Student Contracts in Group Work

Student contracts is a student-centered approach to setting expectations for collaboration and contribution during group work
63 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

Student contracts are agreements created by students to identify behaviors that will help the group collaborate and complete the assigned activity. Student contracts allow students to voice their concerns, expectations, and goals within a shared document. The student contract should be the foundation for student success on a group activity. A student contract also addresses consequences for any violation of the agreed terms within the contract. Student contracts can start as early as K5 and should build autonomy based on social readiness and maturity.  

Implementation Steps

30-45 minutes
  1. In order to brainstorm for the development of group contracts, divide students into their collaborative groups and then ask them to brainstorm and create a list of everything they dislike about group work or problems they've had when working with a group. Have students also create a list of everything they like about group work and the benefits of group work.

  2. Have students draft their contract using sentence starters including:

    • We will...

    • We will not...

    • I will...

    • I will not...

    • I will complete (specific portion of project or activity) by (certain time or date)...

  3. Once students have identified their various levels of roles and responsibilities, the contract needs to include clear levels of consequences regarding what will happen if a member of the group violates the contract. Examples include:

    • If a student does not complete their designated section of the activity by the due date/time, he/she must come to class during lunch or after school to complete their portion.

    • If we do not agree on the appropriate next step in our project, we will schedule a meeting with the teacher for support.

  4. Approve every contract before students begin. Hold students accountable to the contracts they created throughout the project or activity.

Special Education Modification

Some students with disabilities face challenges participating in group work. As students develop contracts, help them identify any supports that will help everyone in their group be successful. For example, is their a group member who would be particularly well-suited to taking notes on a laptop? Is there a group member who would be a great time keeper? Is there a group member who could make sure to pause the conversation to ensure that all group members have time to contribute equitably? Ask students these types of questions to help them develop contracts that maximize the contributions of all students, including those with disabilities.

Questions to Consider

  1. How would you adapt the group contract to work within your classroom rules, rituals, and procedures?

  2. How would you insure that all students not only understand the group contract, but feel that it is their contract?

  3. How would you hold students accountable to their group contract?

  4. How could group contracts support students to overcome group challenges?

  5. What are the benefits of having students define procedures for resolving conflicts at the start of group work?

Coach Tips

Krystal Bankston
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

The first few times that students create group contracts, they will not be strict enough and won't hold students as accountable as they or you would like. That's part of the learning process. Remind students that the next time they build a student contract they will want to think of the problems they've faced and try to write out a contract that addresses those problems. They will learn to write their contracts better and deeper as they practice and engage in this process.

Tech Tools

Google Docs

  1. Google Docs is an online word processor (part of Google Apps) that allows you store, create and edit documents collaboratively in a web browser.
  2. GoogleDocs supports this strategy because it allows teachers to create templates for group contracts or students can create their group contracts from scratch. Students can access the group template and work collaboratively to create, modify, and utilize the contract throughout the project. Teachers can view the contracts at any time, make comments, or add suggestions.