Professional Partner Content

How to Use Flipped Learning for Leadership Development


When COVID-19 swept the streets of New York City a few years back, one major hospital scrambled to train their leaders to interview differently in a dramatically transformed labor market. The problem? They needed to accommodate leaders’ hectic schedules without losing peer-to-peer skill practice. So, what did they do? They flipped their approach. Now, leaders would first be assigned self-paced prework, followed by group-based training to apply what they learned with their peers.

And this, my friends, is what we call flipped learning.

But this hospital was the exception to the rule. I’m always stunned by the number of L&D leaders I speak to who haven’t switched to flipped learning.

According to a survey from the Flipped Learning Network, 67 percent of surveyed instructors saw an improvement in student test scores after utilizing the flipped learning model, and 80 percent reported an improvement in student motivation. But it wasn’t only beneficial to learners; teachers loved it too, with 99 percent of the instructors saying they would use the flipped learning methodology again next year. And ever since then, flipped learning has consistently increased in education. But why is flipped learning for leadership development not nearly as popular?

Let’s go back to the basics: what flipped learning is and how it is used in our sphere of education—making better leaders.


What is flipped learning, and how is it used in leadership development? To be crude, flipped learning means never hearing the trainer say, “Let’s take a few minutes to quietly read what’s on the slide/page/handout.” It’s about maximizing time in training together to engage and learn in a group setting. It allows you to use blended learning before, during, and after in-person sessions so learners get the utmost efficiency in each learning modality. The flipped learning approach mixes independent study, often via technology, with active participation in person with peers.

I have already alluded to the history of this approach. It came from education and evolved with the transition from synchronous to asynchronous learning. The concept first emerged in the 1990s when Dr. J. W. Baker assigned lecture content as homework and focused the following class time on mastering the information. As a result, the terms “Inverted Classroom,” or “Classroom Flip,” started to make the rounds.


But just as it took time for the education community to embrace this approach, it is only slowly seeping into the architecture of leadership development programs.

What does the flipped classroom experience look like? Flipped learning is when a leader goes into the classroom with the comprehension of concepts already achieved. They might have completed an online learning course, watched a video, or read a physical or digital text. There are multiple exciting mediums to transfer theoretical knowledge to the learner before they step into the classroom or click to join the virtual class. They already get WHAT techniques or models they can use to demonstrate the desired skill. It means that, when with their peers, this learner can spend perhaps two hours focusing on HOW to apply it. They can immerse themselves in active practice—learning by doing with others.

Learn the benefits of flipped learning for leadership development, and some caveats as well, in DDI’s blog.

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