Learning Agreements

Students are required to work with their Clinical/Practice Educator to produce a learning agreement to help guide their learning. This should be produced by negotiation between the student and the Clinical Educator by the end of week one of a full-time placement. Prior to the placement, students are encouraged to complete a SWOT analysis for the placement having considered the area in which they will be learning and to come to their placement with some ideas about what they would like to achieve. Students are also encouraged to complete a learning styles questionnaire to afford them the opportunity of recognising how they learn most effectively to allow them to apply this to practice.

The learning agreement has several purposes:-

  • Encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning
  • Encourages students to evaluate and reflect on their learning
  • Encourages learning partnerships between clinical/practice educators and student(s)
  • Provides ongoing structure and focus for the placement, so that clinical/practice educators and student(s) are aiming for the same goals.

In order for the learning agreement to have maximum impact on the learning process, it needs to be reviewed on a weekly basis and modified throughout the placement according to the student’s progress. As goals are achieved, new goals may be added as required. This reviewing is a two-way process, and should involve both the Clinical/Practice Educator and the student(s). It is useful to agree at the time of initial negotiation of the learning agreement how and when it will be reviewed during the placement.

The learning agreement should be emailed to the visiting lecturer by the end of the first week, by the student, in order for the visiting lecturer to be able to provide feedback on the structure and content of the agreement.

Learning Agreement

The learning agreement is divided into several sections;

Objective:

This section contains the student’s learning objectives for the placement. These should be written in the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timed) format. A useful prefix to help the students write these objectives is “By the end of the placement I will be able to…”
There should be no more than 6 objectives written at the beginning of the placement, but more may be added as the placement progresses, with the learning agreement viewed as a working document reflected in the production on progressive learning outcomes.

How will objective be achieved?

This section contains information about the resources that are available to help students achieve their objectives, and any strategies that they may use to reach their goals. Students are encouraged to approach this as a developmental process that they undertake to achieve the agreed goal and that the approach reflect their identified learning style. These might include:-

  • Staff (including educators and/or other members of the MDT)
  • Peers – fellow students
  • Patients
  • Lecture notes/further research
  • In-service training
  • Other facilities specific to your place of work

Some students choose to approach this section in a structured format and approach this section by taking a staged approach to how the objective will be achieved. This is encouraged during pre-placement preparation sessions.

How will objective be evaluated?

This section contains information about how the objective will be evaluated – how the educator and the student will know if/when it has been achieved.
Methods of evaluation might include:-

  • Feedback from the clinical/practice educator
  • Feedback from other members of the MDT
  • Feedback from patients
  • Self-evaluation and reflection

Suggested time frame for achieving objective

This section contains information about the time scale by which the objective will be achieved. It may be that an objective will need the full length of the placement before it is achieved, but some objectives may be able to be achieved earlier in the placement. It is suggested that a balance of objectives in terms of time frame (some shorter than others) ensures that the learning agreement is dynamic and developmental.

Outcome

This section should record whether the objective has been achieved during the placement. Some objectives may relate to areas of the formal assessment, and therefore must be achieved in order to pass that section of the placement. Other objectives may relate to areas of development that could continue to be developed on further placements. These should be entered into the section at the bottom of the form (Areas for further development on future placements). Outcomes should make reference to the evaluation criteria used for measuring achievement of the objective, and objectives that have not been achieved should be analysed by the student and educator to determine why they have not been achieved. This section should be signed and dated as each outcome is achieved.