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Contracts for Independent Learning

Engaging students in the middle years

Author: Jeni Wilson and Lynda Cutting

Format: 124 pp book

ISBN: 9781863667081  SCIS No: 1024597

Publisher: Education Services Australia 2001

Audience: Professional reference

Price: $39.95


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Student learning contracts can help in our perennial desire to engage and challenge different learners. Student learning contracts create opportunities for students to choose how, when and what they want to learn within the parameters of the teacher`s guidelines - but what should those guidelines be?

Contracts for Independent Learning will help you to create genuine partnerships between teachers and students in the middle years. With its invaluable planning tools, your pathway to providing challenging curriculum suitable for students with different needs and abilities becomes clearer.

  • Over 30 fully reproducible learning contracts covering a wide variety of topics
  • Contracts are organised into two groups: literature and integrated curriculum.
  • Guidance on catering for students with different learning styles (Gardners` mulitple intelligences), and developing independent investigation and thinking skills (Bloom's taxonomy).
  • Activity proformas, assessment templates and a comprehensive recommended reading list.

Contracts for Independent Learning covers an extensive range of topics for literature and inegrated studies, and can help you to integrate contracts seamlessly into your classroom.

review

Stephen James-Smoult teacher ACT

This new release form the Curriculum Corporation is a welcome addition to any teacher’s collection. It is suitable for both upper primary-middle secondary teachers and is full of practical, student-centred activities. The book begins with an introduction which covers Gardner’s Multiple Intelligencies, in an easy to read, practical way. It then clearly articulates how the activities are organised within the learning contracts as well as discussing the links between activities.

Each contract is divided into three sections which include activities that cover the different types of thinking, based on Bloom’s taxonomy. They are grouped as follows:

  • Finding Out (knowledge and comprehension)
  • Sorting Out (analysis and application)
  • Speaking Out (synthesis and evaluation)

There are two types of contracts included: literature and integrated curriculum. There is a chapter devoted to getting organised which goes through everything you need to know about implementing effective learning contracts and negotiating curriculum.

Chapter 2 Literature Contracts and Chapter 3 Integrated Curriculum Contracts include the contracts. Chapter 2 has 16 contracts related to different genres and topics (eg heroes, modern fantasy, myths and legends etc.). Chapter 3 has 17 contracts covering a broad range of topics from drugs, endangered species, to the world of work, energy, packaging, earth and space. These units each follow the same format and allow students to select from a range of activities under the three headings: finding out, sorting out and speaking out. Each activity is accompanied by a symbol related to the multiple intelligencies as well.

Chapter 4 Record Keeping and Assessment contains checklists, rubrics, assessment stems and self assessment profomas. An appendix and extensive reading list is also included.

This is an excellent resource for teachers and will be particularly useful for beginning teachers. It is well set out and includes everything a teacher needs to achieve the challenge of engaging students in the middle years!

REACT 2001

Number 3 page 3

Kerry Robertson, B.Tech, Grad Dip (Lang & Lit), M.Ed. (Lang & Lit)

This publication is based on Gardners Multiple Intelligences, Bloom’s Taxonomy and negotiation of learning topics and content. My first impression of this resource is that it is self – contained. It is a ready resource which aligns well with curriculum differentiation in catering for individuals needs of students in the middle years and drawing on the notions of choice and negotiation in order to empower students with more ownership of their learning.

Teachers vary in their response to using the various State curriculum frameworks; some teach by them to the letter while others use them as intended, as frameworks within which creativity can flourish and student voice is enabled. This text promotes the possibility of the latter. Student engagement and connectedness to school in the middle years (5 –9) largely hinges on the relevancy of the curriculum and the relationships developed in the classroom. Kiddey & Robson in their book Make Their Heads Spin! discuss ‘minding connections’ and ‘making it sing’ (p 23) which refers to the need for teachers to factor in individual learning styles, peers in the classroom and ensuring that learning takes place through exciting and motivating processes and where learning is contextualised, relevant and challenging for the students.

The authors have provided possible ways to implement learning contracts : literature contracts, integrated units contracts and negotiated/individual contracts. They have also included generic activities within the levels of thinking and Multiple Intelligences depicted by Bloom and Gardner respectively.

The organisation of contract learning as described in the text allows for a range of configurations within the curriculum and various student groups. The built-in flexibility of this text tool makes it a favourable resource for teachers across the Key Learning Areas of the middle years of schooling. The authors have proposed ideas, approaches and possible procedural steps to guide teachers while concurrently factoring in variations.

Although not aligned with state curriculum frameworks, teachers would be able to easily link the contract content with learning outcomes for upper primary and lower secondary. The systematic and predictable format of the contracts allow for easy scanning and interpretation of the activities. The organisation of the activities under the headings of ‘finding out (knowledge and comprehension),’ sorting out (analysing and application)’ and ‘speaking out (synthesising and evaluating)’ provides a structure within which teachers can develop their own contracts with and for the students.

Assessment of such open-ended approaches to student learning necessarily requires a range of assessment tools. In line with the empowering nature of contracts, it follows that assessment of the learning from the contract also be empowering for the students and so the authors have provided assessment possibilities such as Multiple Intelligences checklists, rubrics and self assessments which encourage student reflection on their progress, and the process and final contract products.

This text is a practical resource for teachers in the upper primary and lower secondary classes who want to draw in students, to engage them in their own learning and to promote learning through a constructivist model of learning. Teachers who want to encourage student voice and choice within a community of enquiry and where autonomy and self – responsibility are collective goals, will appreciate the depth of this resource.

*Reproduced with kind permission

Peter Lewis, Dean of Curriculum, Christ Church Grammar School, Perth

Contacts for Independent Learning is premised on the need for students to share responsibility for learning. Providing numerous examples of learning contracts in a range of learning areas, the book supports teachers whose aim is to challenge, to accommodate a diverse range of learning styles, and to encourage independent investigation. The authors are keen to integrate Howard Gardner's ideas of Multiple Intelligences with Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives and, for the most part, do so quite well.

In developing the contract that will ultimately guide both teacher and learner in the development of the task, the authors group activities around three sections:

  • Finding Out - gathering and comprehending information
  • Sorting Out - analyzing and applying information
  • Speaking Out - synthesising, evaluating and acting on the information

The material is aimed at the upper primary or lower secondary area, but could easily be adapted to suit younger or older students. It is refreshing to see in action the idea that the learner can be an integral part of the negotiation of tasks, and can modify the activity to suit a preferred learning style. In addition to a diversity of possible tasks around which contracts might be constructed, there is good advice provided about issues of planning, sharing task outcomes with others, integrating material across learning areas and evaluating students\\\' work. As with other books in the Curriculum Corporation series, photocopying rights to the use of pro formas that are included allow teachers to use documents in the text.

The collection of exemplars of contracts is particularly useful in suggesting myriad strategies that teachers might use in other classroom activities. I found myself reflecting on the way that I might use some of the ideas in upper school science classes. I am sure that all teachers will find something here that can be used directly or borrowed to use in a different context.

This work is a valuable insight into the variety of possibilities that teachers and learners may be able to implement in and out of the classroom. I recommend that it be placed in the Professional Development Library of any school that regards learning as a cooperative endeavour between student and teacher.

*Reproduced with permission

Independence - The Journal of the Association of Heads of Independent Schools in Australia

Vol 27, No 2 Winter 2002

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