Mirrors were invented over 8,000 years ago, according to Live Science. They started out as “ground and polished obsidian.” Over thousands of years, mirrors have gone through numerous changes, and it wasn’t until 1835 when a “German chemist, Justus von Liebig, developed a process for applying a thin layer of metallic silver to one side of a pane of clear glass.” This advancement has led to the modern mirrors we all use today. As mirrors progress, people can see more and more clearly what they reflect. One thing that has not changed in over 8,000 years is the purpose of the mirror: to reflect an object.
In education, we have a different sort of mirror that enables us to step back and reflect on our classroom, our instruction, and our students. Educational mirrors allow teachers to look at the big picture as well as the minute details of our daily practices. These mirrors identify areas that can be changed as well as areas that are beyond our control. We cannot control which students enter our classrooms, but we can control the manner in which we educate those children. How do we determine the “health” of our instructional methods? A lot depends on the type of mirror we are using.
A variety of sizes exist when it comes to mirrors, and often the size of the mirror determines its purpose. Some mirrors are full length and are meant to reflect the entire person. Educational full-length mirrors are intended for teachers to evaluate their entire program. These mirrors are usually used during summer vacation. Some mirrors are compact and meant to reflect a small area on a face. Teachers often reflect upon certain aspects of their instruction: the group space, activities, and lesson delivery. Others mirrors are designed to magnify the reflection so that the smallest details can be seen. In the classroom, teachers focus in on how to assess students, how relationships are built and fostered, and even how we make students feel and its impact on their learning.
Like many, my reflection in a mirror has changed over the years. Seasons of my life exist where the changes were so subtle that they went unnoticed for years, and then all of a sudden, I saw someone that does not match who I was ten years ago. My physique, hairline, posture, and attitude all have noticeable changes. Do I like what I see?…hmm, that is a loaded question. There are certain things I cannot change, but also a great deal of what I do see, I can control. Do I blame the mirror for the image it has displayed? No! The problem arises when I become complacent with the image, and I don’t make the changes that are necessary for me to be the healthiest I can be.
Recently, the Academy of Active Learning Arts and Sciences (AALAS) released a set of standards that provide educators with ways to reflect on their educational practices. These standards are a type of mirror that allows educators to reflect on the manner in which we understand Flipped Learning, as well as how we implement it in our classrooms. It has become apparent that Flipped Learning needed these standards because so many different methods were being called Flipped Learning while actually being something different. Some of the variations were subtle while others showed drastic differences. These standards set the stage for current research, effective implementation, and clear understanding of Flipped Learning.
These standards will not change what is occurring in classrooms all over the world, just as a mirror does not change the image it reflects. Equipping people with these standards allows them to be reflective and use the standards (mirrors) to look deeply at themselves and their practices. If teachers are struggling in the group space, a set of standards exist to help guide them to create an active learning environment that reaches every student effectively. Standards are what move us from hearers to doers. Many have heard about Flipped Learning, and they know why it should be done, but standards equip educators to become doers and to make the necessary changes. Moving from hearer to doer is no easy feat; just as deciding to become a healthier self, takes great focus and discipline. To be able to look at a standard and know precisely your next step truly is encouraging.
Making positive changes can be hard, but you are not alone in your journey. The community of flipped classroom educators brings new standards to life. We have great examples to emulate and amazing encouragement that comes from the community. Use the standards to look at your current practices and lean on your community to help you refine your implementation of Flipped Learning.