Learning Agreements

This Tuesday Tip is sent on behalf of joshuah whittinghill, Information Technology Consultant in the Technology & Learning Program.

Hello faculty,

Whether we plan it or not, building community is part of what we do as faculty. Not only is community being built, but it is crucial to students, as they find successes through connections they make with their peers as well as with us. 

As education evolves, so do our experiences, abilities, and resources. This week’s Tuesday Tip is another opportunity to highlight engagement. One way to increase engagement for students, as well as ourselves, is to examine accountability. Have you ever asked yourself, “How do I hold myself accountable? How do I ensure students are holding themselves accountable?”   

How do you create individual and collective accountability in your courses? According to accountability theory, it is common for members of a group (i.e. college classes) to develop a need to justify one’s behaviors to others, which causes one to consider and feel accountable for the process by which decisions and judgments have been reached. One way to cultivate accountability is by using learning agreements in your courses.  

Learning agreements enhance students’ education by helping them understand the importance of adhering to their own best practices and goals.

Learning agreements have also shown to:

  • Create individual and group accountability
  • Enhance students’ investment in their education
  • Develop personal and community connections to collective successes
  • Develop a guide for student to content engagement 
  • Build community

As the instructor, you can share two agreements you feel would be useful for the course, then ask students to add their agreements. Often creating course agreements is often useful to do the first week of the term, followed up during the second week with time for everyone to review and agree on agreements to that time.

In order to maximize course learning agreements, it is important that everyone has access to them, that the document can be amended during the semester. As the instructor, it is important to revisit them weekly during a class meeting, announcement, email, or text. Revisiting them can be resharing the link to your course learning agreement document, highlighting one or two agreements each week in a message or during class time.

Here is a Google doc with instructions to create a shared and editable document so all members of the course have access and can contribute.

Learning Agreements

This Tuesday Tip is sent on behalf of joshuah whittinghill, Information Technology Consultant in the Technology & Learning Program 

Hello faculty,

Whether we plan it or not, building community is part of what we do as faculty. Not only is community being built, but it is crucial to students, as they find successes through connections they make with their peers as well as with us. 

As education evolves, so do our experiences, abilities, and resources. This week’s Tuesday Tip is another opportunity to highlight engagement. One way to increase engagement for students, as well as ourselves, is to examine accountability. Have you ever asked yourself, “How do I hold myself accountable? How do I ensure students are holding themselves accountable?”   

How do you create individual and collective accountability in your courses? According to accountability theory (PDF), it is common for members of a group (i.e. college classes) to develop a need to justify one’s behaviors to others, which causes one to consider and feel accountable for the process by which decisions and judgments have been reached. One way to cultivate accountability is by using learning agreements in your courses.  

Learning agreements (PDF) enhance students’ education by helping them understand the importance of adhering to their own best practices and goals.

Learning agreements have also shown to:

  • Create individual and group accountability
  • Enhance students’ investment in their education
  • Develop personal and community connections to collective successes
  • Develop a guide for student to content engagement 
  • Build community

As the instructor, you can share two agreements you feel would be useful for the course, then ask students to add their agreements. Often creating course agreements is often useful to do the first week of the term, followed up during the second week with time for everyone to review and agree on agreements to that time.

In order to maximize course learning agreements, it is important that everyone has access to them, that the document can be amended during the semester. As the instructor, it is important to revisit them weekly during a class meeting, announcement, email, or text. Revisiting them can be resharing the link to your course learning agreement document, highlighting one or two agreements each week in a message or during class time.

Here is a Google doc with instructions (Google Doc) to create a shared and editable document so all members of the course have access and can contribute.

Design Your Course Backwards

The Cheshire Cat told Alice in Wonderland that if she didn’t know where she wanted to go, then it didn’t matter which path to take. Getting somewhere specific requires knowing the destination. This same concept (starting with the end goal in mind) applies to creating or modifying a course. In the book, Understanding by Designthe authors suggest three steps for creating a course using Backwards Design (i.e. designing from back to front – see model below). Note that determining what to actually teach is the final step.

  • Identify the desired results. Determine what students should know and be able to do by the end of the course (i.e. the course objectives). Consider national, institutional, or department standards and clearly define the desired outcomes.
  • Determine acceptable evidence. Determine how you will know when, and to what degree, students achieve these results by using formal and informal assessments (e.g. written work, demonstration, community project, dialogues, exams, etc). With clear results in mind, consider what facts/principles/skills/characteristics students need to demonstrate to you so that you can assess, and then grade, their learning.
  • Plan learning experiences and instruction. Determine what learning experiences will best equip students to achieve the desired results. What will need to be taught, and in what order, throughout the semester? Build materials and gather resources needed to accomplish these goals (e.g. lesson plans, PPT slides, active-learning projects, field trips, labs).

If you want help designing courses (face-to-face, online, or hybrid), the Technology & Learning Program has instructional design consultants available to assist you. Click here to request a consultation.