"Just in Time" Response Papers

In Economics 970: Household and Consumer Finance, Robert Turley assigned his student "just in time" response papers, which were due 30 minutes before class, soon enough so that students were primed for class at the start of the session.  This assignment was inspired by the "just in time" movement in manufacturing which involves making operations more efficient by having inputs come together right before being sold, as opposed to waiting around in a warehouse.  "Just in time" teaching similarly gets students ready for class just before class so that their minds are fresh.  

Throughout the semester, students had 10 response papers.  The assignment asked students to write a paragraph or two that answer specific questions about the readings.  The email with the questions was sent a few hours following the previous section and the response was due 30 minutes before class.  The responses did not have to be great writing; Students were just supposed to get their ideas down.  Robert would try to email quick responses.  Then, class would start with a discussion of the response paper questions.

He notes that 2/3 of students would put it off until right before it was due.  This guaranteed that for the 30 minutes prior to class, their response papers were still at the top of their heads.  As a result, students would be excited and eager to discuss their papers when they arrived at class.

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Below is an example of a response assignment with the corresponding readings for the week:

Response Paper # 5
Most economic models have difficulty explaining participation in lotteries or other forms of gambling. Based on the evidence and arguments in the three readings:
- How can we explain the popularity of gambling? 
- Does it require we reject models where individuals maximize utility?
- Should the government continue to sponsor lotteries to raise revenue?
Readings

Thaler, Richard and William T. Ziemba . 1988. “Anomalies: Parimutuel Betting Markets: Racetracks and Lotteries.” The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Spring, 1988), pp. 161-174 http://www.jstor.org.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/stable/1942856

Hansen, Alicia and Gerald Prante. 2006. “Lottery Taxes Divert Income from Retirement Savings.” Tax Foundation.  http://www.taxfoundation.org/files/ff45.pdf

Burke, Duane V. 1999. “Top Ten Myths About Lottery (And Why They Are Not True).” Public Gaming Research Institute.http://www.publicgaming.org/toptenmyths.html