Contracting in learning and development

In the podcast The secrets of accelerated learning; create the right environment with Krystyna Gadd, we talked about the process of “contracting” in training sessions and other learning and development activity.

I haven’t found a definition of exactly what contracting is in this context, indeed the word doesn’t seem to even exist!

The best I could do was this from Dictionary.com, as a definition for “contract”:

[noun, adjective, verb 15–17, 21, 22 kon-trakt; verb kuh n-trakt]
1. an agreement between two or more parties for the doing or not doing of something specified

So, we can assume “contracting” is the act of doing that.

A reasonably good definition is this one from FacingHistory.org where they discuss various teaching strategies:

Contracting is the process of openly discussing with your students expectations about how classroom members will treat each other

I might change the words a bit for adult L&D, and include “… and agreeing” after the word “discussing”, but I think it’s good enough.

In the podcast, Krys talked about three questions she asked which acted as her “contracting process”.  The questions might be sent beforehand as prework, but they will be shared at the start of the session or programme.

  1. In order for this to be of value to you, it has to be like what?
  2. In order for it to be like that, you have to be like what?
  3. In order for you to be like that, others have to be like what?

During the discussion, the facilitator captures all responses – without changing any words – and does not comment or interpret.

The facilitator can ask for clarification, and should be encouraging to participants, thanking them for their contribution.

These are then displayed on the wall throughout the session(s).

Krys credits Clean Language as her source for these questions.

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