Ground Rules

Neil Mercer   (2000) defines 'ground rules' as 'the conventions which language users employ to carry on particular kinds of conversations'.
Ground rules within the academic environment are generally a set of expectations required of both students and tutors in order for effective and successful teaching and learning processes take place in lessons/lectures.
Ground rules are generally needed for any successful teaching and learning to take place within any academic institution and they should normally be set with any group of students right at the very beginning of any teaching and learning process. According to Neil Mercer (2008) in describing a programme that was designed to develop student’s understanding and use of dialogue as a tool for learning, he states –“ During the early stages, teachers established with their classes a set of ‘ground rules’ which embodied the essential qualities of a reasoned debate - the kind of dialogue which, following Barnes & Todd (op.cit.), we called ‘exploratory talk’. Children were expected to follow these rules in their group activities.”
Basically, there are three main ways in which ground rules could be set within any teaching and learning environment and they are:
  1. Tutor led ground rules – these are purely set by the tutor with no learner input. These are usually imposed ground rules with no room for negotiation or consideration. The tutor is very clear about what he/she wants and develops the rules only from his/her own perspective. A lot of the times this approach does not really get the best out of the students. It always sound like a master-servant relationship. Students could end up resenting the lessons and tutor and that is not the most conducive environment under which to both teach and learn.
  2. Student   led ground rules – these are purely set by students under the supervision of the tutor. The advantage of this style is that it allows students take full responsibility for their...