Research is clear that students are more motivated to learn when they feel connected and accountable to a community of co-learners (Seven Principles for Good Teaching, 2019). The group agreement is a tool instructors can use to facilitate cooperation and connection among students and make their mutual dependence on one another visible.
The practice of group agreements was introduced to the Emily Carr community in a 2019 presentation by Nura Ali and Annie Canto, both of whom were students at the time. In The Anti-Racist Classroom: Towards a Pedagogy of Consensual Learning, Ali and Canto made the compelling argument that group agreements can be a meaningful tool in an anti-racist pedagogy toolkit, because they make class expectations and values visible through collaboratively written and agreed-upon principles. The agreement can help to prevent and/or heal from misunderstandings that lead to pain and conflict, especially for students from marginalized communities.
Ali and Canto’s presentation and accompanying handout became a starting point for many faculty conversations, and some faculty now regularly use group agreements to build a shared understanding of community with our students.