Learning Contracts In Nursing Education

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Contract Learning In Nursing Education

Learning  Contracts In Nursing Education

Use of Learning Contracts In Nursing Education,Components of the Learning Contract In Nursing Education.

Use of Learning Contracts In Nursing Education

    The concept of learning contracts is an increasingly popular approach to teaching and can be implemented with any individual learner or group of learners. Learning contracts are “based on the principle of the learners being active partners in the teaching learning system, rather than passive recipients of whatever it is that the teacher thinks is good for them. It is about their ownership of the process” (Atherton, 2003, p. 1).

    A learning contract is defined as a written (formal) or verbal (informal) agreement between the teacher and the learner that specifies teaching and learning activities that are to occur within a certain time frame. 

    A learning contract is a mutually negotiated agreement, usually in the form of a written document, drawn up together by the teacher and the learner, that outlines what the learner will learn, what resources will be needed, how learning will be achieved and within what time period, and which criteria will be used to measure the success of the experience (Jones-Boggs, 2008; Keyzer, 1986; Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 1998; Matheson, 2003).

    Inherent in the learning contract is the existence of some type of reward for upholding the contract (Wallace & Mundie, 1987). For patients and families, this reward may be recognition of their success in mastering a task that helps them move closer to independence in self care and a high quality of life. 

    Learning contracts are considered an effective teaching strategy for empowering the learner because they emphasize self direction, mutual negotiation, engagement, and mutual evaluation of established competency levels (Chan & Chien, 2000; Chien, Chan, & Morrissey, 2002; Jones Boggs , 2008). Many terms have been used to describe this approach, such as independent learning. self directed learning, and learner centered or project oriented learning (Chan & Chien, 2000; Lowry, 1997; Waddell & Stephens, 2000).

    Learning contracts stress shared account- ability for learning between the teacher and the learner. The method of contract learning actively involves the learner at all stages of the teaching-learning process, from assessment of learning needs and identification of learning resources to the planning, implementation, and evaluation of learning activities (Jones Boggs, 2008; Knowles et al. , 1998). 

    For example, learning contracts have been used as a low cost tool to increase students' academic performance both in the classroom and clinical setting and to encourage independence and self-direction (Bailey & Tuohy, 2009, Frank & Scharff, 2013; Gregory, Guse , Dick, Davis, & Russell, 2009).

    Translating the concept of learning contracts to the healthcare environment, they are a unique way of presenting information to the learner. They are the essence of an equal and cooperative partnership, which challenges the traditional teacher client relationship through a redistribution of power and control. 

    Allowing learners to negotiate a contract for learning shifts the control and emphasis of the learning experience from a traditionally teacher centered focus to a learner centered focus. Learning contracts can be especially useful in facilitating the discharge of patients to their home from the hospital or rehabilitation settings. 

    In situations involving the care of a complex patient by multidisciplinary team members, a contract provides a patient centered, cohesive communication tool between the patient, family caretakers, and the healthcare team (Cady & Yoshioka, 1991; Yetzer, Goetsch, & St . Paul, 2011). 

Components of the Learning Contract In Nursing Education

    A complete learning contract includes four major components (Knowles, 1990, Knowles et al., 1998; Wallace & Mundie, 1987):

1. Content: Specifies the precise behavioral objectives to be achieved. Objectives must clearly state the desired outcomes of learning activities. Negotiation between the educator and the learner determines the content, level, and sequencing of objectives according to learner needs, abilities, and readiness.

2.Performance expectations: Specify the conditions under which learning activities will be facilitated, such as instructional strategies and resources.

3. Evaluation: Specifies the criteria used to evaluate achievement of objectives, such as skills checklists, care standards or protocols, and agency policies and procedures of care that identify the levels of competency expected of the learner.

4.Time frame: Specifies the length of time needed for successful completion of the objectives. The target date should reflect a reasonable period in which to achieve expected outcomes. depending on the learner's abilities and circumstances. The completion date is the actual time it took the learner to achieve each objective.

    In addition to these four components, it is important to include the terms of the contract. Role definitions delineate the teacher learner relationship by clarifying the expectations and assumptions about the roles each party will play. The educator is responsible for coordinating and facilitating all phases of the contract process. 

    In the case of nursing staff and student nurse learning, the educator plays a major role in the selection and preparation of preceptors and acts as a resource person for both the learner and the preceptor. 

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