When decision-making power about what happens in a classroom is rarely shared with students, hierarchies are reinforced, knowledge is static, and learning becomes passive. Learning agreements and learning contracts can undercut these dynamics, modeling democracy while promoting cooperation. Analyzing collective learning agreements in undergraduate conflict management courses, this article explores what students perceive to be productive learning methods and argues that collective learning agreements facilitate active learning, self and class governance, and shared responsibility for individual and collective success. Jointly constructing collective learning agreements disrupts traditional power relations while engendering creativity in students and professors alike.
The example demonstrates that collective learning agreements call both students and professors outside their usual comfort zones; they can thus engender creative and constructive pedagogies, sometimes precisely because we are forced out of those familiar zones of practice. If we ask our students to be flexible learners—as we should—we must be flexible learners ourselves. Anything less undercuts the dialogic dimensions of true learning and puts cooperative and transformational education beyond our reach as it risks reducing education to something like the transmission of knowledge rather than the cooperative cocreation of it.