CTL: Center for Teaching and Learning

Learning Agreements Core Values → Class Code → Learning Agreement

 Written by Jenny Scott, M.A., Assistant Professor in the Business Division

Introduction to the Learning Agreement

Q: What do Google, REI, Schweitzer Engineering Labs, Whole Foods, and Zappos have in common?

A: Strong culture = happy employees = engagement = success


Peter Drucker, a management consultant, author and educator originated the phrase, “Organizational culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Culture: the ‘how we do things around here’ and ‘what it’s like to work here’ attitude and mentality can make or break an organization.

If workplaces can create and nurture a culture that attracts, engages, and retains happy employees that leads to accomplishment of objectives and goals – and ultimately success – then why can’t we create our own version of organizational culture in our classrooms?

We can!

A strong and positive classroom culture produces a sense of community that provides a feeling of connection amongst students and instructor, and that leads to comfort with and willingness to commit to an agreement in the way to engage, learn, and grow within the classroom.

Attitudes and actions of leadership (the instructor) contribute to an organization's (the classroom’s) culture - and culture shapes and influences behavior.

 Developing a Learning Agreement in Your Class

An effective way to establish classroom culture and ultimately arrive at a learning agreement amongst the class is to: 

1)     Identify the students’ core values (what’s important to them about being a member of the class).

2)     Unify the class through an activity to identify the “common” core values of the group (contact Jenny for creative ideas on how to arrive at the final set).

3)     Turn the core values into statements that represent how the values will be practiced in the classroom and represented throughout the semester.

4)     Formally vote to adopt the core values & class code; signed commitment forms could also be required.

5)     Keep the Class Code visually accessible:

  1. Projected on white board upon arrival into classroom throughout semester
  2. Displayed in course Blackboard site
  3. Printed copy for notebook

6)     Hold each other accountable.

  1. Host a mid-term chat on which values have been most represented and which have been least represented
  2. Ask students periodically how they see each of these present and what they, individually and as a group, are doing to model them

 Try it!

Additional Resources and Other Examples of Academic Contracts