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Classroom Ground Rules

Ground rules are expectations for how the class members will interact with each other. They help create a classroom climate where students feel comfortable expressing their opinions and sharing their experiences.

"What do I do with my ground rules? (Adapted from Theatre Delta)

  • Consider asking for students’ help in developing the ground rules.
  • Put them on your syllabus.
  • Discuss them on the first day of class.
  • Remind your class of them before sensitive assignments.
  • Refer to them when people violate the ground rules.
  • Post them around the classroom.
  • Distribute them to students.
  • Re-evaluate them periodically to see if the class has suggestions for revisions.

Sample Ground Rules (Theatre Delta; Ambrose et al. 2010)

  • Respect yourself and others (share your viewpoint and allow others to share theirs).
  • Give each other the benefit of the doubt. We’re doing the best we can in the moment.
  • Speak from your own experiences. Don’t generalize.
  • 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.
  • Avoid put-downs (even humorous ones).
  • Take responsibility for the quality of the discussion.
  • Build on one another’s comments; work toward shared understanding.
  • Always have your book or readings in front of you.
  • Do not monopolize discussion.
  • If you are offended by anything said during discussion, acknowledge it immediately.
  • Consider anything that is said in class strictly confidential."


Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). Why do Student development and course climate matter for student learning?  In How Learning Works: Seven Research-based Principles for Smart Teaching. John Wiley & Sons.

Theatre Delta.  Strategies for Addressing Conflict around Social Identities in the Classroom - Handout from SIUE campus workshop September 2016.

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