What Is a Student Learning Contract?

A student learning contract, or a student goals contract, is a voluntary and student-created agreement that outlines student actions and activities to achieve their goals and objectives towards academic success. Along with the actions that a student presents, a teacher or instructor must also assess the production of specific proof that indicates the accomplishment of goals. Student learning contracts provide academic structure and support, especially to struggling learners. It also helps students to reflect on their learning styles and processes. Student learning contracts are also growing in popularity as it seeks to engage students in their learning through the change of assessment methods from teacher-centered to more student-centered approaches. The trend also points to the prevalence of a self-centered learning style. Aside from a student goal contract, other terms for student learning contracts include learning agreements and negotiable learning agreements. The main essence of writing a student learning contract is to allow a learner to identify their goals and the actions they need to accomplish them according to their skills, knowledge, and abilities.

According to a comparative study entitled Perceived benefits of the use of learning contracts to guide clinical education in respiratory care students, 21 out of 24 students have responses to the study that shows a general agreement on using learning contracts with confidence. The results also show an increase in student autonomy and motivation in gaining educational scholarships through the use of learning contracts.

Benefits of Student Learning Contracts

Learning institutions and other business organizations utilize learning contracts to help students and individuals to realize their goals through analyzing their capabilities through self-engagement. The document promotes different benefits for individuals that use them. The section presents the advantages of using student learning contracts to encourage more students, teachers, and educational institutions to practice writing learning contracts.

Promotes self-directedness: Learning contracts help promote choice and responsibility in their learning process. The contract replaces the feelings of passivity and institutes a comprehensive structure that encourages self-directed learning and engagement. In turn, it boosts student motivation and class cohesiveness for an effective educational experience. When kids begin to see themselves as responsible, competent, and reliable, it affects them personally and academically, providing them with better learning opportunities.Reduce busy work and boredom: When students receive critical feedback from teachers about their performance, they know that they are already capable of more challenging tasks after mastering one. However, some individuals want to remain stagnant and repetitious in their activities, hindering their growth and development. Using learning contracts help students challenge their capabilities and be more self-directed. When a student learns how to pursue the right level of learning, they become more effective learners.Accommodates different learning styles: Learning contracts hold different activities to aid in learning, and these tasks allow students to choose which learning style makes them confident and comfortable, whether it is kinetic, auditory, or visual. Allowing students to select which one to use promotes making good choices on their learning journey.Provide practical structure for assessments: After a period test, the learning contract allows a student to self-remediate because the examination in itself provides necessary feedback on their learning performance, driving them to make better choices in creating the learning contract.Adapts to different situations and disciplines: Learning contracts are flexible tools for a wide range of learning disciplines and studies. It organizes conceptual learning and skill-based learning. Learning contacts also adapt to different students and groups. For example, some students find it difficult to keep up with others. A student and teacher can find a way to compose a learning contract that caters to their habits, learning style, and capacity. As students become more responsible and independent, understanding their capabilities, more learning choices and items appear in their contracts.Give more flexibility for teachers to work with students: Most learning contracts allow students to work freely and independently on different items on their list. Openwork time provides teachers with the opportunity to work with other students to address or resolve their needs effectively and efficiently instead of handling the entire class using a single style of learning. The interactions between students and teachers can range from verbal communication to specialized workshops in a small group setting, struggling over a particular subject. Openwork time helps identify the motivation of students more consistently than in a whole classroom setting. Students that are aloof and disinterested are easier to pinpoint, and teachers can communicate with them immediately.Encourage creativity in teachers: Students in a traditional classroom setting learn at the same pace, doing similar activities, with teachers providing material in a limited manner. In these situations, there are restricted opportunities for students to develop. Bright students will not have challenging activities, and slower students will be left behind with remedial work. Different learning contracts allow teachers to be more responsive and proactive in resolving student needs. They have opportunities to create various activities, tasks, research projects, independent work, and assignments to shape student learning according to their capabilities.Reinforces a growth mindset: Many students develop a fixed mindset wherein they think that they cannot improve their performance and study habits because they keep failing. Learning contracts allow students to learn from their mistakes and select the best path to achieving their Smart goals. Writing the contract actively reinforces the idea that consistency and effort help in learning. Learning contracts promote a growth mindset in students, allowing them to accept the fact that learning is a continuous process that lets them learn from their mistakes.

Components of a Student Learning Contract

Completion of student learning contracts happens in the presence of a teacher and student. While there are variations in writing student learning contracts between different institutions, fundamental elements must be present in the document. The section below highlights these components, along with their descriptions.

Statement of purpose: The purpose statement is the first section of the student learning contract. It contains a declaration that presents a rationale for the implementation of the document. It is an opportunity for a student to present their overall goal for a period.Student actions: The student learning contract contains an action plan or a list of actions a student plans to accomplish to guarantee success towards course completion. Students can start listing their targets, depending on what they want to achieve. Examples range from attendance outlook, class participation, reading assignments, classwork completion, course help, and group activities. These sample actions serve as a reminder to students in accomplishing their courses.Teacher actions: The teacher actions section of the student learning contract strengthens its purpose. It details the necessary activities or procedures the teacher or instructor does to help and support students to achieve their goals. For example, the section states that the teacher is responsible for responding to student inquiries within the school day. It can also indicate that the teacher must check up on students at least once a week for updates on their progress and performance in classes. Writing instructor responsibilities in the student learning contract shows that student success correlates with the effort put in by both the teacher and student. It also promotes student trust in their instructors to help them achieve success.Sign-off: The last section of the student learning contract is where the student and teacher sign. If parents have a part in creating the document, then they must also sign the learning contract. The contract serves as a promissory document, and the signature of the student is an indication that they have read and agreed to the terms and conditions in the learning contract as a voluntary acceptance.

How To Create a Student Learning Contract

Writing student learning contracts helps students create a roadmap that makes them look at their current capabilities and habits and develop the skills to determine the best course of action to address learning needs and gaps. In a learning contract, there are various steps students need to follow to accomplish their goals. Below are useful steps in creating a comprehensive student learning contract.

  • 1. Identify the Learning Objectives You Want to Achieve

    The first step in writing a student learning contract is to define the objectives you want to achieve in an academic period. In writing the learning objectives, observe the SMART goal-setting process. For it to be specific, a student must provide a detailed description of their goals. It must also be measurable, meaning there is a way to tell a student achieved their objectives. For it to be achievable, there must be various ways, techniques, and procedures for students to accomplish their plans. For the objective to be realistic and time-bound, a student must have the capability to complete them within a given period.

  • 2. Indicate Resources and Strategies to Accomplish Objectives

    When writing the student learning contract, a student must present available resources and effective strategies to reach their goals. In identifying resources, a student must specify possible offerings of online courses, reading materials (ebooks, hardcovers, softcover books), availability of study groups, library resources, computer access, and finances. After defining the resources, determine their availability, and select those that match their capabilities. It is critical to know a student’s learning style as it greatly affects their strategic plan to succeed in their studies.

  • 3. Identify Possible Issues and Viable Solutions for Them

    A student must indicate possible problems that they can encounter during classes or study plans periods. Anticipating these issues will make it easier to solve and overcome them, staying on the roadmap you have established. Think of all the possible scenarios and make a note of them. Afterward, identify viable solutions to solve these obstacles, especially those with the highest likelihood of manifesting. Having a backup plan when these problems arise will save time and effort, allow students to focus on their studies, and free them from any worry.

  • 4. Specify a Timeline to Achieve Objectives

    Each item on the list has different deadlines, depending on the activity or task at hand. When writing the planned timeline, set a realistic and achievable date, then work on the strategies to take. Learning objectives that don’t have end dates tend to continue for a long period. Work on the goals with a specific date in mind.

  • 5. Determine an Evaluation Criteria for Objectives

    Students must identify whether or not they successfully achieved their learning objectives. There are different ways for students to conduct performance assessments. For one, they can gauge their success by taking tests, performing certain tasks according to a particular method, and allowing a teacher to evaluate or judge their competency and knowledge about a topic.

  • 6. Review the Draft and Make Necessary Adjustments

    Students can consult individuals that know them best, knowing their strengths and weaknesses, and ask them to review the learning contract. It is the responsibility of the student to accomplish the identified objectives, but there are people around them that can help them succeed. As a student, everything involves trial and error. Ask the individuals if the objectives set are realistic and achievable according to the student’s personality and habits. It is also necessary to get insight into other resources, obstacles, solutions, and comments about the present strategy. If suggestions are coming from trusted individuals, adjust the learning contract as necessary.


What is the importance of learning contracts?

Learning contracts play a significant role in the learning process. It provides ownership to individuals that list and identify their objectives at the beginning of a learning activity or class. It also prompts students to make self-assessments and reflections on their learning styles, establish clear learning goals, and achievable timelines.

Do learning contracts work?

Different uses of learning contracts work to their advantage as it facilitates voluntary and self-directed document that heavily involves the participation of the individual making the document.

How do you create a contract?

A contract must contain two critical elements to become legally binding. One, all the parties must be in a voluntary agreement with the offering of one party to another. Second, there must be a form of exchanged value coming from either party that includes monetary, goods, services, or pledges.

Student learning contracts are valuable documents that enable proactive learning in students. It gives students the chance to pace themselves and their learning strategies to align with their objectives. Despite being a student-centered activity, the document also encourages the involvement of teachers and, occasionally, parents to facilitate and monitor the development of students. Create a student learning contract and achieve your learning goals with the help of teachers and supervisors, and download the document samples above.