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Classroom Contracts May Improve Students’ Grades

Classroom Contracts May Improve Students GradesContracts are an essential component of any business practice. Typically, the document describes rights and duties of each party and serves as a binding agreement.

A novel study finds that contracts and a new method of assessment can be successful used in the classroom.

Researchers discovered that when students design their own course, based on a contract, students scored higher grades and displayed better student satisfaction than on traditional points-based courses.

The research has been published in SAGE Open.

For the study, researchers Dana Lindemann and Colin Harbke assigned 40 college freshmen enrolled in one introductory psychology course to a traditional or contract grading system.

Those assigned to the contract system signed a contract at the beginning of the semester in which they indicated what grade they were aiming to receive and specified which assignments they would complete to receive that grade.

Students who wanted to receive a better grade had to complete more assignments and receive a higher score on exams than those aiming for a lower grade.

Though the instructor and course materials were identical for both sections, at the end of the semester, the group of students who were graded contractually were three times more likely to earn an A grade.

Investigators also learned that members of a contract group were one third as likely to fail or withdraw from the course.

Overall, students perceived a higher degree of control over their grade, and consistently rated their own effort, their instructor, and the course as more favorably.

“Students indicated higher ratings for working hard for their grade, enjoying the course format, and for enhancing independent thinking,” wrote the authors. “Contract graded students may be more motivated to perform well.”

Students assigned to contract groups were allowed to choose their coursework from a variety of assignments.

Additionally, the grading of assignments were performed as pass or fail, requiring that each student master 85 percent of the material to receive a passing grade. Students were also allowed to resubmit their assignments one time in order to receive a passing grade.

Researchers believe the pass/fail scoring scheme has significant value.

Lindemann and Harbke comment, “When assignments are graded pass or fail, emphasis is placed on mastery of the material, as opposed to gaining a partial understanding of the material.”

Source: SAGE Publications

Classroom Contracts May Improve Students’ Grades

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Classroom Contracts May Improve Students’ Grades. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 16 Jan 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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