Establishing the ground rules Essay Sample

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Analyse different ways in which you would establish ground rules with your learners, which underpin behaviour and respect for others.

Ground rules are fundamental within a learning environment to establish suitable conduct for teachers and students in order to maintain an effective and organised working relationship. It is important to note that there are two main types of rules, the organisational rules and classroom ground rules. The difference being that the organisational rules are typically non-negotiable, e.g. no eating or drinking in class etc. (Budden, 2010)

Rules typically fall into two styles:
Encouraging rules – These promote certain aspects of behaviour such as being punctual and participating in group activity. Prohibiting rules – These state unacceptable behaviour and actions such as; no mobile phones or no drinks near the computers.

It is important to involve learners in the establishing of the ground rules for several reasons: 1. It allows them to feel involved in the process which makes them more likely to adhere to the rules. 2. They are more likely to monitor others and ensure the rules are being followed. 3. It allows them to voice their opinion and establish rules that may be more specific to their needs.

4. It allows them to voice their basic requirements for the learning experience. 5. They are more likely to remember rules that they had a hand in establishing, this means they are more likely to uphold them. 6. If they are involved in the process they are more likely to accept the compulsory rules. Especially if they are able to suggest their own rules. 7. By not involving them in the process they are more likely to feel that they are being dictated to. This is more likely to make them rebel against the rules, even if they are reasonable.

For all learning environments allot of the expectations are the same, however there are factors that affect what and how ground rules are established. For example a class of primary school children would require a different set of ground rules to a class of adults theoretically. Although some of the rules may be the same, some such as no eating small objects for example wouldn’t be necessary for the adult class.

The method of involving the primary school children in the ground rule development process may be tailored to better connect with the younger audience. It may be more prudent to make the exercise visually appealing and more interactive by directing the children to draw posters that identify how they should and shouldn’t behave in class. For the adult class it might be more effective to ask them to split into groups and formulate a list of rules they feel are important. For both groups all the rules should be collected together to formulate the class rules.

The subject being taught and the method of teaching it would affect the types of ground rules. It may also affect the method of establishing these ground rules, and when it is appropriate to do so. As the ground rules are an important foundation to the learning experience it is important that the students relate to them. With this in mind when delivering the ground rules it is important where possible to relate to the students. For example a group of Art students may relate to the ground rules better if they were to produce something visually to define the rules. This could be a poster showing images of what should and shouldn’t take place. It could also be a fancy list using different colours for encouraging and prohibiting rules. A group of IT students might relate better if they were to formulate a PowerPoint presentation to demonstrate the ground rules.

Another factor that would affect the method by which the ground rules are established is the length of the class. If it is a short evening class of 3 hours for example the process of establishing the ground rules would be allot quicker.

It can be argued that the most important time to establish the ground rules is at the beginning. This allows the students to know exactly what is expected of them and allows them to outline what they expect of themselves and others, including the teacher. The benefit of this is that should a rule be broken as they have already been established there should be no argument when the offender is reprimanded. It is also an effective method of breaking the ice with the class and allows the teacher to effectively relay their expectations and to determine the class’s expectations for each other and the teacher. It also gives the students the opportunity to challenge the rules and the teacher the chance to defend them before they are broken. (NHS London, 2010)

There are different methods that can be employed to establish the ground rules at the beginning. Each of these methods has varying degrees of student involvement. If the ground rules are already established by the teacher or learning institute the students can be informed of them before they start their learning, or the students can be told where the rules are and advised to read them. This method doesn’t really involve the students and is more likely to make them rebel against the system. The next step would be to read through the rules with the students, discussing them in turn to ensure the students understand them. This involves the students a little more and would be suitable for an older class of students. A younger class would be less likely to relate to these rules as they would get bored during the process of discussing them.

The next stage would be to develop ground rules as a group with the learners taking it in turns to suggest a rule which could then be added to a list. This could be tailored to the group, for example for younger children, images or miming could be employed to add a fun element to the process.

Alternatively the class could be separated into groups where they could be asked to discuss some rules amongst themselves. If a poster or list is formulated the groups could then display these to the whole class discussing as they go along.

As an IT support tutor I work with learners who attend once a week for 8 hour sessions. The course lasts for 7 to 10 weeks depending upon the learner’s skill level. I also support skills for life learners taking English and Maths courses from Monday to Friday. The IT learners start the course typically one at a time when compared with groups of 18 SFL learners. Therefore the method I have adopted to set the ground rules for the two different groups is tailored to the groups, despite the fact that the learning environment is the same.

For the SFL learners we sit around a board table and I give them an introduction during which I run through the ground rules that are non-negotiable such as no eating and drinking at the computers. We then discuss as a group using a flip-chart what the learners feel are acceptable rules for the duration of their learning. By doing this I build a rapport with the learners and also gain insight into what they are looking to get from the learning experience.

In contrast I discuss the main centre rules and regulations with the IT learners and ensure that they understand the fire, health and safety rules. We establish the rules with regard to the course, attendance etc after the assessment activities have been completed. This is because there is a considerable variation in the different types of IT programmes and it is more appropriate to discuss the expectations of the learners and myself for the course etc. once it has been established which course they will be taking. This is done through an initial review on a one to one basis.

In conclusion establishing the ground rules is fundamental as it allows both the students and the teachers to determine the boundaries within the learning environment. The method of establishing these ground rules varies according to the age of the students, the course of study, the length of the course and environment within which it is taught. Although it is possible and sometimes necessary to dictate the ground rules to the students, it is more effective if they are included in the process of formulating them. The main reasons for this are that they will be more likely to uphold the rules if they had a hand in making them and that they are more likely to enforce them between themselves.


Budden, J (2010) Teaching English, Establishing the ground rules, available at: [13/12/2010] NHS London, (2010) London Deanery, Setting

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