classroom contracts

Research: Classroom of Choice

Research in K-12 education shows that engaging students in developing classroom norms enhances the student and instructor relationship, increases the chance that students adhere to agreed-upon norms, and altogether creates a learning environment more conducive to learning outcomes.

Classroom norms: Developing a language of public agreement to eliminate “noise”


Emily Click, Into Practice ProfileEmily Click, Assistant Dean for Ministry Studies, Director of Field Education, and Lecturer on Ministry Studies, facilitates a discussion with students early in the semester to agree upon norms for classroom engagement, including how to address any divergent behavior. Students prepare for the conversation by writing a journal reflection that illustrates what is most important to them and what helps them thrive as a learner.   

The benefits: The “language of public agreement”—versus the language of rules and policies, as articulated by Robert Kegan and ... Read more about Classroom norms: Developing a language of public agreement to eliminate “noise”

Rules of Classroom Conduct (HKS)

The Harvard Kennedy School of Government has a webpage dedicated to tips and tricks for teaching a class, including rules of classroom conduct

Setting Expectations

The Harvard Kennedy School of Government has a webpage dedicated to tips and tricks for teaching a class, including setting expectations.

Research: Should syllabi communicate expectations regarding appropriate classroom behaviors?

Students poorly predict instructor expectations, according to an analysis of student and instructor survey responses about in-class behaviors such as arriving late, talking to other students, not taking notes, and monopolizing class time. The authors underscore the importance of clearly defining...

Read more about Research: Should syllabi communicate expectations regarding appropriate classroom behaviors?

The hidden curriculum: Engaging students on another level


Bernard Nickel Into Practice profile PicBernhard Nickel, Professor of Philosophy, engages students in his introductory College courses about the “hidden curriculum”—defined here as the social and disciplinary norms often invisible to both students and the teaching staff, including expectations about class preparation, in-session focus, respectful discussion behavior, and the role of feedback.

The benefits: Addressing the hidden curriculum explicitly in class surfaces and dispels student assumptions about conduct (for example, concerns that discussing a paper with the instructor during office hours is cheating) that often cause poor academic performance but cannot be solved with narrowly academic feedback.... Read more about The hidden curriculum: Engaging students on another level

Participation (Christensen Center)

HBS’s Christensen Center for Teaching & Learning highlights brief instructor video tips on managing student participation and creating a learning environment that is fair, safe, and challenging.

How do I edit my Profile? (Canvas)

Tools such as profiles in Canvas, Harvard’s learning management system, help instructors get to know students and cultivate accountability. 

Faculty-student low-low contract

Professor Chris Winship of the sociology department describes how reciprocity can also work against learning when instructors and students agree to mutual low expectation, defined as the “faculty-student low-low contract.” 

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