Confessions from a flipped classroom 18

The flipped classroom methodology makes sense intuitively: in the traditional classroom learners first hear of the concepts and theory in the classroom.  The teacher is the ‘sage on the stage’ who has done the research and summarised the facts so that they can be served up to the learners in modules.  The learner’s involvement is then to go home and do homework on their own.


But with the flipped classroom, the learners are first exposed to the theory in their own time at home.   They do research and reading and come to class with the summaries.  The classroom time is then used to practice the skills in a controlled environment under the guidance of the facilitator.  (So homework tasks and class tasks are flipped – hence the name.)


I thought it would be an interesting idea to test the flipped classroom methodology with a learnership.  We had a client who was keen to experiment and the learners were all workplace practitioners with many years’ experience in selected components of the full qualification.  (The learnership is OD ETDP NQF 5.)


I knew that this would be challenging for the learners – but what I had not expected was how challenging it was going to be for me.  I have trained this learnership a few times before, so I had all the slides, the facilitator guides, the external sources and readings, etc.  I gave the learners all if this on pre-loaded onto tablet computers, along with an example of additional sources they should consult and read.  Learners interacted with me, and each other, via an on-line chatroom and they completed the formative assessments prior to entering the classroom so that I could check that the basics had been grasped.


So, what did we do in the classroom – that was the challenge I faced.  I had to completely re-think my approach to the contact time.  This is a summary of what we did yesterday (Monday) – my first day of the learnership. 


The first session was spent discussing the rules of engagement and the learnership/assessment preparation – but with far more interaction and participation than I have ever had before.  The learners had really meaningful questions and we were able to really debate the assessment contract.

The second and third sessions involved a game of ‘trivial pursuit’ with a difference.  Learners were given a category that linked to the different sections of the theory they had learnt and coloured cards.  They had to formulate, in groups, 40 questions and answers that related to their category.  This activity served to reinforce their theory (for a second time as the formative assessment did it the first time) in their subject category.  Thereafter they played the revised ‘trivial pursuit’ game – using their questions – thus again reinforced the learning.


Pedagogically, the use of the day was far more productive than if I has simply stood at the front of the class and taught the theory.  Of course I would usually have built in activities, but the flipped classroom allowed me to spend far more quality time this way. 


The second day (today, Tuesday) has been spent debating which pedagogical theory they think underpins the NQF as well as their own workplace practice.  They were able to use their tablet computers in class to access the internet to formulate their opinions and this was followed by a very active debate (with far more understanding than I have ever been able to generate after I have simply taught the theory – with no active research on the part of the learners). 


This afternoon they are developing assessment tools for a skills programme of their choice – and this will result in a full assessment guide, activities and methods.  This activity is a group activity and although I would usually have done something similar I have more time to do it meaningfully thanks to the fact that I am not teaching the theory.


I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow!  But I must say it is challenging my skills as a facilitator – and I loving it!



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18 thoughts on “Confessions from a flipped classroom

  • Irene James

    Great interaction – the sign of a true facilitator. The learning must be transferred to the workplace to be of any value. Next stage is to customise the learning for the client.  We must stop this idea that “off the shelf” training is OK. If it is not linked to the business strategy and real needs and gaps, it is as as bad as learners at Higher Education institutions writing exams and getting somebody else’s “marks”. Oh my!

  • Janelle Gravett

    Hi Karen

    Very interesting and like everyone else I am keen to know more about how today and the next few days go!  Look forward to the feedback on the POEs and the transfer of learning in the workplace!  Thanks very much for sharing your experiences.  I have also shared your comment with a few people I know!  take care!

  • karen deller Post author

    thank you all for the support – it is interesting to know it has a name (thanks Charles) .  I will also keep tracking this and give you feedback on the quality of the portfolios and transfer of learning back to workplace (good idea Robyn).  Am off to prep for tomorrow.  they have all just evaluated each other’s assessment tools/guides/methods and a few have homework as well.

  • Lenny Paltu

    thank you Karen for sharing your experiences. This is great stuff. i have shared it with some training providers i work with. This is such an amazing forum, so grateful to be here.

  • Danie van Heerden

    HI there Irene

    Eish but you girls are having it at the old timers    thankfully we were the ones that started to comply with outcome based modular learning and is still open to new ideas    So lets have them and get learned lolol!

    Have a great day


  • Irene James

    This is what the outcomes based approach is all about – will somebody please show this to the old fashioned traditionalist “lecturers” who think that learning is transferred by them standing in front of the group and “lecturing”.   Arggggh!  Horrendous approach, and one that many of the SETAs still endorse. But then, what do they know?

    People learn by doing and sharing, and if the approach is activity based, the transfer of learning will take place. That’s why I HATE the fact that ignoramuses insist on a “model answer to the learning”.  The model answer absolutely stifles creativity and shared learning. This is not Bloom’s Taxonomy level one stuff we are dealing with (circa 1956).   

    Well done Karen – good to see another convert.

  • Robyn Shapiro

    Hi Karen

    I look forward to the ‘next episode’ and would be very keen to understand more of the ‘how’ and whether this approach enabled the learners to actively perform better and more productively in their roles.  Their portfolios would also provide some interesting evidence in this regard.




  • Susan Williams

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I have been exposed to a similar approach as a student but have never done this in a corporate environment. Please keep us updated on your progress.

  • Charles Dey

    This approach was pioneered by the Khan Institute, USA, the difference between your application and theirs being that they put the reference material and other training aids (including hyperlinks to related websites) on to an online Learner Management System. By monitoring each learner’s progress on the LMS the facilitator is able to identify areas of weakness before the class begins and is thus fully prepared to address these issues with those learners who need it.
    This training method has been named heutagogy – learner driven training.
    St Mary’s School, Waverley is pioneering this methodology in partnership with Microsoft.
    Very exciting – it is the way of the future, in my view.

  • Danie van Heerden

    Hi Karen

    I do like your idea and would like to know more

    I am not one that likes Learnerships above apprenticeships as some employers tend to abuse this and the guys do just the “basics”


  • Ras Smit

    Great approach; I’ve also used some elements of it in a corporate training environment (financial service professionals). Specifically, the “trivial pursuit” – which was actually played on day 1, directly after the introductory session. I found it really focused the learners, and more importantly, created a healthy, competitive atmosphere – which in turn, contributed to productivity as well! I do have reservations for this approach though, especially at NQF 4 and lower…but, some elements of it would always work well, I think! Thanks for your insights, Karen.


  • Jackie Franck

    I totally agree with this approach.  I have also used it with certain modules in a learnership in the retail environment, and found that the learners were able to understand certain concepts better, because they had already been exposed to them in the workplace first (they could see, touch, hear) the actual “concepts” and documents required to work with, instead of the facilitator sprouting this strange terminology and buzzwords that they had never heard of.  The classroom training was then slightly shorter, and more of a touch-up and to fill in the gaps.  Learners were also given “homework” and an extra project to do back at the workplace to round off their learning.  Well done Karen.

  • Des Squire

    The flipped classroom methodology works well in what I have referred to in the past as “Project based learning” – works well in a business environment. Learners are given a project and must work out how to complete it to the best of their ability. On completion the process is discussed and obstacles and difficulties are analysed. Learners learn by doing and by making mistakes. Isn’t this what life is all about.

    I love the article Karen.  

  • Tass Schwab

    Wow… love this idea. I have been bringing Improvisation Theatre into the classroom on a formative assessment basis for some time now. The act of doing something with theory really allows information to become alive. Thank you for sharing this!