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Ask the expert: Learning agreements


Graham O'Connell comes up trumps with an example of a learning agreement, pre-course questionnaire and quiz.

Question: Does anyone use a simple learning agreement or contract that I could look at that puts some rigour pre-training around the expectations and roles (of manager and trainee) and then validates post-training that change has actually taken place on the job and what change has taken place? Appreciate any help.
Wayne Moore

Graham O'Connell has kindly provided the following documents:


Name ………………………………………

Course dates …………………………

Job title/Role ………………………………………………………………………

1.What experience, if any, have you in facilitation?

2.In what types of situation might you need to act as a facilitator in the next 12 months?

3.In light of the course aim and content, what specific skills do you most want to develop on the course?

4.On the basis that we can all learn from each other, what do you feel you can offer the group?

5.What other information, if any, would it be useful for us to know about?

Learning Agreement:

This is to assist you and your line manager in agreeing what you each expect of each other, what your objectives are and how you will be supported in consolidating, applying and continuing your learning after the course. You can forward this with the pre-course questionnaire if you think it would be helpful, or you can keep it as a confidential contract between you and your manager.

1.As a result of your pre-course meeting, what are the main background or contextual issues you need to keep in mind?

2.What are your line manager's expectations?

3.What specific objectives do you have around what you need to learn and what you need to do after the course?

4.What are your expectations of your line manager (or mentor, or equivalent)?

5.What support will you receive to help you consolidate and extend your learning when you are back at work?

6.What support, opportunities and challenges are open to you to help you apply your learning, build your confidence and improve your performance?

7.What other agreements have you made, if any, that will help you and the organisation get the very best from this learning opportunity?

8.When and how will you evaluate the learning and its impact?

Your signature:

Line manager's signature:

So you want to facilitate participative learning?

Be prepared!

This is a short quiz to help you think about how prepared you are for the course and to help you get the best from it. It is important but not serious!

Have you read about facilitation or discussed it with colleagues?

1. No. That's why I'm coming on the course, to be told all about it.

            0 points

2. A bit. I know what it looks like but not how to do it.      

           2 points

3. Yes. I have a good foundation on which to build.

            4 points

What view do you hold about your own facilitative training skills?

1. There is not a facilitative bone in my body!      

            0 points

2. I hope I can be facilitative. I'm just not sure how.

           2 points

3. I have the potential to be very facilitative. I want to learn how.

            4 points

Have you tried out some participative learning techniques or activities?

1. Never. It's all a mystery to me.

            0 points

2. A few. But I am not very confident.

           2 points

3. I have experimented with several methods and approaches. 

            4 points

Have you read through the course description in the brochure?

1. What course description?

            0 points

2. Yes. I know broadly what the course is about.

           2 points

3. Yes. I have identified that it covers my needs.

            4 points

Do you know what you want to be able to do differently as a result of the course?

1. I am coming for a break not to think about work.

            0 points

2. My needs are very general. I just want to be more skilled.

           2 points

3. I have a clear idea what I want to do with my learning on my return.

            4 points

Have you discussed the course with your line manager?

1. I haven't told my manager yet that I'm coming.     

            0 points

2. My manager and I have talked about it in general terms.

           2 points

3. We have discussed objectives and what will happen on my return.

            4 points

4. I am self-managing. I am clear how I will benefit.               

           4 points

How will you help your own learning and the learning of others on the course?

1. I don't think about these things. That's the trainer's job.     

            0 points

2. I will listen and take notes. I may ask some questions.

           2 points

3. I will listen, write, actively participate and share my ideas.

            4 points

4. I will tell everyone how much I know and what I could do if it wasn't for my boss/colleagues/budget/upbringing

           -2 points


0-5 points
Oh dear! Perhaps you ought think a little more about the course. Make sure you talk through your needs with your manager. If you need more time, consider deferring until a later date.

You will probably learn something and should still have a good time. However you may want to go over the questions again and think about how best to prepare.

Although you have thought about the course, you may be able to do more in order to get the very best from it. If you feel you are not very experienced, or you have not had much chance to practice, don't worry. The course will be both practical and offer a 'safe' environment.

Well done. You are clearly well prepared. If you are already quite experienced you may like to think about what you can offer to the course as well as what you can get from it.

Welcome. You sound prepared enough to run the course!

Notes on - your needs - questions - ideas - agreements with your line manager

Don't forget to complete and return the pre-course contracting sheet with details of your objectives, and keep a copy for your portfolio.

Graham O'Connell MA Chartered FCIPD FITOL FInstCPD ACIM: Graham is head of organisational learning and standards at the National School for Government. He has particular responsibility for developing and promoting best practices in learning and development.

As a consultant Graham has 25 years' experience in technical, management, trainer training and as an adviser to organisations on the strategic aspects of L&D. He has extensive overseas experience including working in countries as diverse as Russia and Bermuda, China and Kosovo. Graham still does some occasional tutoring on CIPD and University of Cambridge qualification programmes and runs occasional Masterclasses. He also runs a number of networks including the Strategic L&D Network (for Heads of L&D in the Civil Service), the Henley Public Sector Knowledge Management Forum and the Leadership Alliance Exchange.


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