Establishing Ground Rules and Promoting Appropriate Behaviour When it comes to dealing with a new group of students, the first thing that one needs to keep in mind is that every student, as an independent individual, is unique and prone to acting upon and analysing certain situations in diverse ways. In order to come to a mutual understanding, certain arrangements on anticipated conduct within the classroom have to be made and maintained. According to Atherton (2011), these arrangements or ground rules are “the minimum necessary conditions for getting learning work done in the class”.
So essentially, the ground rules are a pact concluded between the learners and the teacher; a pact that provides a greater understanding of the expectations as well as the needs of both the teacher and the learners relating to positive learning environment. There are various ways or approaches in which ground rules can be constructed. The concept of setting out rules is closely connected to the idea of leadership – “a process of influencing the activities of… a group of individuals in an effort towards goal achievement in given situations” (Bhatti et al, 2012).
Consequently the approaches of ground rule establishment can be compared to three leadership styles, determined by Lewin, Lippit and White in their article Patterns of Aggressive Behaviour in Experimentally Created Social Climates (1939): a) authoritarian type, when the leader is making decisions independently with almost no contribution from the rest of the group, b) delegative or Laissez-Faire type, when the decision making is in the hands of group members, and c) democratic type, when the leader is allowing and encouraging the contribution from the members of the group.
Every leadership style mentioned above could be implemented in the formation of ground rules in the classroom, the question is, however, which one of these would prove to be the most effective? On one hand, it can be debated that authoritarian approach could be beneficial – a set of clear, predetermined rules, provided by the teacher could give a good insight into the outcomes and certain regulations, that the learners would be expected to comply with. On the other hand though, this approach by its nature is not earner inclusive, which could result in the learners’ reluctance to engage because of the dictatorial essence of the authoritarian approach. One can argue, that the delegative approach could be impactful, when working out ground rules, because the learners would be free to make independent decisions and set out their own standards. However, every educational establishment has a scheme of set policies and requirements that one has to hold by, which would mean that these policies would have to be included in the making of ground rules.
Yet the learners might not be aware of these and therefore won’t necessarily include those in their rule structure. Consequently, the Laissez-Faire approach might not be the right option. Common sense dictates that the democratic approach could be the best path to take. That way the formation of ground rules can be seen as a collaborative decision between the teacher and the learners. The teacher will be in a position to identify and establish particular rules that need to be in place, such as certain regulations, i. e.
Health & Safety issues, or their expectations towards the learners, whereas the learners, in turn, will be able to address their preferences and requirements. This combined decision making can be achieved through group discussion or ice breaker activities, where different ideas can be proposed and afterwards either accepted or discarded. It can be reasoned that the advantage of this approach is the fact that the learners will be given a voice in decision making, therefore they will be more likely to respect and adhere to the set out rules.
With an eye on creating a healthy learning environment, the established ground rules need to promote and encourage appropriate and positive behaviour from both the learners and the teacher, both in and out of the classroom. In order to preserve this positive setting the teacher should place the emphasis on attaining an organic and well-handled atmosphere within the classroom, by encouraging creativity and enthusiasm in learners, recognising and praising success, flexibility in learning styles and approaches, as well as modelling of good and respectful behaviour, preventing any sorts of inappropriate conduct.
In return, the learners should respect and appreciate the ground rules, be aware of their fellow learners and be able to consider and accept their needs, as well as to develop the sense of self discipline and responsibility. REFERENCES • Atherton, J. S. (2011) Learning and Teaching; Ground Rules for the class [Online] Available from: http://www. learningandteaching. info/teaching/ground_rules. htm • Bhatti, N. , Maitlo, G. M. Shaikh, N. , Hashmi, M. A. , Shaikh, F. M. (2012) The Impact of Autocratic and Democratic Leadership Style on Job Satisfaction, International Business Research [e-journal], 5(2). Available from: http://ccsenet. org/journal/index. php/ibr/article/view/14599 • Lewin, K. , Lippitt, R. , White, R. K. (1939) Patterns of Aggressive Behaviour in Experimentally Created Social Climates, The Journal of Social Psychology, 10(2), p. 269-299