Ground Rules

Ground rules are mutually agreed reciprocal arrangements where others’ views and needs are appreciated and valued. This creates a safe and respectful space in which all participants have the opportunity to benefit from the learning experience.
All learners require boundaries and rules within which to work. Sometimes the ‘rules’ are assumed and problems are rare, but it usually helps to establish the ground rules from the start. The ground rules can be elicited from the group or determined by the tutor. Quality Improvement Agency suggests four possible methods of doing this (Appendix A); the learning objectives are the same, whatever method is used.
Ground rules are established to facilitate discussion. An example of some ground rules can be seen in Appendix B. They ensure that the class environment is respectful and that everyone has an opportunity to participate. More specifically, ground rules…
• Encourage students to work collaboratively in developing a respectful environment.
• Give students a stake in abiding by the agreed-upon ground rules.
• Establish a process of group participation rather than instructor-led lecture.
• Create an atmosphere in which all students feel free to participate.
• Remind students of the need for respect, openness, and sensitivity.
• Establish the tone for section by encouraging group interaction and feedback.
Ground rules should be re-visited at regular intervals during co-operative learning and revised or added to in the light of experience.
Students differ when it comes to behaviour and respect for others, therefore establishing ground rules will need to reflect this difference. Group discussion of expectations and incorporation of all views ensures that every student feels heard and included. This form of inclusion facilitates a memorable establishment of ground rules which are individually as well as collectively meaningful.