Learning Contracts in Self Directed Learning

Self-directed learning has become a popular avenue for education over the past couple of decades as the evolution of the internet has provided opportunities for online courses.  On top of this, various post-secondary education programs and fields of work have begun to incorporate personal learning plans as a requirement.  For example, as a nurse in Canada, I am expected to participate in an ongoing yearly continuing competency program.  This is so that I am able to prove to my employers and governing body that I am continuously learning and staying up-to-date with current information and technologies.

With the boom in self-directed learning, strategies for ensuring compliance and promoting engagement from the learner have been studied and incorporated.  One such strategy is the learning contract.  A learning contract is a document constructed between a learner and an educator regarding specific goals for the learner, as well as strategies that the learner will use in order to meet those goals.  These goals could include theoretical learning or the initiation of specific practical learning experiences, or both!  It can even be something as simple as making a conscious effort to engage in a meaningful way during class time – anything that will engage the learner and make their educational experience fuller and develop common goals between the student and the teacher (Frank & Scharff, 2013).




Rye (2008) showed that the use of learning contracts improved overall confidence in respiratory care students, and helped students to identify areas where they either needed or wanted to enhance their learning or improve their skills.  I plan to become a nursing instructor as my education progresses.  In nursing education, self-reflection and personal identification of weaknesses and strengths is an integral component of developing competencies in the field.  I plan to incorporate learning contracts in my teaching so that students will not only have a strong grasp of the concept as they prepare to begin working as nurses, but will also have developed strong planning and organizational skills as they move from students under supervision to independent nurses.  I hope to not only improve the confidence of my students in their theory courses and practical experiences, but also allow them to have control over experiences during their education so that it is relevant to their career goals.



Frank, T., & Scharff, L. F. V. (2013). Learning contracts in undergraduate courses: Impacts on student behaviors and academic performance. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13(4), 36-53.

Rye, K.J.B. (2008). Perceived benefits of the use of learning contracts
to guide clinical education in respiratory care students. Respiratory Care, 53(11), 1475-1481. Retrieved from http://rc.rcjournal.com/content/53/11/1475.full.pdf+html

Sample learning contract [online image]. Retrieved July 3, 2016 from https://www.interventioncentral.org/behavioral-interventions/motivation/how-increase-motivation-learning-contracts



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