A method to help students create ground rules
- Ask students to think about the best group discussions in which they had participated and reflect on what made these discussions so satisfying.
- Next, ask students to think about the worst group discussions in which they have participated and reflect on what made these discussions so unsatisfactory.
- For each of the positive characteristics identified, ask students to suggest three things the group could do to ensure that these characteristics are present.
- For each of the negative characteristics identified, ask students to suggest three things the group could do to ensure that these characteristics are not present.
- Use students' to draft a set of ground rules to which all agree, and distribute them in writing.
- Periodically ask the class to reflect on whether the ground rules established at the beginning of the semester are working, and make adjustments as necessary.
Sample Ground Rules
- Listen actively and attentively.
- Ask for clarification if you are confused.
- Do not interrupt one another.
- Challenge one another, but do so respectfully.
- Critique ideas, not people.
- Do not offer opinions without supporting evidence.
- Take responsibility for the quality of the discussion.
- Build on one another's comments; work towards shared understanding.
- Always have your readings in front of you.
- Do not monopolize discussion.
- Speak from your own experience, without generalizing.
- If you are offended by anything said during discussion, acknowledge it immediately.
- Consider anything that is said in class strictly confidential.
- Arrive on time.
- Turn your cell phone off.
- Use laptops only for legitimate class activities (note-taking, assigned tasks, looking something up).
- Ask questions if you are confused.
- Try not to distract or nor your classmates.
SOURCE: Exhibit E.1 from Ambrose et al. (2010) using Brookfield and Preskill (2005)