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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.

IMPACT Community Norms for Rule Setting 

To accomplish our goals for this IMPACT training, it is vital that we create an environment that ensures this training is beneficial. The norms below reflect a collective vision of how we want to be in relation to each other – what every person in our group needs from each other and commits to in order to feel safe, supported, open, productive, trusting, curious, thoughtful, and engaged. 

  1. Practice self-care. Take care of your physical and emotional needs. 
  1. Be fully present. Bring your authentic self into this space. 
  1. Self-monitor your participation. Consider taking more space if you are being quiet, and holding back a bit if you are sharing a lot. 
  1. Listen to understand, not for responding. Be open-minded and self-challenging. 
  1. Speak from the “I.” Speak from your own experiences and only on behalf of yourself; don’t generalize. Do not expect others to speak as representatives of a group. 
  1. Strive to demonstrate civility, empathy and kindness across differences. Work an issue, not a person. Conflict can be constructive and beneficial. 
  1. Lean into discomfort. Embrace the uncomfortable as a pathway for growth. Trust the process even when you are not sure where it’s going. 
  1. Embody a generosity of spirit. We understand that there may be a range of knowledge and experiences around the issues we discuss. This is a space for taking risks, being raggedy, making mistakes, and then letting it go. Strive to default to love so we can grow together. 
  1. What’s said here stays here; what’s learned here leaves here. Treat the openness and honesty of others as a gift. 
  1. Expect unfinished business. Prepare yourself to walk away without feeling completely satisfied or resolved, and to continue your learning process after we complete this one part today.
Handout on IMPACT community norms available here. 


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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