Learning Contracts

One of my goals this year is to Learn the skills to change the learning culture of my students so that they take control of their own learning; and I can play the role of learning designer, facilitator and manager and work in partnership with my students.

This ties in with Professional Practice 4 of the Digital Pedagogy Licence Advanced: To meet diverse learning needs and curiosities, I negotiate with students opportunities for them to demonstrate active management of personalised learning and assessment.

I have made a few steps in this direction by utilizing both a learning snapshot (y11-senior-school-learning-snapshot) and a learning contract (developing-your-learning-contract-for-iis2).

In the learning snapshots, most students identified that they needed to do more work and this was the reason they had not achieved their goals. There are also a range of strategies that students can identify that will improve their outcomes. So this was a great reflective document to use. It is also handy to bring out during parent-teacher interviews.

I used the learning contract to really get students engaged in their learning. Initially I thought that this would really get my students going and that they would feel empowered about their learning. However, they were actually quite hostile to this idea and kept saying “can’t you just teach us”. I asked some others with some experience using flexible learning strategies and they said that they had the same initial reactions from their students; so I didn’t feel like a complete failure.

I was later reminded of the change curve, particularly from Clive Shepard in his blog entry, Riding the Change Curve. So change is much like the stage of dieing and loss, with shock, denial and anger being the first stages; and this was certainly mirrored in my students’ case. The next stage is recognition, then acceptance and finally commitment. I think my class in now at the recognition stage as they have toned down their objections and are starting to actually do the work outlined in their contracts. Part of the contract was also to complete a blog for each section and reflect on how well they had learned using their own strategies. After a while these became deeper and more valuable to my students’ learning journeys.