ED366 learning contract – prior to student input

Hey folks. Here is my learning contract for the course. Your feedback would be much appreciated.

Overview: Explanation and Contract
Evaluation Method:

Welcome to the course.

Student work in this course is evaluated by ‘contract’ – meaning that each of you decide how much work you would like to do for what grade. Individual assignments are given a ‘satisfactory’ or ‘unsatisfactory’ assessment upon completion, with the option for you to resubmit unsatisfactory assignments within a given timeframe.

In this sense, you get to choose what your learning experience will be like, and make it fit your context and priorities. Some of the assignments in the course are mandatory – you must fulfill these requirements. In order to pass, you must complete and earn at least a 75% grade out of the possible 100%, including all mandatory assignments.

Contract Grading:
Contract Grading is designed to change the power dynamic of the classroom. The lecturer is still the ‘content expert’, but you are the one who knows how much time you have to devote to this course, and what you’d ideally like to get out of it. The contract lays out what ‘acceptable success’ looks like and then you get to make choices about whether you are willing to do the work to earn a grade deemed ‘excellent’.

The contract focuses on your effort rather than on attempting to measure or quantify your learning. This course aims for encouraging self-valued, life-long learning.

This is my first time engaging in contract learning as an instructor, so this is a learning curve for me as well. I’ve been researching the field, and have written a blog post on the challenges of contract grading: feel free to check it out and read the referenced articles http://davecormier.com/edblog/2012/05/07/grading_contract/.
Grade Calculating:

On May 16th (our second class session), each of you will collaborate with a classmate to complete a contract for a grade. You will also build an individualized online grade reporting sheet based on the assignments you decide to commit to.

There are only two grades for any assignment: Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory.

Satisfactory is full credit.
Unsatisfactory (poor quality, late, or not submitted) is no credit.

At the end of the course, we tally. Renegotiation of the contract is possible, but not encouraged after the first few weeks.

Contract:
REQUIREMENTS FOR GRADES:
(1) Class Attendance/Participation

(includes reading/viewing/listening to all assignments)

Class attendance is mandatory.

Whatever your contract for the course, you may miss only one class (but not the corresponding blog posts) without an official (doctor or pre-approved) excuse. After that you will lose 5% per missed class.

If you are missing for a non-medical/emergency reason, you have to have approval in advance and, at that time, state your plan for making up the missed work. You are still responsible for the readings and posting your weekly blog post.

(2) Weekly Blog Assignment, 300-500 words

Blog posts are intended to share your learning and make contributions to the field. Some may simply be reflections on yourself, your work, or your professor’s or fellow learners’ ideas, but overall, blogs are intended to be thinking in public, for the public: your very own Open Educational Resources.

Blogs are substantive, should use secondary sources where appropriate, and can use video, sound, images, animation as well as text.

Blogs must be completed by MIDNIGHT SUNDAY each week in order to allow time for review and feedback.

Comments are important in turning blog posts from single-voice resources into networked conversations. All students are required to read the blog posts by classmates each week, and are encouraged to leave comments and engage in outside-class discussion on each other’s blogs.

(3) Participatory Peer Presentation

Peer presentations are mandatory.

There will be a schedule of weekly presentations which the class will develop by Week 3: everyone will be responsible for one 15 minute class presentation, and will act as a critical friend facilitating post-presentation discussion for one other student.

Presentations should outline the uses, possibilities and potential challenges of integrating a new-to-you technology into your professional context. The idea is to workshop an approach to using a technology with the whole class, as if the class were your professional environment. The presentations should be participatory and collaborative, in some manner, and demonstrate an understanding of some of the uses and challenges of your chosen technology.

Critical friends: Each student is responsible for being a critical friend for another student’s presentation. The critical friend will moderate the discussions during the presentation and lead the feedback discussion after the presentation.

(4) Learning Network Plan

Learning Network Plans are mandatory.

Throughout the course you will be expected to gather and cultivate a visible network of people, tools and approaches that will help support you in integrating educational technology into your own professional context. You will be responsible for handing in a draft learning network plan by the halfway mark of the course and a final version on the last day. These plans should be between 500 and 1000 words and, ideally, be full of links, commentary and ideas for how you can continue to learn, network and use technologies after the course has ended.

The first ‘grade’ of the learning network plan is mainly intended to be a check-in to guarantee that you have understood the purpose of the plan and have found a way to make the plan work for you. There is no specific designated format for the plan but it should be clear that you are utilizing it to keep track of information, links, connections and possible leads to augment your work in your professional environment.

(5) Public Contribution to Knowledge (Simple & Complex)
Open Educational Resources are digital materials that can be re-used for teaching, learning, research and other purposes, made available free for others under open licensing agreements.

Your blog posts will be OERs, in a sense, but this assignment asks you to move beyond writing to alternative media.

Both of these assignments qualify as optional selections for grading. The first assignment would approach the topic simply, offering a step-by-step mastery process by which we could accomplish a ‘best practice’. The second would approach and present a more complex topic, giving advice or suggestions or an overview of a challenge that does not have a ‘best practice’ attached to it, or on which there is no general agreement in the field about what should be done.

The contributions to public knowledge should stretch you and demonstrate effort on both conceptual and technological levels. If you have any questions, please talk to the instructor to confirm acceptability of topic and medium.

(6) Public Discussion Sessions (online)

Live participation in at least one public discussion session is mandatory.
There will be four public non-class-time discussion sessions during the course, to be held in an online collaborative platform. These will be scheduled with the class’ input by Week 3.

Participation in these discussions includes being present and active in the collaborative platform for the live online event. If you wish to count public discussion sessions towards your final grade for the course, you may simply ‘attend’ and participate in the live events, or you can watch the recording afterwards, on your own time. If you choose to watch the recording, you will need to write an additional reflection about the key points and ideas shared in the session to qualify for the grade. You may blog these reflections but if you wish them to count towards public discussion grades, they cannot also count towards blog grades.

(7) Final Contributions to Group Learning Document

Contribution to the Group Learning Document is mandatory.
As a class we will plan, develop and deploy an online record of what we learn and create during the course. Record-keeping is a critical component of any learning endeavour but especially so in educational technology. When information, skills and knowledge come very quickly, it is important to come up with a way to keep track of that information. Equally important is learning how to use collaborative tools to do that planning. The platform for this group document will be negotiated by the class by Week 3.

Note

When you design and tally your contract, please make sure you have included all mandatory elements, and that your choice of elements to count towards your grade adds up to at least 75%, as this is the minimum for a pass in the course.

Also, if you set your grade to the minimum and fail to complete requirements, please understand that you will be failing yourself in the course.

Your role in this course is to learn and demonstrate your learning through participation and sharing of your reflective processes and new knowledge, and to contribute to the support and learning of your peers, as peer networks as a key part of success with educational technologies.

My role as instructor is to facilitate new learning experiences, and to support you and provide feedback on your chosen elements as a member of your network.

added: here is the spreadsheet that allows you to figure out what each thing is worth

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9 thoughts on “ED366 learning contract – prior to student input

  1. There’s no sense in which this is negotiated, really, and so I think it is misleading to call it a contract. If it were genuinely a contract a student would have the option to commit to nothing without penalty.

  2. Hey Stephen,

    They are able to pick and choose between the different things listed here. I don’t know the definition of a ‘contract’ in which choices are total. There is choice, they can choose to do some of the blog posts, to do any of the OER pieces etc…

    How are you identifying ‘genuine’? Is there some sort of platonic ‘contract’ I’m not aware of?

  3. ‘Contracts’ require ‘two parties’ to agree to something and, in response to Stephen’s comment, it would not be imaginable for a teacher to agree to a student doing nothing during the course of a semester. In other words, under the terms Stephen describes, a contract would not even exist.
    In a sense, we have always had learning contracts – with rewards and penalties – even though few of us have ever signed on the dotted line in formal written agreements as is described here. Going to school and passing courses has always been about fulfilling obligations / meeting expectations. What the ‘new learning agreement’ is doing is actively involving (even empowering) students in the evaluation process the learning experience. After having experienced years in the more traditional course structure, students, however, are not always comfortable with the ‘ball being thrown into their court’ in this way. I know that when I first encountered this system – as an adult – I initially felt somewhat lost. I am, therefore, interested in hearing more about your experience.

  4. On a quick read through, I have two questions
    1. Are not blog post comments required thus initiating a discussion and/or peer review?
    2. Will the blog posts be posted to Twitter for all of us to join in and “knock their socks off” (just no crying this time)
    Durff

  5. I would use the term “learning map”. Individual learning maps would network together to form a more holistic learning map at the community, class, etc. level. One of the key elements of a learning map is the inclusion of individual strengths, challenges, and interests (or perhaps expressed as needs, interests, and learning preferences) so that people who do not know each other can more easily form new connections. Self-organization is more likely (IMHO) when individuals gravitate to each other based on some potential and mutual benefit. A holistic learning map can facilitate this process.

    Whatever you call it (i.e., learning map, social contract, etc.), in a “formal” educational context (e.g., a school, most communities where membership is determined by some proclaimed, common goal, any context where accreditation is expected, etc.), there will always remain a certain degree of coercion. But if handled well, this does not mean that there little room for differentiated instruction whereby learners are given choices in their own learning and are expected to take responsibility in what they do.

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