in Large Introductory Psychology Classes

Saturday, November 22, 2003
10:30 am - 11:45 pm

Presenters:
Kevin J. Apple, Professor of Psychology- James Madison University

This approach can be used for small and for large classes. We describe here how we used the JiTT approach in the teaching of large General Psychology classes (N>300). Each week the instructor placed 2 or 3 questions on a Web form. The questions used a combination of multiple choice, fill in the blank, and short answer formats. The students were encouraged to use their book and lecture notes to find the correct answers. For several of the short answer questions, students were asked to state their opinion and support their view with the relevant facts. These weekly assignments helped students to think actively about each topic while it was being learned.

In addition to helping the students learn the course content, the JiTT approach provided invaluable feedback to the instructor. The day each JiTT assignment was due, the instructor, after reading the student responses, would go over the correct answers with the class. Extra lecture time was devoted to any topics that the majority of the class did not get correct.

The JiTT approach was also used to create an electronic relationship with the students in the class. One challenge in teaching large lecture classes is allowing time to interact with individual students. Students in these large classes often do not speak in class or talk with instructors after class. Many are too intimidated to state their opinions or ask questions. The JiTT approach helped to remedy this situation by allowing students to respond to a question that asked for general comments about the course. These comments helped to create a dialogue between the instructor and individual students in the class. The content of the comments ranged from questions about assignments or grades to positive comments about the class or insights students had gained from the class. Each week the instructor sent an e-mail to those students whose comments needed a response. This process took about 1 hour per week. The instructor also used class time to respond to commonly stated comments.

Assessing Student Submissions

Current technology made it possible not only to use JiTT to gain student responses from large classes, but also to grade these responses. Two approaches were used. The first approach used the software program called Blackboard (Blackboard, Inc., 2002). The Blackboard account displayed the questions and automatically graded the multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank answers. Students were able to receive immediate feedback on the multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank answers when they were submitted. The short answer questions, however, needed to be graded individually by the instructor. This grading took about 2 hours per week. Graduate teaching assistants helped in this process but advanced undergraduates could also help in this evaluation. Another advantage of using Blackboard was that the program automatically entered the grades into a spreadsheet, which then could be accessed by students.

The second approach posted questions onto a faculty-generated Internet form, which was stored on a university Web site. We programmed the form to save the students' submitted answers to a spreadsheet file. A spreadsheet macro then graded the multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions. The short answer questions, of course, were graded manually. Once grading was complete, we uploaded the grades into a spreadsheet grade book.

Conclusion

From the instructor's point of view, student JiTT responses help focus the lecture on the topics students had difficulty understanding. Without the student responses, the instructor would have had to guess what needed to be discussed in lecture. The communications received from the JiTT comment sections seemed to increase overall student involvement and interest in the course. And it did increase communication between teacher and student, which was reported to be beneficial by the students and certainly was beneficial for the instructor.

References

Blackboard, Inc. (2002). Blackboard 5. Washington, D.C.: Blackboard, Inc.

Novak, G., Patterson, E., Gavrin, A., & Christian, W. (1999). Just-in-Time Teaching: Blending active learning with web technology. Englewood, NJ: Prentice Hall