It usually helps to establish the ground rules from the start of a session, according to Gravells (2008, p.7) ‘setting ground rules helps everyone know their limits‘. This can be a mixture of ground rules determined by the tutor or can be negotiated between both the tutor and the students. As a result it can provide expectations for the behaviour of the group. For example typical ground rules may include;
• Starting and finishing times • Listening to others • Mobile phone rules • Keeping personal issues out of the session • Maintaining confidentiality within the group
The only disadvantage is that it can be time consuming negotiating between the students and the tutor, but setting the rules in this way will result in the group being more likely to be committed to them, (Petty, G. 2004)
It is especially important to agree a ground rule if the group are discussing their experiences or difficult situations. This will establish a rule that allows the students to feel safe at being able to express themselves (Gould and Francis 2009) in their contributions to the group.
These established, negotiated and agreed ground rules can be displayed on a wall to remind everyone what is expected within the session. This will ensure that a friendly, sociable and relaxed atmosphere is developed and maintained.