The Structure of JiTS

JiTS: Description

JiTS: Examples

The Foundations of JiTS:

What Students Should Know

What Teachers Should Know

The Infrastructure of JiTS:

Websites with Current Information

Articles, Policy Briefs, Working Papers

Using Controversial Economic Issues

JiTS: Conclusion

The Just-in-Time Syllabus (JiTS) is a pedagogical device that enables the Economics instructor to incorporate time-sensitive data, on-line discussions as well as links to freshly-mounted websites into the delivery of most of the undergraduate courses in economics. This method of syllabus construction not only provides the students with a multifaceted arena of on-line materials but also helps to enrich and energize standard textbook presentations.

The students need an initial syllabus for direction, but this syllabus can be created as a "shell" which is thematically organized and contains print, video and web references as well as assignments.  The students should understand that each section of the syllabus will be expanded with "just-in-time" current cases, on-line discussions and applications as discussion of a topic draws near. Sometimes, relevant "just-in-time" content may be available a week after the topic has been discussed. Instructors must be flexible enough to return to the topic and illustrate it with the new content. Infusions of new applications can also be tailored to developing interests of students in the course or to their majors. For example, environmental science majors get infusion of materials that are different from that of social work majors.

The Just-in-Time Syllabus allows instructors to develop and integrate active learning strategies aimed at engaging students in current economic problems or cases and at the same time encouraging students to employ critical thinking skills to analyze and evaluate these cases, resources, and/or data. Assignments connected with a Just-in-Time Syllabus require students' participation in the learning process not only through reading and writing, but also through discussions about what they are learning and through collaborative solutions to current cases or problems. For example, to teach or expand the discussion of supply or elasticity an instructor would add new links in the Just-in-Time Syllabus to breaking news about gasoline prices or the energy blackouts in California. Assignments in which students read some but not all of the articles linked, require information sharing for a thorough discussion of the determinants of supply, or perhaps price elasticity. This theme could also be carried through to policy initiatives later in the course.

What is the Just-in-Time Syllabus?
The JiTS is a carefully structured but open-sided course plan designed for professor-mediated active learning that is technologically enriched to ensure currency and responsiveness to world events as well as to accommodate and appeal to diverse learning styles.

The goal of the JiTS is to produce habits of:

  • currency and responsiveness
  • seeking multiple perspectives
  • critical analysis of perspectives
  • synthesis (and on-going revision) of responsible positions on issues
  • collaborative learning
  • technological literacy and confidence
The Levels of JiTS
The structure of JiTS is best described as "levels of learning." The accompanying web page (see sidebar) describes these levels and provides examples. The JiTS engages the student with the subject matter on distinct cognitive levels, with the goal of increasing the student's sustained engagement in higher-order thinking (analysis, synthesis, evaluation). The currency of information, availability of multiple perspectives, and appeal to diverse learning styles which use of the Internet provides promote achievement at each level and facilitate transition to the more complex levels.
Level 1 - Receiving current, instructor-mediated information
Level 2 - Observing and Comprehending Information
Level 3 - Beyond Observation: Developing Alternative Interpretations
Level 4 - Analyzing and Synthesizing Alternative Interpretations

Shyamala Raman, Saint Joseph College
Jean Shackelford, Bucknell University
Kim Sosin, University of Nebraska Omaha

Background of the JiTS Project: This webpage was originally prepared for the 2001 Seminar Creating and Using a Just-in-Time Syllabus, presented by the International Association for Feminist Economics and The IAFFE Teaching and Pedagogy Issues Committee at Tulane University on January 4, 2001, and revised for the American Economic Association Poster Session: Teaching Techniques that Promote Active Learning, January 5, 2002, Atlanta, Georgia.

The Just in Time Syllabus (JiTS) differs from Just in Time Teaching (JiTT), which is described in the Physics website of its creators, The JiTT website, as "a teaching and learning strategy comprised of two elements: classroom activities that promote active learning and World Wide Web resources that are used to enhance the classroom components." JiTT has been jointly developed by faculty at three institutions: Gregor Novak and Any Gavrin at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI), IN; Evelyn Patterson at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs, CO; Wolfgang Christian at Davidson College in Davidson, NC.