Ground rules are used to lay down order, responsibility and accepted behaviours amongst learners. Ground rules are used because ‘all students require boundaries and rules within which to work’ cites Gravells (2010a:7) with which I agree as we all need rules to work within yet they are used for other reasons such as to reduce anxiety. We set ground rules like ‘all to participate’ and ‘constructive criticism only’ to include all students and to avoid unconstructive replies which may lead to a sense of being bullied or discriminated.
Each and every student is different when it comes to behaviours and respect for others. So agreements have to be made about expected behaviour in the classroom as recommended by Wilson (2008:8 ‘ASSUME NOTHING! ’, Ground rules are mutually agreed arrangements between the teacher and the learners, which ensure that the views and needs of all learners are valued and appreciated. It helps learning, easy in the classroom.
Students need to know what the teacher expects from them and what they can expect from the teacher during the course. They need to know where the boundaries lie and what will happen if they step over the boundaries. These rules have to be established by thinking carefully, expressing clearly and enforcing consistently. Ground rules can be set either by the teacher, or by the learner or by the teacher and learners together. Ground rules can be set up by having a group discussion.
It is best to have the ground rules mutually agreed so that both teacher and students have an opportunity to put their views forward and they must be doable. Once everyone’s views are considered, a set of rules that suit everyone can be designed. Learners are more likely to be committed and adherent to these rules and less likely to be broken, since they were designed by the group itself. It will instil positive discipline and maximise learning since the rules were set up with them and not enforce.
I could set ground rules by simply stating some common ground rules that I have chosen to my learners and write them up on the board for the learners to see. Another way would be to sit down with the learners on their first day and have a group discussion or break the class into groups and have the learners brainstorm their own rules and writing the suggestions up on a board and then democratically voting for the most appropriate rules.
Alternatively in a similar manner each learner could each say a rule aloud and we could instate the modal rules. As a teacher, my ground rules will be to ensure that I will be fully prepared for the class, be punctual with start and finishing times for each session and make sure markings are completed in time. I would also make sure not to put down anyone, encourage the students, assist in team work, help with course completion, be professional and honest, be non-judgemental and will have interactive teaching and no politics.
I would like the learners to decide on their ground rules like, respect for others, punctuality, confidentiality, honesty, equality of opportunity, learn and listen, no interruption, mobile phones off, no abusive language, self-control, no politics. After ground rules are agreed, they will have to be written down and distributed to every member of the classroom, and a copy will be displayed in a visible place in the classroom, all through the length of the course. Also it has to be agreed in the class how the teacher will react if rules are broken.
Learners have to be warned, as to what actions will be taken and disciplinary procedures made aware which will be different for each institution. This will create a safe and respectful environment in which all participants will have the opportunity to benefit from the learning experience. Wilson L (2008) Practical Teaching: A Guide to PTLLS and CTLLS. Cengage Learning Gravells A (2008) Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector – Level 3 Coursebook. Learning Matters