The process of designing a unit contract begins by articulating the essential learning goals
This requires challenging the notion that all goals are equally important. It requires asking the questions “Does this piece of curriculum help prepare a student to live life well?” and “Can every student can realistically master it within the time constraints?” There are, of course, ramifications to answering these questions honestly, both inside and outside the classroom, but it is a necessary task if we are to obey the Prime Directive.
Learning goals can be sorted into essential and above and beyond
Essential goals are required of everyone. Above and beyond are available for students who are able and willing to explore them.
Unit contracts provide a consistent structure that promotes student agency and accountability
It lets students practice the skill of time management and gives them the ability to self-evaluate their entire learning process. It gives them the scaffolding they need to become truly independent learners.
Unit contracts are invaluable in documenting the learning process
When students self-evaluate their work, a complete picture of how they performed the learning process is made visible, and they take ownership of that process.
Unit contracts can be used to organize entire courses
It forces the evaluation of the relative importance of the content throughout the year in order to establish priorities for students’ learning goals.