Learning Contracts in Undergraduate Courses: Impacts on Student Behaviors and Academic Performance

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Timothy Frank
Lauren L.F. Scharff


This project studied the effect of individualized, voluntary learning contracts for 18 students who performed poorly in the first part of the semester. Contracts were hypothesized to increase commitment and motivation, and lead to changes in behaviors and course performance. Self-reported prioritization and learning-related behaviors (completion of homework and course readings), recorded office hour attendance, and exam performance were compared with low-performing students who had declined the contract offer, low-performing students in a control group, and high-performing students.  Students who had signed contracts attended more office hours, were more likely to prioritize homework and reading, and showed a trend for more improvement on exam performance. Ultimately, learning contracts can be a low cost, low effort tool to increase student commitment, boost academic performance, and encourage self-direction


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Frank, T., & Scharff, L. L. (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. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/josotl/article/view/3453
Author Biographies

Timothy Frank, United States Air Force Academy

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Lauren L.F. Scharff, United States Air Force Academy

Director of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning


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