Explain how to establish and maintain a safe and supportive learning environment

Explain how to establish and maintain a safe and supportive learning environment. 2. 3.1 * Explain how to promote appropriate behaviour and respect for others. 2.3.2 * Explain how to establish ground rules with learners to promote respect for others. 3.3.2
“Good classroom management depends a lot on how you establish the ground rules at the beginning of a course. Students need to know what you expect from them and what they can expect from you during the course. They need to know where the boundaries lie and what will happen if they step over the boundaries.” (http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/language-assistant/teaching-tips/establishing-ground-rules) Ground rules are useful strategy to help set the expectations of how a group can achieve a cohesive and harmonious approach when working together in the class room. When the ground rules have been established and agreed with the group, this then provides a frame of reference for the future. It is usual for the ground rules to mainly be suggested by the students to give a sense of ownership. However, teachers, might at times, wish to include suggestions in the ground rules if not thought of by the group. An example might be that of not using mobile phones during teaching sessions. This is particularly important for teachers of adults, as it is an accepted way of looking at how students will agree appropriate behaviour, and be respectful during the learning process. Where there arises some difficulties in the classroom related to behaviour and respect, the teacher can use the ground rules as one way of opening a dialogue or indeed to bring order back to the learning environment. A way of promoting appropriate behaviour and respect is to keep the established ground rules as a living agreement, so it may be added too during the life of the group. This could arise if there happens to be any particular issues related to behaviour and respect that may not have been thought if in the initial agreement. When starting the session on ground rules it is important to explain to the group first of all what the purpose is of establishing ground rules and explain that it needs to pay attention to promoting a learning environment that is respectful towards all the group members including the teacher. This is important, as it should not be assumed that all students have been involved in working on ground rules in the past. Strategically, it may be that the teacher will not always use the same method of establishing ground rules. Where the teacher will make choices can depend on how much pre knowledge the teacher has of the ability of the students in the group. Therefore, one method, which would involve students being given post it notes to write their suggestions on, would not work well for someone with learning difficulties or dyslexia, as it could mean they will be unlikely to contribute to the ground rules and feel uncomfortable right from the first session. What is important, which ever method is chosen, is that establishing the ground rules at the first session starts the group management process, such as in Tuckmans Theory. (Page 85. Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Sector. Ann Gravell) The ground rules part of the cycle fits in with his ‘storming’ process, where a group starts to finds its identity. However, as the group follows through to the forming, norming and performing stages, the ground rules can come into use if there are any issues and the group drops back into an earlier stage of the cycle. Although, as previously stated, one problem of using the post it note method of establishing ground rules would be the difficulty faced by less literate students, it can have a positive side to it. Where it can work well is with students who might find it difficult to speak up in front of a group of people they do not yet know. Therefore, a method which involves verbal suggestions charted up by the teacher would preclude those less confident students. What can work well is to split the students into smaller groups to work together, either in pairs, or slightly larger groups. Flip chart paper is often a good tool to use for this method. The advantage with this method is that a more confident student, can, and often does in my experience, do the charting up, and the quieter student is more likely to participate. However, the teacher should use this to an advantage towards establishing a safe and supportive learning environment, by observing what role the students take in this exercise, to look at how the initial roles within the group are. The kinds of roles that can be taken in are discussed in Belbin’s Team Roles theory and has nine roles based on people’s likely behaviours within a team: Shaper, Teamworker, Resource Investigator, Monitor Evaluator, Plant, Completer-Finisher, Implementer, Co-ordinator and Specialist. (https://moodle1.carnegiecollege.ac.uk). This can help the teacher to establish how to provide a supportive learning environment by starting to indicate where some students may need more help to fully participate in the learning environment. My preferred method would be to split the larger group into small groups for those very reasons.
To summarise, ground rules are an important tool as a method of establishing a safe and supportive learning environment, with appropriate behaviour and respect as the building bricks. To ensure that the ground rules are valid and are more likely to be adhered too, the students need to be involved in the design of the ground rules as it gives them ownership. In order to ensure that the students gain the most value out of the ground rules session, the teacher must strive to present the session in the best way possible to ensure that all students have a voice in the construction. This should ensure that the students have the experience from the outset of taking on some responsibility for their own learning environment and is a valid part of the group process.
Bibliography ‘Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector’. Anne Gravells. Learning Matters. 2011

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