3 Ways to Invert Your Training

Jill W.

Are you looking to revamp your training program but don't have the resources or time to make a change? Are your learners less engaged or lacking in motivation? Well, you're not alone. This is a common conundrum that training departments, L&D professionals and instructional designers face all the time. The solution, however, can be a simple one; use what you've got.

This article will look at what it means to invert your learning, how you can do this, and the ways this can benefit your training program.

What Does Inverting Your Training Mean?

Inverting your training is one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to reinvigorate your training program and pique your learners' interest. Basically, it means taking your existing learning and turning it on its head, rearranging how it is presented to the learner. Think about your current training program - do you have learners complete an online course, or listen to an in-class lecture, then send them off to practice their newly-learned skill on the job? Inverting your training means putting the practice portion first. Have your learners experiment and try new things, then bring them together for a discussion on what they experienced, and any comments or questions about the process.

Why Invert?

So, why do this? Well, a few reasons. Not only is it a relatively quick and easy way to improve your training program, inverting your training also:

Is a smart use of resources. In its most basic form, this technique won't require any additional outlay of time or money. You're not hiring an additional instructor, you're merely adjusting where they appear in the training pipeline. You're not spending additional time training your learners, in fact, done well, inverting your training can accelerate the learning process and have your people back on the job sooner. Even better, you don't have to start creating additional training from scratch, you're just using what you already have on hand!

Results in better training. How can simply changing the order of your training have any kind of real, measurable result? Giving your learners the opportunity to experiment on their own gives them more ownership over the training. Instead of listening to abstract concepts, they are able to literally grapple with a problem. All of a sudden, your audience is motivated and engaged when they come to the lecture portion of the training, instead of bored and checked out. When you immediately show your learners "what's in it for them", you get the buy-in you need to make your training a success.

Increases collaboration. Inverting your training encourages learners to work together and problem-solve as a group. We often hear the phrase; deep learning doesn't happen unless learners truly work through tough problems'. By encouraging people to think through different situations (and often unpredictable ones) they're actually getting more out of the learning process. An instructor standing in front of a classroom can engage learners in a discussion, but it doesn't have the same effect as if the discussion were between peers. Even more, when working through an online lesson, although your learners are learning something, they aren't always required to think critically. Regardless of the role a learner has in an organization, critical thinking is always necessary.

Ways to Invert Your Training

Let's look at some approaches you can implement in your organization.

1. Invert the training hierarchy. If training comes from the top-down, reverse it so it's generated from your employees. Consider this example:

A manager, training professional or HR officer decides that a group of employees needs to learn a new skill or learn about a new processes or policy so they develop various training resources: online courses, downloadable manuals/documentation, job aids, videos, webinars, etc. Employees are then required to complete what has been developed and pass some sort of evaluation component. It's clear that the need for training and the decision around how training is delivered came from upper management. Why not empower your employees and get their feedback in the matter? First, training might not be the solution to your problem, and second, you may be surprised at what they recommend.

Tip: Flip the hierarchy! Involve your employees in the process.

2. Flip your classroom. This is a concept that has been around for the last 30 years. It is a blended-learning approach in which a self-directed learning phase precedes the classroom-instruction phase. Essentially, learners acquire knowledge prior to the training session so that when they attend the lecture or session it can be used to assimilate and implement the newly acquired knowledge. This method works well when you already incorporate both online and in-person components in your training. Take some time to think about the order in which learners are required to complete these components. Does it make sense for them to complete the online course first? Maybe a collaborative, facilitated discussion would be beneficial to have first. Remember that adult learners like flexibility; they like having the option to take the training in whichever order makes the most sense to them. Maybe your solution is not only to invert the way training is delivered, but to allow learners to make the right choice for them. At the end of the day, what matters is that they understand what is being taught and can apply it back on-the-job.

Tip: Let your learners have input in how they train.

3. Lead with experiential learning. Phil Geldart, founder and CEO of Eagle's Flight, defined experiential learning as an activity "deliberately themed to mask connections to [a learner's] day-to-day activity". More and more organizations are incorporating experiential learning into their training programs because it merges two traditionally separate aspects of training (learning and hands-on experiences), generating skills learners can use back on-the-job. However, this component often shows up somewhere in the middle of what's being delivered. The instructor provides learners with key information and then sends them out in the real world to experiment. My suggestion is to put the experiential component first because it not only increases learners' motivation to learn, but it increases the transfer of knowledge to the workplace.

Julie Schell suggests that we don't give learners enough practice transferring knowledge. If the knowledge itself is acquired through experiment and practice first, maybe we can rectify this problem. Some examples of experiential learning include:

  • Role play
  • Games
  • Case studies
  • Simulations
  • Problem solving
  • On-the-job training (OTJ)

Tip: Human beings are shaped by their experiences, so empower your employees to learn by experimenting.


Changing up your training program by inverting it can give it a fresh feel. The examples provided in this article equipped you with some ideas of how you can go about doing this, but don't be afraid to think outside the box and see what you can do without spending a lot of time and money revamping things.

Honestly, I've had the most success by getting my employees involved in the process, switching up the order of delivery, and encouraging people to experiment with what else is out there. So I'd like to leave you with one last thought...

What is 'stressed' spelled backwards? I'll let you figure out the answer, but just remember that sometimes when you mix things up, you gain a surprise perspective.

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Jill W.

Jill is an Instructional Designer at BaseCorp Learning Systems with more than 10 years of experience researching, writing and designing effective learning materials. She is fascinated by the English language and enjoys the challenge of adapting her work for different audiences. After work, Jill continues to leverage her professional experience as she works toward the development of a training program for her cats. So far, success has not been apparent.