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If you're not using a flipped classroom approach, you're missing out!

Updated: Nov 22, 2018

I work in the business communication and business English language training field in Taiwan, so just to be clear, I'm talking about corporate communication training. I'm approaching the question of a flipped classroom from an academic perspective. I'll deal with the obvious business advantages of using this model another time.

I have a Higher Diploma in Education from Trinity College in Dublin, great college! And 30 years of experience in delivering training in Asia, so I have a pretty good idea about this stuff.

So what is a flipped classroom? Basically, we take the traditional training approach where a corporate trainer introduces new content, describes and explains it, has trainees try to understand, learn and use it within a 2-hour time frame. The trainees are then supposed to review the content themselves after the training [good luck with that]. Now flip this concept by placing more emphasis on learning before the class and practicing during the class. Trainees aren't expected to learn and produce language in the same one-off training session.

In a flipped classroom model, trainees study the content in advance using some kind of online learning [I favour focused e-learning content delivered through a LMS] and then attend face2face training to practice using what they've already learned while getting support, guidance and focused feedback on their performance. They get the best of both approaches. [For a complete blended learning experience, webinars after the face2face training are excellent for spaced-repetition learning.

Academically, the traditional training approach makes very little sense. According to research, trainees need time to work with, discover and think about content before they try to use it [think schema, comprehensible input]. Introducing new language and expecting trainees to go through the whole learning process in 2 hours so that they are able to use it just isn't right. Even though trainees might be able to perform, that doesn't really mean they have transferred the learning [short to long-term memory].

Using a flipped classroom is a win-win. Academically, studies show that learners retain more when they have the chance to study, discover and understand content at their own pace. When they attend the face2face training, they are fully prepared to participate and therefore benefit more from their practice. The trainer doesn't waste valuable class time explaining content, but focuses on making the content relevant, practicing higher order communication skills and providing personalized feedback to trainees on their performance.

Using a flipped classroom model makes perfect sense, so why aren't more companies using it? Well, change, even positive change takes time. But perhaps more importantly many training organizations aren't equipped to deliver the flipped classroom because it requires skills in instructional design and an understanding of blended learning.

Thanks for reading.


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