The phrase “Flipped Classroom” is rapidly becoming a standard term within the educational dictionary. Just in case you are still out of the loop, here is a brief resume of the concept. In olden times, the “teacher” was the fountain of all knowledge and the channel through which this was imparted to students. That knowledge was then embedded (hopefully!) in homework.
But the birth of the Internet meant that knowledge was now available from many different sources from Google Search to Khan Academy videos. So more and more teachers are now “flipping “the process. Old-style“Teaching” is done out of school hours and the classroom is used for one to one support and to check and assess understanding. More importantly, flipping the classroom gives teachers the opportunity to move learners from lower-level thinking (remembering ) to higher levels (Analysing, evaluating, creating)
The concept makes so much sense that it seems relevant to ask whether it is being mirrored in the workplace. The answer I am afraid is that sadly that is often not the case. Despite the fact that numerous surveys show that workers now prefer informal and social learning , the workplace is still dominated by “trainers” clinging bravely to their powerpoint decks and standalone e-learning courses often used to tick compliance boxes. I am not denying the ability of individual trainers to impart knowledge effectively nor am I denigrating the use of e-learning material to effect the same result. My concern is that this invariably becomes the end of the learning process rather than the beginning. As such, I believe we are missing out on a huge opportunity to tap into the potential which exists within the workforce.
So I believe it is time to “Flip The Workplace” and for L&D professionals to rethink their whole approach to people development. Of course the process starts with some sort of knowledge transfer. But there are so many different ways in which that can be achieved. These range from a chat with a colleague, via becoming a member of a project team, through to e-learning, You Tube, Google and dozens of other pathways.
Once that basic knowledge is in place, the real learning can start. Trainers are transformed from knowledge experts into coaches, mentors and facilitators. Learners start to understand how the knowledge they have acquired can be used in different situations. They can now learn to think at a higher level, analysing issues more effectively and creating new solutions to existing problems.
Let’s just use an example to make my point. Nowadays, most Health & Safety training is carried out using e-learning. Course done, box ticked, compliance achieved, employer happy. But think of the value to customers, employer and employee if, when a problem occurred, the first response of the employee wasn’t “Oops!” but instead to work out the reasons for the problem and to propose new solutions.
That, I believe, is where we should be seeking to take workplace learning. At Creative Learning Partners, we genuinely try to adopt this approach in our delivery of Functional Skills. We use e-learning, but purely for imparting knowledge – not as the whole solution. We would argue that the real value of our approach comes afterwards when we work with learners to adapt and functionalise that knowledge to meet different situations. There is still a lot more we want to do in this area and we don’t for one minute, believe that we yet have all the answers, but we are convinced that by “flipping the workplace” , our learners are achieving far more and are much better prepared to make a genuine contribution to their organisations.
Roger Francis is a Director with Creative Learning Partners Ltd, a new vocational training company formed by the senior managers and staff of MindLeaders Learning Services following the acquisition of the company by Skillsoft in 2012 and focusing on the delivery of Functional Skills