Pttls Task 1

How can teachers/trainers establish ground rules with their learners?

What specific issues are there in your specialist area?

Ground rules need to be set at the beginning of a course to establish rules and expectations of behaviour.  

“Setting ground rules will help everyone know their limits”.¹

If a list of rules is put before a class, students will feel like they are ‘being got at’, that they are being given negative information, which immediately puts up defensive barriers which could in turn become barriers to learning.   For young adult students in Further Education they may feel like they are being treated like schoolchildren and react against them.   Mature adult students may feel patronised, not treated appropriately as the adults they are, and may not want to return.

The classroom ground rules should be agreed on the first day of the course, before unwanted habits have a chance to develop and everybody knows where they stand.   The reason for rules needs to be introduced so everyone understands the purpose: to enable the learning of the group and the individual, emphasising the responsibility of the teacher, the individual and the rest of the group for a conducive learning environment.

I favour a student-centred approach to making ground rules, where rules are agreed not dictated.   If this activity is well managed by the tutor, then everyone in the group is treated equally and everyone has an opportunity to have their opinion considered.   This is inclusion right from the very beginning; when rules are agreed and explained in this way the hidden curriculum values of inclusive behaviour and respect for others are underpinned, setting a standard from the start.   This approach puts a degree of trust and responsibility onto the students: people who are trusted feel valued; people who feel valued are more likely to stay on the course.  

The method of ‘rule gathering’ will differ slightly according to age and ability of students in the group....