‘Classroom First Responder’ Series © 2015 Jim Wright www.interventioncentral.org 1
How to: Increase Motivation: Learning Contracts
Description. A learning contract is a voluntary, student-completed document that outlines actions the
learner promises to take in a course to achieve academic success. This contract is signed by the student,
the instructor, and (optionally) the parent. Benefits of all such contracts, however, are that they provide
academic structure and support, motivate struggling learners by having them pledge publicly to engage in
specific, positive study and learning behaviors, and serve as a vehicle to bring teachers and students to
agreement on what course goals are important and how to achieve them (Frank & Scharff, 2013). NOTE:
OHDUQLQJFRQWUDFW appearing later in this document DVDQH[DPSOHRIhow WKHVH contracts can be
Procedure: The l
earning contract is typically completed in a meeting between the student and instructor.
(In middle and high schools, the parent may also be a participant.) While there are many possible variations
on the learning contract, they often contain these components (Frank & Scharff, 2013; Greenwood &
Statement of Purpose. The contract opens with a statement presenting a rationale for why the contract
is being implemented. A sample statement might be: I am taking part in this learning contract because I
want to improve my grades and pass this course.
Student Actions. The contract lists
any actions that the student is
pledging to complete to ensure
success in the course. Suitable
targets for learning contract items
might include attendance, class
participation, completion of
classwork or homework, seeking of
instructor help, etc. See Figure 1 for
a listing of sample actions that
might be written into a learning
Teacher Actions. The learning
contract can be strengthened by
adding a section detailing those
actions that the instructor agrees to undertake to support the student. For example, the contract might
state that the instructor will respond within 24 hours to course questions emailed by the student or will
check weekly and alert the student to any missing course work. Listing teacher responsibilities on the
contract emphasizes that success in the course is a shared endeavor and can prod the student to take
advantage of instructor supports that might otherwise be overlooked.
Sign-Off. Both student and teacher sign the learning contract. If the parent is participating in the
development of the contract, he or she also signs the contract. Because this document is a kind of
'promissory contract' (Rousseau & Parks, 1993), the student signature in particular indicates a voluntary
acceptance of the learning contract and a public pledge to follow through on its terms.
Tips for Use. Here are additional ideas for using learning contracts:
Figure 1: Sample Student Learning Contract
Attendance. I will attend at least 80 percent of class
Course Participation. I will contribute at least one
comment to every in-class discussion.
Readings. I will complete all assigned readings.
Study/Assignments. I will spend a minimum of 1 hour per
day reviewing notes and working on assignments.
Course Help. I will attend instructor office hours at least
once per week.
Group Project. I will communicate at least weekly with
peers in my work group (face-to-face or electronically)
about our shared course project.