Learning Contracts

  • Situation

    I have a student in my class who is always behind schedule on projects and comes up with a million excuses as to why the work is not completed. Is there anything I can do to help her take responsibility and ownership of her learning?

  • Summary

    Learning contracts help students make decisions about their learning as well as how to manage their time. The teacher meets with each student and negotiates a learning plan that specifies the topic the student is studying, the resources she’ll need, the way she will show what she’s learned, and the expected completion date to fulfill the contract.

  • Definition

    A learning contract is a written agreement between the student and teacher that outlines what she will learn, how she will learn it, how long it will take, and how she’ll show what she learned at the end of the process.

  • Quick Facts

    • Child's Age: 6-10, 11-13, 14-17, 18+
    • Planning Effort: Low
    • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Pre-requisites

    adapt planning sheet to age

  • Process

    1. Explain the role and functions of learning contracts to the student.

    2. Show a blank template and walk through the contract parts with the student.

    3. Have the student identify a topic for the contract.

    4. Help the student choose appropriate resources and materials and specify these on the contract.

    5. Discuss how the student will demonstrate what she’s learned at the end of the project (i.e. poster, power point, skit, etc.).

    6. Encourage the student to set a realistic deadline for contract completion.

    7. Both teacher and student sign the contract.

    8. Provide time for the student to work on her contract project.

    9. Meet periodically to track student progress, “Renegotiate” contract if it isn’t working. (i.e. select different resources; choose another way to demonstrate learning; move deadline back, etc).

    10. Ask the student for feedback after using the contract system to determine if this strategy is viable for future situations.

  • Documents and Related Resources

    Learning Contract (PDF)


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