• Introduction-How to establish ground rules with your learners?
• What are the benefits of agreeing Ground Rules?
• What might happen if Ground Rules are not set?
• How would I establish and maintain a safe and supportive learning environment?
Introduction-What are Ground rules and why are they important?
My background is in Management training and I have been a trainer 12 years, I use ground rules when running course that run for more than one day.
Ground rules are a set of expected behaviour’s for classroom conduct, they can be set by the instructor, or created by the delegate’s themselves or by negotiation by both parties. Some people believe by getting the delegates to come up with their own ground rules themselves it will create buy in, although with young people this method may not work and teachers may have to set some boundaries as well as the delegates.
It is vitally important that co-operative learning teams establish ground rules for working together. Ground rules are an important tool in training for helping delegates and trainers to function as a team and creating a positive learning environment. They can evolve over time and may change as groups are forming.
How to establish ground rule with your learners?
Depending on who your learners are will establish the best way to create ground rules there are 3 ways.
1. Teachers imposed
2. Learning imposed
3. Negotiation between both parties
The best way to establish ground rules is to negotiate them and this is how I set them in my training session, so all parties have ownership “take ownership of and hopefully follow the rules” (Ann Gravells PTTLS 4th Edition).
Some ground rules cannot be negotiated and the teachers will have to bring them up if the delegates don’t, to make sure they are understood, an example would be such as no smoking, fire procedure, or wearing of protective equipment as this come under the Health and Safety at work.
You can establish ground rules in different ways e.g. written contract for all parties to sign and have group exercise flipchart or post it notes. I get my delegates to flipchart how they would like to work together as a group and what they expect from each other and me, and then display this around the room to refer back too or add if needed.
What are the benefits of agreeing Ground Rules?
The main benefits are:
• To aid in providing a comfortable safe environment where every person feels safe in sharing listening, and learning. • Ground rules assist in establishing healthy boundaries such as respect for each other. • They provide a standard of behaviour that will inform group members to know what to expect in the classroom such as listening compromise. • Ground rules take much of the responsibility of being the parent off the trainer and instead distribute it to the group as this is a joint contract.
What might happen if Ground Rules are not set?
If any boundaries have not been set, it would be a struggle to manage a class. As Ann Gravells stated “Having ground rules gives a firm boundary for all learners to work within” (Gravells, 2008, third edition, p8). I have made the mistake of not setting ground rules for some of my classes this has caused me a few problems, such as people over talking each other and the inappropriate use of language and time keeping, making it hard to challenge when no boundaries have been set, this has caused disruption within the class affecting the learning experience for all.
How would I establish and maintain a safe and supportive learning environment?
It’s important to foster and establish an environment in which delegates feel safe, relaxed and to build on their self-confidence. When delivering my courses I use a range of methods to create a supportive environment such as setting the ground rules with the group to start with and also challenging any rules that have been breached by revisiting the ground rules.
I also like to get to know more about my delegates using an introduction exercise enabling me to understand individual’s needs and strengths and any personal objectives while also building a great rapport with the group. I make sure I encourage delegate’s to participate by asking open questions and using positive body language and group exercises, allowing all delegates to feel they have a part to play in the learning experience.