Nov 8, 2018
Episode 36 of The Teaching
Space Podcast explores why establishing boundaries with learners is
essential in educational situations.
In today's episode we're talking boundaries.
I like to think of boundaries as positive limits. They aren’t
huge walls with barbed wire on the top. They are a protective
measures. Boundaries can relate relationships, physical elements
This week it's about your learners. The next episode will be all
about your colleagues.
Why are Boundaries Needed?
There are lots of reasons but as this is a ten-minute episode
let’s highlight three:
- Each party in the learning relationship understands their role.
This also translates well to real life so you are modelling
expected behaviour, regardless of the age group you teach.
- Boundaries define the limits of your role as a teacher - this
profoundly influences your workload and ultimately your mental
- Safeguarding reasons (age and location dependent as laws are
different). In Guernsey we are bound by the Children Law and so
this means learners under 18 are classed as children. One
ramification of the law is that if a teacher thinks a child is at
risk, they have a duty to report it. Boundaries play an important
role in making this clear.
The Teaching Space Podcast is all about YOU, your health and
well-being. So this episode will focus on the second reason for
setting boundaries I mentioned - setting expectations regarding
your role as a teacher.
How to Establish
The suggestions I will
make work best with older children and adult learners, however, if
you teach younger learners, use your experience to adapt these:
- Boundaries not rules: rules are often
negative, boundaries are positive. For example “do not come and see
me in the staff room between 12 and 1 pm” is better explained as “I
will be available from X to X am and X and X pm to help you -
please come and see me”. Both are clear. In the same way, talk
about consequences rather than punishments. This is helpful when
preparing younger learners for adulthood and the workplace.
- Discuss and negotiate: this is effective when
working with post-16 learners. Again, don’t talk about rules, say
boundaries, or in this case the word expectations might be better.
Some things will be negotiable. For example, in an FE environment,
when breaks happen, or when they use mobile devices. Learners are
more likely to adhere to established expectations/boundaries if
they are involved in devising them.
- Expectations exercise: with my 16-19 and adult
learners we always go through an expectations exercise at the start
of a course. I split the group in half (or smaller groups as
needed). Half of the group are to act as the learners (themselves)
and the other half are to pretend to be the teaching team. This
relates to the course they are just starting. Using a flip chart
and pens each group lists out their expectations of the other
party. We then get together, have a group discussion (learner-led
but teacher coached), refine the expectations and publish them in
an appropriate place. As the learners have devised the
rules/expectations, they are far more likely to adhere to
- Group contract: this can become a group
contract which all learners sign - you need to sign it too, the
expectations are not just for the learners. They will have
expectations of you - things like how you deliver feedback, how
quickly you turn work around and your punctuality and
This would be a great
topic to discuss in our Facebook group - please pop over and
If you enjoyed the episode, then please consider leaving a
positive review on iTunes. This helps more teachers and trainers
find the podcast when they search. Thank you.