Setting ground rules are important so that learners/participants feel safe and comfortable. Learning occurs easier if people are comfortable, eg: the room is not too hot nor too cold, with access to water, fresh air, etc. Also people learn easier if they feel safe eg what is said in the room stays in the room. Keeping to time is also important; I recognise that people have a life outside the course.
My past experience in teaching is solely working with adult learners, small groups up to 20 people. I agree ground rules of the session together with the participants at the beginning of the day and I ensure that all are comfortable with them; I ask what are the things that would enhance their learning experience and I note them down on a piece of paper that then I glue up on the wall in a place where it is easy to be seen by all. I have a couple of rules that I add to the list in case nobody mentions them:
• Freedom to movement – I encourage people to move around or leave the room as long as they do it with consideration for other learners. Some learners are a bit fidgety, particularly those that learn in a kinaesthetic way and I ensure they are not stuck to a chair because they think it is impolite to move around or it is too disturbing for the others.
• No question is stupid - any questions are allowed, I create an environment where people respect each other and questions can be asked for clarification. The “training room” is the place where they can experiment, explore and make mistakes; I and their fellow trainees are there to support their learning.
I recognise that sometimes rules must be imposed, in particular rules to do with the safety of the group or when working with children, because children are motivated differently than adults and they need clear boundaries to work with.