I was first exposed to course contracts in graduate school during an adventure therapy course. We spent a majority of our time in class facilitating high/low ropes course and team-building activities. In order for the course to be successful the professor had to establish clear guidelines regarding our participation in the course. I remember being impressed with how meaningful the activity was. I feel working with my peers to create the contract caused me to be fully engaged and invested in the course.
This activity quickly became a favorite of mine. I have successfully used it in the classroom and have adapted it to help establish group cohesion when I am working with student leaders. Since students are creating the expectations themselves there is already a sense of “buy-in” regarding course policies and they are more likely to hold each other accountable. I am also able to remind students when they are falling short of meeting expectations by having them refer to the class contract.
The process I use for facilitating class contracts is outlined below. This activity could also be adapted to allow your students to help build rubrics for your course.
Class Contract Facilitator Guide
Students will be able to establish expectations of each other, the class, and the instructor.
Large sheets of paper, markers, and tape
Overview of Activity
Label 3 sheets of paper with the following (one per sheet): Expectations of Each Other, Expectations of the Class, and Expectations of the Instructor. Randomly split the participants into three groups. Give each group 5-8 minutes at each sheet of paper with the instructions to brainstorm specific expectations. After all groups have visited each contract read expectations out loud. Make sure key elements such as active listening, open communication, engagement in the course, timely submission of assignments and anything else you think is integral to success in your course are included. After processing the activity, have everyone sign each contract and hang the contracts in a visible place. Continue to hang the contracts every time you meet with the group and refer back to them as necessary.
- Are there any expectations you think need to be added to the contract?
- Are there any expectations you think you may be unable to meet?
- Why do you think I had you participate in this activity?
- Do you feel this might be beneficial to revisit in the future? Why?