Learning contract

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1 Introduction

Learning contracts are means to enhance self-directed learning. It usually includes:

  • Objectives (learning outcomes and maybe project objectives)
  • Strategies and activities planned
  • Resources and tools to be used
  • Evaluation criteria, including learning outputs (student productions) that will be evaluated

According to Chyung (2007) [1], “Knowles (1975, 1986, 1987) [2], who pioneered the development of the concept and application of learning contracts, uses the terms contract learning and learning contracts interchangeably and explains that,

"It is the method of choice when regular courses are not available in a particular subject, when learners cannot attend campus-based courses, when desired learning cut across disciplines, when there is a wide range of differences among learners, and when instructors or institutions have a commitment to develop the skills of self-directed learning. (Knowles, 1986, p. 42-43)[3]

Another more specific form of contract learning is ‘contract grading.’ It is to make “an agreement between a teacher and a student at the beginning of a course as to the grade the student expects to receive and the amount and quality of work he is expected to produce to earn this grade” (Berte, 1975, p. 1)[4]. The main purpose of using a contract grading strategy is to help learners build serious commitment for producing agreed or sometimes negotiated learning outcomes. ”

2 The learning contract and the grading contract

A learning contract helps learners develop strategies and activities for learning. A grading contract helps learners to understand what is expected. The two can be combined.

Chyung, (2007:4) [1]), following Knowles (1987:62) [5] distinguishes five elements that also include a contract grading:

  • Learning objectives to be accomplished
  • Resources and strategies to be used to achieve the learning objectives
  • Evidence (products, tests, etc.) that will be collected to indicate the extent to which the objectives have been met
  • Evaluation criteria
  • Target date for completing each objective


3 Training self-direction through learning contracts

Self-directed learning behavior can be learned and cultivated and learning contracts are one of the methods. “Several studies have revealed that contract learning is an effective instructional strategy to address various factors that potentially lead to improving motivation, such as confidence, value-recognition, responsibility, empowerment and satisfaction (Bauer, 1985; Boyer, 2003; Chan & Wai-tong, 2000; Lemieux, 2001; Lewis, 2004; Williams & Williams, 1999). ” (Chyung, 2007:2 [1])

Chyung (2007) in his study found that “many students indicated that the ‘contract grading’ part of the strategy did not necessarily influence their motivation because they were already highly motivated to learn. Instead, what they really liked was being able to choose side dish assignments from different options, emphasizing that they were able to select the ones that were relevant to their interests and needs.”. In order words learning contracts may work, because implicitely, they carry a model that lets learners study (at least partially) things that are relevant to him/her.

Question: Is it effective to write a learning contract for oneself and only seen/managed by oneself ?

4 Bibliography

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Chyung, S. Y. (2007). Invisible Motivation of Online Adult Learners during Contract Learning. Journal of Educators Online, 4(1), 1. http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ907744.pdf
  2. Knowles, M. (1975). Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  3. Knowles, M. (1986). Using learning contracts. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  4. Bert, N. R. (1975). Individualization and contracting. In N. Bert (Ed.), New directions for higher education: Individualizing education by learning contracts (pp. 1-7). San Francisco:Jossey-Bass.
  5. Knowles, M. (1987). Enhancing HRD with contract learning. Training & Development Journal, 41(3), 62-63.