How to apply ground rules to a new (second year degree) group without sounding like a battleaxe?

I'm going to be working with a new group in February and having learned from my previous group of students together with some very supportive and valuable advice from colleagues on Classroom 2.0, ground rules will need to be applied to (hopefully) prevent some disruptive behaviours. My first thought is that negotiation and communication with students must be the key to this? Has anyone got any experience with this or have any ideas?

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Hi Hannah,

I have taught a few classes now where some the students can be rather loud and disruptive if left unchecked. When I meet a new class, I always start by introducing myself and then getting the students to introduce each other. I then move onto the rules of the class. I do this in a light hearted manner so as not to sounds like the 'battle axe' teacher of days of old. I tell the students that I only have two rules.

Number one is that all students should be respectful to each other. This usually sparks a debate with the students telling me what that might mean. Before long, they have all pretty much agreed to the normal rules such as not interrupting, listening to others point of view, respecting opinions of others (even if we don't agree with them), not talking on mobile phones and so on. This really helps me to get to know the students and I can gauge a little bit about what is important to them on a personal level. Also, the students have agreed the rules themselves and I haven't imposed a great big long list of DON'T DO this........

I move onto rule number two after the students have exhausted the first topic. Quite simply, my rule is that all students have to believe that they can improve their numeracy skills by attending my class. A large proportion of my students have low numeracy skills and may have not achieved a qualification while at school. Often, my students have low self confidence in their own ability to learn which can take a while to redress. I then move on and let them now that respecting other people also means respecting themselves! Students are banned from using negative comments such as 'I am stupid...I'm thick......' I hope this helps to create a positive environment where students feel able to contribute and learn.


I definitely agree with your first rule, but I think your second rule is wonderful! My Level 5 group are really anxious about the module they have just started where they are required to go outside of the university and collaborate with a company, agency or individual to produce a piece of work. They are often quite hard on themselves in terms of their own work they have produced and this next module is daunting to them. I have tried to reassure them that I did it in 2010 and I can help them through it which seemed to make a lot of them feel better about it. BUT I need them to believe in themselves more. I will use this technique in the first week back in February to build the positive atmosphere and hopefully the students' confidence. Thank you.

Hi Hannah

When I was on the first year of my degree my new tutor gave a short presentation about himself where he talked about his career as an artist and graphic designer. From this he instantly gained the attention of all students because we respected his work and the fact that he had valuable industry knowledge.

At the end of the presentation he explained what he expected of us in terms of rules and behaviours.

By talking about himself and knowing a little bit more about him students felt like they could build a good raport with him.

Hope this gives some ideas


Yes I think this is needed. I don't know any of the students very well yet, and we could start with what i have done, some of my work, and a little info about who i am and why I'm there. Hopefully this will set the relationship between myself and the learners off to a good start. This is a good idea as from that point onwards its going to be mainly one-to-one tutorials and learners' presentations etc. Thanks Jo.



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