Student Learning Contract: Examples and Template

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Andrew Diamond

Andrew has worked as an instructional designer and adjunct instructor. He has a doctorate in higher education and a master's degree in educational psychology.

The student learning contract is a document in which the teacher and student together establish the main goals for the school year. Discover what the student learning contract is, explore its main components through a template example. Updated: 10/26/2021

Student Learning Contract

When you reach adulthood you gain certain benefits: no bedtime, cookies for dinner, renting a car, to name a few. However, with these benefits come responsibilities. Suddenly your signature carries weight. You can sign (cue dramatic music) a legal contract. Some of these things are really straightforward: I agree to pay you so much money, you give me a product, done. Others - iTunes I'm looking in your direction - are absurdly long and complicated, crafted by a coven of lawyers to be as obtuse and enforceable as possible. A recent trend in education has been making it so students get to experience the joy of contract signership (I know, not a word) at younger and younger ages. We are, of course, talking about the student learning contract.

A student learning contract is a written agreement between the student and teacher. That sounds incredibly simple because it fundamentally is quite a simple contract. For the most part, the only two people involved in the creation are the teacher and student. Sometimes a parent signature is required, but this is usually up to the teacher or school. The contract outlines basic goals and objectives the student and teacher agree upon and both sign it to indicate that the contract is now in effect. Student learning contracts can also include elements of behavior and responsibilities, with many teachers integrating their classroom rules as well.

The basic goal of a learning contract is to make sure that the student's objectives are clearly communicated to the student and they are acknowledged. They can be used for a number of reasons. Many teachers will use a learning contract for a student who is chronically turning in work late or missing assignments completely. Others use them for students who act out or have behavioral challenges. They can also be used quite effectively for students who are engaging in independent learning exercises or for gifted students working on separate activities.

The real benefit of a student learning contract comes from student buy-in. When crafting the contract with the student, they are gaining some control over their education. Certainly the teacher has final say, but when making the contract, the teacher can give the student some leeway in how and when they want to work on what assignments. The student also has to engage in critical reflection of their own work: What type of assignment do I want to complete? What do I feel I am best at? Finally, it teaches the student greater life skills, like setting and working towards goals as well as developing intrinsic motivation.

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  • 0:00 Student Learning Contract
  • 2:41 Core Components
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Core Components

Student learning contracts come in all shapes and sizes. In K-12 schools, they may be incredibly simple as they aren't a legal document, but higher education learning contracts actually have the force of law behind them and are therefore far more complex. To begin with, we'll outline some of the basic components necessary for the framework of a student learning contract.

Student and school details

The first section of the contract should contain, at a minimum, the student name, the school, the class, and the teacher. This can also contain a sentence introducing the student and having them agree to a basic statement of effort.

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