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Ground Rules or Housekeeping?

Posted by Linda Carole Pierce on 6/8/15 4:00 AM
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As trainers, it is important to communicate the expected behaviors we would like to see from our learners during the training program. The real question is, “Should we call them ground rules?” History has shown that people tend to want to break, bend, or challenge the rules. Rules are a natural part of our daily lives and yet there is often a negative connotation and reaction to the word. Therefore, in a training environment with adults, where it is important to create a climate that is conducive to learning, using the term “ground rules” could generate some resistance. So how do we communicate the expected behaviors we want to see?


In a recent workshop, while discussing the topic of “ground rules,” a participant asked, “When were ground rules discussed in this course?” Another participant responded, “They were discussed during housekeeping.” Most of us are familiar with the term “housekeeping.” Housekeeping seems to be a softer term that allows you to communicate the standards of acceptable behavior without using the word “rules.” They are simply guidelines that reflect common sense and good manners.


It is important to introduce housekeeping within the first half hour of the program to minimize confusion and disruption during the session. Sometimes these guidelines may need restating or a gentle reminder at various times throughout the course. If a phone rings in the middle of a session, it is usually because the participant has forgotten to turn their device off after a break. Most times the participant will be very apologetic.


Another strategy I have found effective is to simply invite agreement and input from the learners during the discussion of housekeeping at the very beginning of the course. This allows the learners to take ownership and responsibility for their actions.


You can learn more about establishing housekeeping guidelines in our Instructional Techniques for New Instructors workshop or our Facilitation Skills for New Facilitators workshop

The bottom line is, if you want a smooth sailing training day, say “Yes” to ground rules, but don’t call them that. Instead say “Yes” to “Housekeeping.” 


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Linda has been a course leader with Langevin since 2005. She graduated from New York University with a degree in Organizational Behavior and Communication. She’s also had the privilege of teaching at NYU’s Gallatin Division in the area of Theatre and Education. Linda began her career facilitating conflict resolution and coexistence workshops for diverse groups, and running workshops in the Middle East and South Africa, as well as facilitating social issues workshops for young people in the NYC school system. Linda believes learning works best when it is student-centered, experiential, interactive, and fun. Outside of the classroom, you’ll find Linda at the theatre, either as an audience member or actor, or spending quality time with her family and friends.

Tags: instructional techniques

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