Monday, September 21, 2015

Contract Learning: Pros and Cons

"Allowing students to decide which grade they wish to strive for, which activities they will engage in, and how they will demonstrate that they have satisfactorily completed their studies permits a teacher to seize upon powerful motivating forces within individual students ... This notion shifts responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student, but at the same time offers an incentive by insuring success under known conditions. Students are challenged without being threatened." (Frymier, 1965)

Research and implementation of learning contracts within the classroom has been taking place for more than fifty years.  However, for those of us who have not interacted first hand with a learning contract, it may seem like a foreign world.  Here are some things to keep in mind about learning contracts in order to be more informed about whether they are the right fit for you in your own classroom.

What is a learning contract?

A learning contract is a written agreement between you and your students on an individual level that identifies the content that each student will be learning, specifies the methods and strategies that will be used to learn the content, and specific resources that will be used in order to learn the content.  From there, the student compiles specific types of evidence they will be using to demonstrate learning and how the evidence will be validated.

How do students know what to include on learning contracts?

Teachers may choose to allow students to creatively come up with their own ways to demonstrate learning, or more frequently, teachers provide a list of pre-approved options for students to choose from.

What are the benefits of learning contracts?

Students are required to become more self-directing and more responsible for their own learning.
Choice is a powerful thing.  Studies have shown that students learn material more deeply and permanently if they learn through projects of their own choice instead of direct lecturing or teaching.
Using learning contracts directly creates individualized instruction between teacher and student.  Since both you, and your students will be creating a contract together, you continue to stay engaged in the learning process together.

What are the negatives of learning contracts?

Research proves that required learning contracts are not nearly as beneficial as those that are willingly agreed upon.  Therefore, it is suggested that you offer the choice to enter into a learning contract, and allow students to choose between that or a required project that doesn’t allow the same amount of choice.
Students may break the contract.  Before determining that learning contracts are something that you want to utilize as a teaching tool, you should first consider what consequences you are willing to enforce should a student break their learning contract.

Interested in creating a learning contract, but not sure where to begin?
Click here for instructions on how to design your own. 

Tip Provided By:  Jessica Moser

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