Learning Contracts

Learning contracts are usually put in place at the beginning of a unit or project, and outline how a student will meet the desired objectives, when the student will meet the objectives, and how the student will be assessed by him or herself as well as the teacher. This is an agreement between the teacher and student, and helps students become more responsible for their own learning. 

Strengths: Learning contracts place the responsibility back in the hands of the student.  When students are allowed to determine their own path it increases their buy in, and provides them with a more authentic learning experience.  In addition, self assessment encourages students to reflect on ways they can improve in the future, and set goals based on that knowledge.  Finally, learning contracts help teachers and students form a partnership with clearly defined roles which eliminates confusion and leads to a more productive relationship. 

Weaknesses:  Learning contracts must be developed with the assistance of the student, or they become completely ineffectual.  In addition, the terms of the learning contract must be met, and there must be consequences if either party fails to meet those terms.  If a student feels that there are no consequences for failing to meet the designated terms then he or she is more likely not to.  Finally, it is equally important that the teacher and the student meet at the conclusion of a contract to discuss what worked and what did not work to make improvements on future contracts.

Role of Technology: One of the greatest ways that technology can play a role in this assessment is through communication. One way technology can be used is to include parents in the process.  Teachers can send the contract to parents via email for approval and or suggestions.  In addition, both teacher and student can provide the parents with updates throughout the contractual time period.  Finally, learning contracts can be posted to the web encouraging student buy in and accountability.