49. The Teaching/Learning Contract Created and Justified

Rebecca‘s form serves as a three-way contract involving the teacher, student, and the student’s parents. This contract works if there is an existing curriculum that contains mastery statements for the subject and course/grade level, with subordinate units and components.

Most of the contract focuses on components which must align with the unit. And each unit must align with the course/grade level mastery statement. An exercise in wordsmithing, especially in terms of measurable verbs and clear content fields.

The biggest challenge? The contract system works only if the curriculum is well articulated, organized and measurable.

Rebecca’s Examples of a Contract’s Contents and Use

A tabular document is valuable only when it is completed and its contents used. To convince the team that the Teaching and Learning Contract is valuable, I show them one that is ready to go. And how it got that way!

It will be a challenge to convince everyone who sees the contract that it is do-able. It requires a sophisticatedly created curriculum, instructional planning resources instead of daily lesson plans, and tons of time to complete and implement.

I need to convince them that the front-loaded documents and processes are not that difficult to do — once momentum is established and the basics are done. Other organizations such as the military and industry use such precise documents and methods — more useful and efficient.

My example follows:

Teaching and Learning Contract

This teaching and learning contract looks complex. The same is true with the instructional planning resource from which it is derived. However, it seems complex only in terms of comparing past teaching preparation. 

In the past teachers were asked to prepare lessons that came from textbooks and other instructional materials already produced. They created daily lesson plans that incorporated resources and teaching strategies. If a local curriculum was available, that guide was valuable. If an outcome-focused local curriculum was not available, the teacher organized instruction the best way possible from existing resources.

The old process could end up being full of holes. Parents and other stakeholders were not in the teaching/learning loop. Sometimes teachers themselves were not vested enough in the process because they considered it either unimportant or counter to their own expertise or perspectives. A major problem that continues.

The teaching/learning contract is explicit enough to ensure that curricular intentions are important. More than one person decrees that such intentions will be taught thoroughly in a cooperative setting. Anyone disagreeing with the curricular focus has the opportunity to say so. But cannot unilaterally make changes.

Parents and patrons who work in partnership with a teacher and entire professional body of educators in a school district, can continually review curricular content and instructional appropriateness. While not perfect, the possibility of misunderstandings or disagreements will be dramatically reduced.

An important caveat: the teaching/learning contract dramatically changes the face of teacher accountability. Teacher accountability is now measured by how well students perform on high stakes tests, thought to be a straightforward input/output, data-rich measure.

But flawed in terms of intended learning such as that shown in the example teaching/learning contract. Formative and qualitative assessments are almost always a better technique to assure long-term retention of concepts and skills.

Maybe the most significant aspect of accountability found in the teaching/learning contract is identifying to whom teachers are accountable.

Under the current system, accountability points to the bureaucrats and assessment specialists who design and test standards. A political football.

Taking parents and local patrons out of the picture as to what should be in a curriculum, and how it must be taught and measured for effectiveness, smacks of bureaucratic oppressiveness.

With a little trepidation, I am ready to present my case to Ken, Barbara and Bryon.

©2021 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved

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