Table of Contents
Section Page Abstract
Definition of Learning Contract
Purpose of the Learning Contract
Uses of Learning Contracts
Advantages and Disadvantages of Learning Contracts
Designing Learning Contracts
Conclusions and Recommendations
Learning contracts are being used in post-secondary education. Adults approach learning as problem solving and in theory by implementing learning contracts, the student becomes more involved in their own learning process. This paper discusses the use of a learning contract, the advantages and disadvantages for using contracts and the general design of a learning contract. The use of learning contracts provides opportunity for the student to be more involved in their own learning and apply relevance to their own educational experience.
“Contract learning is, in essence, an alternative way of structuring a learning experience: It replaces a content plan with a process plan.” Malcolm S. Knowles (1991, pg.39).
In the early 1970’s, the concept that adults learn differently than children was introduced by Malcolm Knowles. This theory of andragogy has inspired research and controversy. The complexity of adult learning and motivation provides opportunities to explore new methods of teaching. Implementing learning contracts is an alternative way to structure the learning experience. Definition. Learning contract by definition is an agreement between students and teachers that grant the student certain freedoms and choices about completing tasks yet requires the student to meet certain specifications ("Definition," n.d., p. 1). According to Knowles (1980), contract learning solves, or at least reduces, the problem of dealing with wide differences within any group of adult learners. Knowles (1986) defines a learning contract as containing specifically: 1.
the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values to be acquired by the learner (learning objectives); 2.
how the objectives are to be accomplished;
the target date for their accomplishment;
what evidence will be presented to demonstrate that the objectives have been accomplished; and 5.
how this evidence will be judged or validated. In academic settings the contract also specifies how much credit is to be awarded and what grade is to be given (p.38).
Understanding the purpose and advantages of learning contracts and being able to apply them in our future careers as adult instructors will help prepare us for the variety of learning styles our students will have.
Purposes of Learning Contracts
Learning contracts have multiple purposes. One purpose is that it can enrich and extend the curriculum. They can connect educational needs to individual needs. The responsibility of learning is shared by the student and the educator. Learning contracts can also challenge the abilities of highly able students and provide alternate options that can be altered specifically for the differences in abilities, learning styles and interests of individual students. The contract is a tool for structuring the learning process.
Uses of Learning Contracts
Findings from research about adult learning have shown that when adults go about learning something naturally, they are highly self-directed (Tough, 1971, 1979). Coincidentally, when adults learn on their own initiative, they have a deeper understanding and more permanent memory of when they learn by being taught. Core adult learning principles view the adult learner as the primary source of data for making sound decisions regarding the learning process (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 1998, p. 183). Contract learning is...
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