The Implementation of a Learning Contract and the Effects on the Learning Experiences of Seventh-Grade Life Science Students

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Virginia Tech


The purposes of this case study were to describe how a learning contract was implemented for a seventh-grade life science class and to discover its effects on the learning experiences of the students. A learning contract was a written agreement between the student and the teacher in which the student agreed to complete a variety of assignments for a particular grade. Learning contracts were issued to the students for three grading periods of six-weeks. A total of 137 students participated in the case study, which began in September 1997 and culminated at the end of the third grading period in January 1998.

The data were collected from three groups: (a) 137 seventh-grade life science students, (b) 48 parents, and (c) the classroom teacher-researcher. In order to guide the collection and analysis of data, twenty-four questions were developed. These questions were then compiled into two surveys. Responses from the student survey indicated that students: (a) signed up for an A more than any other grade, (b) liked working in teams, (c) found it easy to find assignments, (d) set goals to earn high grades, and (e) felt good about their science grades. For the first grading period, eighty-nine percent of parents surveyed responded that they were aware of their children's learning contract grade, and sixty-two percent of the parents surveyed responded that they were satisfied with their children's academic performance using the learning contract. Taped interviews were conducted with former seventh-grade students and the teacher-researcher. In the taped interviews, students told of their positive learning experiences. The teacher-researcher kept a daily journal and used its contents as data.

As a result of this case study, the students and the teacher-researcher supported the continued use of the learning contract for the next school year.



Learning Contract, Life Science, Instructional Strategy, Mixed-Ability Learner