inTuition taster: Mixing it up

Ahead of a review into the Level 3 Award in Education and Training, Sarabjit Borrill FSET ATS adopted a new approach to teaching seven adult learners, which may influence their own teaching.

illustration of food ingredients


Recently, I attended a Balinese cooking class. I wasn’t aware that there were three types of ginger, and I wasn’t altogether confident that I knew what lesser galangal, terasi or snake beans were, either. Presented with an array of new ingredients on the day, I was a little overwhelmed. I enjoyed the experience but six weeks later I had forgotten most of what I had been taught.

Why am I telling you about my cooking experience? Well, earlier this year, I was privileged to deliver the Level 3 Award in Education and Training, the specification for which is now over 10 years old. A lot has changed in respect of pedagogy since then. It feels like we understand more about how learning takes place, and what good practice might look like.

This includes approaches to help learners know more, know how to do more, and remember more (Ofsted, 2019). Therefore, what should delivery look like now? Surely it wouldn’t be the same ‘teacher as the knowledge-holder’ approach that I experienced when I completed my Level 3, and when I attended the Balinese cooking class?

Having a clear purpose behind the delivery of a course is crucial to its success. Purpose and pedagogy are two key factors that shape what happens inside and outside the classroom. It’s important to ask ourselves whether the purpose of a course is to impart knowledge, as described by Freire’s ‘banking method’ (1968), or to have the learners become agents of their own learning, as suggested by Biesta (2009), for a more transformative experience.

To make this decision, it’s beneficial to believe that trainees have the right to access the latest thinking on pedagogy to help them meet the needs of future learners, as well as develop and exercise their higher-order learning skills to tackle any future demands. One effective solution is the flipped model of learning, so I embarked on testing it out in the classroom.


Purpose of teaching

According to King Rice (2003) and Ofsted (2019), high-quality teaching is the most important factor in student achievement, which is related to measures of teacher quality, as stated by Darling-Hammond (2000). Therefore, the quality of training for new teachers must be carefully designed to meet trainees’ current and future needs. To determine these needs, it’s important to ask ourselves what those needs are, as these will decide the purpose of the training and the course delivery model.

The world is changing rapidly, with the pandemic and technology having a significant impact on the face of teaching. Artificial intelligence (AI) is also changing the lives of teachers and learners as they use it for planning, generating resources and much more.

Given these changes, the development of higher-level learning skills is the most important aspect of any training today, in my opinion. Although there is no single definition of higher-level learning skills, they include learners being able to think critically: analyse, synthesise and interpret information; problem-solve; draw conclusions; work collaboratively; and be creative.

Most importantly, learners who can reflect and identify improvements are likely to fare better in an ever-changing world, and have a voice to share their thinking. To foster these essential learning and life skills, we may want to consider the flipped classroom model, which makes learners active in their learning, rather than passive recipients.

At the time of writing, the review process has not yet reached the Level 3 Award in Education and Training (AET) and the Level 4 Certificate in Education and Training (CET). These two qualifications were written in 2013 as free-standing awards and the process for their review or rewrite will begin shortly. 


illustration of ingredients falling into a bowl

What is flipped learning? 

Imagine accessing learning material outside of the class (rather than inside – which is a more traditional approach), and then bringing that learning into class to revisit the content and explore it more deeply with your colleagues and your tutor. The flipped classroom is a reversal of the traditional classroom, and it brings many strengths and some limitations. 

The flipped model can move learners from passive recipients of information to active participants in the learning journey (Bergman and Sams, 2012). Not only can flipped learning help trainees to start creating their own knowledge, but it can also help to lighten the cognitive load when they attend class (Abeysekera and Dawson, 2015).

Class time is reserved for deeper connections and more complex ideas encouraged through greater collaboration, discussion, problem-solving, challenge and application. The tutor is present not only to deliver teaching (showing through doing), but also to provide challenge, address errors and misconceptions, check learning, respond to individual needs and provide a safe development space. Most importantly, learners are constructing their learning.


The approach

There were 48 guided learning hours split over 12 weeks of face-to-face delivery. Learners were directed to some learning materials prior to the class. Here are some examples of the activities and question prompts:


What happened?


Weekly tasks

Trainees were able to complete the weekly pre-lesson learning tasks easily by using learning materials available as mandatory and optional tasks in Microsoft Office 365. The use of Office 365 helped to develop the trainees’ digital literacy skills as well. 

The biggest challenge to completion was time, with one learner commenting “sometimes having the time was an issue, with family commitments, working, assignment work”. Another said: “I sometimes felt like there was a bit too much learning to do at home.” Therefore, outside-of-class work must be prepared with these factors in mind.


The usefulness of learning tasks

Responses were varied, with one trainee saying they were “extremely helpful”, while another reported them as “slightly helpful”. Positively, all trainees reported that at home they had time to read and digest the content, and when in the classroom “we could discuss and address misconceptions”.

There was a sense of readiness for learning, with a trainee saying that “I had an idea what we would be learning” and “I felt I was ready for the lesson”. For those trainees with English as a second language, advantages included “looking up unfamiliar words”, which would have taken time for them to understand.

However, if the pre-class tasks had not been carried out, trainees might be at a disadvantage as they would not be able to contribute to discussions as much. The discussions were in part intended to have trainees helping each other to build essential interpersonal skills, promote thinking through talk, and flourish. Therefore, in preparation, teachers should have supporting materials ready in class – should they be needed – as well as ensure each group has, at a minimum, one trainee who has carried out the before-class activity.

“The flipped model can move learners from passive recipients of information to active participants in the learning journey”



All trainees reported that they were more “engaged” during the in-person class discussions and activities because “knowing a little about the topic and having done the reading really helped”. Paying attention to group set-up is important so that “every opinion [is] listened to; we had a safe space”.

There was a sense of group learning. One learner commented: “I always took onboard everyone else’s thoughts and opinions and gave mine. I didn’t always get all the answers correct, but I always tried my best.” Being able to offer your opinion and feeling safe to do so are not only essential to promoting democracy and respect, but also create a sense of belonging (Maslow, 1970).



There was a sense of responsibility for one’s own learning in the flipped classroom. All trainees reported they felt responsible for their own learning because they “had time to prepare, read and comprehend the material”. This learner reported that they “received a better understanding when in the classroom, when examples were given”. As planned, the in-classroom time was spent developing a deeper understanding of and skill in pedagogical practices. 


What did learners like about the flipped learning classroom?

Trainees reported they benefited from weekly interconnected content, building on what was previously taught and practised. They liked that they “could prepare beforehand. I knew exactly what we would be learning. I had time to read and understand before the lesson; that way, I didn’t fall behind.”

The trainees benefited from knowing what the lesson was about, which enabled them to start their thinking on the topics and have that “bit of prior knowledge”. This helped them to engage with the content. For instance, one trainee reported that “I had something to contribute to the discussions”.

A recent learner shared that the flipped model of learning has helped to reduce her anxiety and build her low confidence levels, both of which are associated with menopause. She can engage with the learning materials before class, making notes and thinking about the content, which she then continues to build and revisit in class with her colleagues and the tutor. The flipped classroom model appears to have allowed the trainee to take control of her learning, which in turn has led to a more positive and empowering experience.


illustration of a radish



As with any teaching and learning model, there will be limitations.



Time was the biggest challenge as adult learners have competing demands for their focus. Therefore, having mandatory and optional tasks was helpful, but a deeper review of tasks will fine-tune the content further.

When asked for improvements to the flipped learning classroom, one trainee felt the approach could be varied so that there wasn’t flipped content every week; another requested more review and reflection time; and another wanted more time on unit work completion.


Overall experience

There are far too many positive comments to express here, but learners felt they “learned so much in 12 weeks” and they could “notice how colleagues are using some of the approaches in their teaching”. In this example, a classroom support member was able to identify specific aspects of pedagogical practice in her colleagues’ teaching and was able to think more critically as to what was happening and why. One trainee said: “The knowledge I gained was huge.” However, they wanted the course to be longer so that the learning could be spread out.


What is the purpose of the Level 3 Award in Education and Training?

Is Level 3 an introductory qualification or is it an opportunity to foster critical thinking skills and tutor autonomy? Both: Further Education teachers of the future need higher-level learning skills so that they can meet the needs of learners in an ever-changing world. The following comment captures the transformational potential of learning: “Now that I'm completing the assignments, it's not asking me about all the different theories that I've learned or grappled with, so part of me (while relieved!) is wondering what the point was. Would it have been better just to have taught to the assignment? In one respect maybe but, on reflection, if we had just stuck with [content] and gone through the book, I don’t think I would have been nearly as inspired or gripped. We may well have finished the assignments quicker but it’s not [author] that I’m quoting in conversations with friends and my mum! It is all the different theories about learning.”


Next steps

It has been a rollercoaster of a ride for me and my trainees. The content will evolve following feedback, including keeping outside-of-class activities to a minimum, varying the tasks so that they can experience an even greater variety of activities, and increasing the length of the course. Although there was a variety of delivery approaches used, I sometimes thought that trainees should have more access to key classroom practices such as modelling and think-aloud, so these will be increased too.

I love the fact that Level 3 has not been just a paper exercise but one that allows a trainee to say: “It’s taken some of the mystery out of teaching and training and increased my confidence. I now understand what good looks like!”

To conclude, if my Balinese cooking teacher had in some way encouraged me to engage with the learning prior to the cooking class, would I have felt less overwhelmed? Safer and more comfortable? Know more, know how to do more, and remember more? I think so. 


Table 1: Examples of flipped learning activities

Before class In class

Read pages 8-12 and 22-23 of ETF’s Deeper Thinking and Stronger Action. Be able to define equity, equality, inclusion and diversity.

Share and discuss definitions of equity, equality, inclusion and diversity.

Listen to David Russell and Jeff Greenidge talk about inclusion.


Informs discussions about inclusion.

Watch The Pygmalion Effect and the Power of Positive Expectations and identify the four key factors for success.

Explore the concept of positive expectations. Classroom discussions: What do high or positive expectations mean for the classroom? What does this look like in practice and why?

Role of the teacher  

Select a case from ETF’s Breaches of the Code of Ethics and Conduct list of examples – or other examples e.g. from the news. Describe what led to the misconduct. What was the outcome? Could the outcome have been avoided and how?

Discuss cases of misconduct.


Listen to What makes a successful micro teach? Consider: what makes for a good session plan? How might microteaches start and why? Imagine you have 15 minutes – what questions would you ask yourself to help start the planning process?

Inform discussions around successful microteaches. What are the challenges? What might work well? What are the limitations and how might they be mitigated?

Use EEF’s effective feedback task subject and self-regulation strategies to write feedback for a spoof piece of work. This will be used for peer review: what works well; even better if…

Inform discussions about the purpose of feedback; what makes for effective feedback; practise writing feedback; self and peer review of feedback; and identify areas for development (all contextualised to trainees’ subject).

Cognitive load theory


Watch an introductory video on cognitive load theory.

What is it? How might it be reflected in the design of your resources e.g. PowerPoint slides and handouts? What do you need to remember?

Discuss and agree on how limitations of working memory could be managed in the design of learning materials. Relate this content to the design of next week’s theory presentation materials.



Abeysekera, L. and Dawson, P. (2015) ‘Motivation and cognitive load in the flipped classroom: definition, rationale and a call for research’, Higher Education Research & Development, 34(1), pp. 1–14.

Bergmann, J. and Sams, A. (2012) Flip your classroom: reach every student in every classroom every day. Oregon: ISTE.

Biesta, G. (2009) ‘Good education in an age of measurement: on the need to reconnect with the question of purpose in education,’ Educational Assessment Evaluation and Accountability, 21(1).

Darling-Hammond, L. (2000) ‘Teacher quality and student achievement’, Education Policy Analysis Archives, 8, p. 1.

Freire, P. (1968) Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Seabury Press.

Maslow, A. (1970) Religions, values, and peak-experiences. New York: Penguin Compass.

Ofsted. (2019) School inspection update. Available at: (Accessed 1 February 2024). 

King Rice, J. (2003) Teacher quality: understanding the effectiveness of teacher attributes. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute.

Image credits: Shutterstock

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