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Developing the Learning Contract for the Capstone Activity

Students will submit to the instructor of module seven a learning contract for the thesis activity. The thesis activity committee chairperson should be consulted throughout the process. The form, Learning Contract for Capstone, is to be submitted to the instructor for the thesis activity.

The learning contract is designed to assist the student in improving competence on the job. It is the vehicle to help students plan their thesis activity as a mutual undertaking between the student, the instructor, and the thesis activity committee chairperson. The student participates in the process in "diagnosing needs, formulating objectives, identifying resources, choosing strategies, and evaluating accomplishments" and in this way "develops a sense of ownership of and commitment to the plan." (Knowles, P. 27)

How will you develop a learning contract?

Step 1. Diagnose your learning needs. Where are you now and where do you want to be in regard to a particular learning need or competency which you want to develop or demonstrate?

Step 2. Specify your learning objective(s). Each of the learning needs which you specified in Step 1 should be translated to a learning objective. Knowles cautions, "Be sure that your objectives describe what you will learn, not what you will do to learn them."

Step 3. Specify learning resources and strategies. How do you propose to go about accomplishing your objective? Identify the resources (material and human) you plan to use and the strategies (techniques, tools) you will employ. Examples:
Learning Objective
Improve my time management skills so that I can accomplish 15 percent more work in a day.
Learning Resources and Strategies
1.Find books and articles in library on how to organize my work and manage time. Read them.
2.Interview three executives on how they organize their work, then observe them for one day, noting and recording techniques they use.
3.Select from your readings and observations, plan a day’s work, have a colleague observe you for a day to give you feedback.   
Other objectives
Other learning resources and strategies

Step 4: Specify evidence of accomplishment.

Type of Objective Examples of Evidence
Knowledge Essays, examinations, oral presentations, annotated bibliographies.
Understanding Examples of utilization of knowledge in solving a problem, action in a project plans for change, etc.
Skills Videotaped performances, ratings by observers.
Attitiudes Rating scales, role playing, critical-incident cases, feedback from observers; self-assessment.
Values Rating scales, performance in value clarification groups, critical-incident cases, simulation exercises, feedback from participants; self-assessment.

Step 5: Specify how the evidence will be validated. For knowledge this might include comprehensiveness, clarity, usefulness, scholarliness;  for skill it might be poise, speed, flexibility, precision, imaginativeness.
One of the actions that help to differentiate "distinguished" from "adequate" performance in self-directed learning is the wisdom in which a learner selects his or her validators.

Step 6: Review your contract with committee chairperson of the capstone.
This is to be done after the first draft of the contract has been completed and before it is submitted to the instructed. You may also want to review it with friends, supervisors, or other resource persons.

Questions to be pondered:
Are the objectives clear, understandable, assessable and realistic?
Are there other objectives to be considered?
Are there other resources and strategies to be considered?
Is the evidence relevant to the objectives?
Is there other evidence that should be considered?
Are there other ways to validate the evidence?

Step 7: Carry out the contract. You will undoubtedly want to revise the contract as you go along in the face of new information. Be sure to get the approval of the capstone committee chairperson for any revisions.

Step 8: Evaluation of your Learning. Your capstone committee chairperson, your committee and you will want to make a judgment as to the adequacy of the evidence and data.

Material adapted from Malcolm S. Knowles.(1986). Using Learning Contracts. Jossey-Bass Publishers.