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Learning Contract :
Credit by learning contract.
A mainstay of many nontraditional degree programs is the learning contract, also known as a study plan, study contract, degree plan, etc.  It is essentially a formal agreement between the student and the school, setting forth a plan of the study the student indents to undertake, goals he or she wishes to reach and the action to be taken by the school once the goals are reached---- normally the granting either of a certain amount of credit or of a degree.
A well-written learning contract is good for both student and school, since it reduces greatly the chances of misunderstandings or problems after the student has done a great deal of work, and the inevitable distress that accompanies such an event.
Many counseling clients have been distressed, even devastated, to discover that some project on which they had been working for many months was really not what their faculty advisor or school had in.
The Background:
In the course of discussing the work to be done for a Bachelor’s degree, the student and her faculty advisor agree that is would be desirable for the student to learn to read in Arabic. Rather than take formal courses, the student says that she prefers to study the language on her own, with the help of an uncle who speaks the language.  If the student has taken four semesters of Arabic at a traditional school, she would have earned 20 semester hours of credit.  So the learning contract might consist of these eight simple clauses:
The Contract:
  1. Student intends to learn to read Arabic at the level of a typical student who has completed four semesters of college-level Arabic.
  2. Student will demonstrate this knowledge by translating a 1000-word passage from one of the novels of Khalil Jabran / Ahmed Mahfooz.
  3. The book and passage will be selected and the translation evaluated by a member of the Arabic faculty of the college.
  4. The student will have three hours to complete the translation, with the assistance of a standard Arabic English dictionary.
  5. If the student achieves a score of 85% or higher in the evaluation, then the college will immediately award 20 semester hours of credit in Arabic.
  6. If the student scores below 85%, she may try again at 60-days interval.
  7. The fee for the first evaluation will be $100, and, if necessary, $50 for each additional evaluation.
  8. If any dispute shall arise over the interpretation of this contract, an attempt will be made to resolve the dispute by mediation. If mediation fails, the dispute will be settled by binding arbitration. An arbitrator shall be chosen jointly by the student and the school. If they cannot agree in choosing an arbitrator, then each party will choose one. If the two arbitrators cannot agree, they shall jointly appoint a third, and the majority decision of this panel of three shall be final and binding. The cost of arbitration shall be shared equally by the two parties.
This contract has the four basic elements common to any learning contract.
  1. The student’s objective or goals.
  2. The methods by which these goals are to be reached.
  3. The method of evaluation of the performance.
  4. What to do in case of problems or disagreement.
The more precisely each of these items can be defined, the less likelihood of problems later. For instance, instead of simply saying, “The student will become proficient in Arabic”, the foreign agreement defines clearly what “proficient” means.
What follows is an abridgement of longer learning contract, freely adapted from some of the case histories provided in a catalog from the late, King Saud University.
At the end of my Master’s program, I plan to have the skills, experience, and theoretical knowledge to work with an organization in the role of director or consultant, and to help the organization set and reach its goals; to work with individuals or small groups as a counselor, providing a supportive or therapeutic environment in which to grow and learn.
I want to acquire a good understanding of and grounding group dynamics, how children learn, and why people come together to grow, learn, and work.
I am especially interested in alternative organization. I want to have the skills to help organization analyze their financial needs, and to locate and best utilize appropriate funding.
Theory and Skill Development (40% of work)
I shall take the following three courses at King Saud University (courses listed and described) = 20% of program.
After reading the following four books (list of books) and others that may be suggested by my faculty advisor. I shall prepare statements of my personal philosophy of education and growth, as a demonstration of my understanding of the needs of a self-directed, responsible , caring human = 10% of program.
I shall attend a six-lesson workshop on power dynamics and assertiveness, given by [details of the workshop] = 10% of program.
Leadership and Management Practicum (30% of work)
I shall work the Cooperative Nursery School to attempt to put into practice the things I have learned in the first phase of my studies, in the following way: [much detail here]. Documentation shall be through a journal of my work, a log of all meetings, a self-assessment of my performance and commentary supplied by an outside evaluator = 15% of program.
I shall donate eight hours a week for 20 weeks to the Arabic Women’s Crisis Center, again endeavoring to put into practice the ideas which I have learned [much detail here on expectations and kinds of anticipated activities] = 15% of program.
Organizational Development, Analysis, and Design (30% of work)
I shall study one of the above two groups (nursery school or crisis center) in great detail, and prepare an analysis and projection for the future of this organization, including recommendations for funding, management, and development = 20% of program.
Documentation will be in the form of a long paper detailing my findings and recommendations and relating them to my philosophy of growth and organization development. This paper will be read and evaluated by [name of persons or committee] = 10% of program.
Upon completion of all of the above, the college will award the degree of Master of Arts in organization development. [Arbitration clause.]
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