Training Delivery

by Terry Wilkinson

Establishing ground rules

Any group has its own customs and unspoken rules as to what is acceptable behaviour within that group. The idea behind having ground rules is that these group norms become openly agreed up front. This then reduces conflict and misunderstanding and helps to create the right environment for the group to work and learn effectively together.

Ground rules can be a very effective tool for the trainer to refer to in order to maintain control and deal with disruptive behaviour.

The following tips will help you establish effective ground rules and use them to create and maintain an effective learning environment.

Explain the purpose of discussing ground rules

Give the delegates an idea as to the benefits of ground rules: ‘The purpose of this discussion is to generate a list of ground rules for working together in the training. Establishing ground rules we can all agree to will help us avoid unnecessary conflict and misunderstanding during the course.’

If a group objects to the word ‘rules’, try ‘operating guidelines’ or ‘general principles’.

Brainstorm possible ground rules

Follow brainstorming guidelines and record the delegates’ ideas on a flipchart. You may need to provide some examples. If the group doesn’t come up with some you would like to see on the list, suggest them yourself – confidentiality, phones off, back on time and so on.


A method of quickly generating innovative ideas.

A group of people is encouraged to contribute ideas and possible solutions to a given problem or situation. Ideas should be given quickly and spontaneously, without criticism or feedback from the group.

The aim is to encourage thinking outside the box and to break down barriers to creativity, to come up with a large number of radical ideas which can then be discussed and developed at a later stage.

Agree on a list of ground rules

Ask the group to narrow the list down to ten or fewer and check that all individuals agree to those chosen. Ground rules will always be more effective if agreed by the group, rather than being prescribed by you.

Agree how the group will use the ground rules

Having ground rules is great, but what will the team do if someone breaks them?

Some teams agree a minor punishment, such as doing a party piece or making a donation to charity. Others will just point it out. Don’t let the punishments take over – keep it light hearted.

Using the ground rules

Simply referring to ground rules is usually enough.


‘Didn’t we say we’d listen to everyone?’


‘Remember our ground rule to be back on time.’