Holding Students Accountable

Holding Students Accountable

How can instructors ensure that students come to class with course assignments prepared and readings completed? Students often ignore traditional assignments, such as “read the text” or “write a question based on the reading” because these neither structure analytic processes nor hold students accountable. Experience has taught many students that they will do “just fine” in courses where they do not complete such assignments. Some students will put forth little effort for assignments that only the instructor will see; the “private shame” of such assignments is not leverage enough. According to research findings of IUB faculty and staff, the more assignments are structured to be authentic, public, and facilitative of peer interaction, the more likely students will be to complete them (Shopkow, Diaz, Pace, and Middendorf, submitted).

In this video Prof. Leah Shopkow (History) describes her methods for holding students accountable, including designing assignments to engage students, getting students to read, structuring peer review of team work, and applying all of this to large classes.

Students in Prof. Shopkow’s classes describe the effects of her methods on their motivation to come to class and to come to class prepared.

Two methods (along with their many variations) for holding students publicly accountable are described below: Team-Based Learning and Just-in-Time Teaching.

Team-Based Learning (TBL)

In Michaelsen’s TBL students study course content outside of class in preparation for an in-class quiz that they take individually. After the individual quiz, the students repeat the quiz as a team. (Michaelsen, Knight and Fink, 2004). Quizzes may be recorded on scratch-off forms, available at the CITL, or by using simple on-line quizzing (e.g., Test & Surveys tool in Oncourse) with results immediately available. Performance on the quizzes can bring positive peer pressure for group members to contribute. With the course content addressed, the majority of in-class time can be devoted to deliberate student practice of concept application, such as making and testing predictions and arguments, solving problems, and critiquing reasoning. In order to further reflection on teamwork, team members evaluate each other’s efforts several times over the semester. Alternatively, the TBL method may be combined with Just-in-Time Teaching as the method for structuring student preparation. For more information, see the CITL resource on TBL.

Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT)

Just-in-Time Teaching depends upon instructors being able to review some type of student assignment a short time (usually just a few hours) before class (Novak, 2011).  These assignments, called warm-ups, are typically short web-based exercises that help the instructor to identify potential student difficulties in time to address them in the upcoming class. Using the Oncourse Tests & Surveys tool is an effective way to deliver the warm-up activities and to collect student responses; responses can also be collected in Google Survey. To reduce the time spent on grading, instructors can simply assign them a binary score indicating whether the assignment was acceptable.

JiTT also shapes classroom time. The instructor may display and discuss representative student responses to reinforce a point; students may be required to print their feedback page and bring it to class for collaboration and combination within their teams; teams may compare responses, thereby building a natural platform for inter-team competition. Whatever the technique, JiTT allows the instructor to focus class time on concepts that are problematic or particularly challenging to students. In-class practice is more efficient for them, and students see the benefit of class time because they learn how to perform the crucial skill or process.

Brian D’Onofrio (Psychological and Brain Sciences) uses JiTT to ensure his students come to class prepared.


Shopkow, L., Diaz, A., Pace, D., & Middendorf, J. (submitted for publication). Decoding History.

Michaelsen, Larry; Knight, Arletta Bauman; and Fink, L. Dee (2004). Team-Based Learning: A Transformative Use of Small Groups in College Teaching. Miami: Stylus. 


Novak, G. (2011). Just-in-Time Teaching. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, (128) p. 63-73, Wiley Online Library DOI: 10.1002/tl.469.

For More Help or Information

Contact Joan Middendorf (812-855-6409) or the CITL (812-855-9023).