Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Learner Profile in a Changing and Growing (IB) World

On Friday, I had the opportunity to listen to and participate in a Learner Profile focus group with Robert Harrison, a curriculum manager for IB continuum development in the The Hague at the IBSO annual PD day. Robert shared some sound but provocative thinking around the review of the Learner Profile and the challenges the organization is facing as the alignment of the 3 IB programs (PYP, MYP and DP) continues to evolve. The IB Learner Profile, originally called the PYP Student Profile is a set of 10 attributes that describe what humans could/should strive for if they seek to be an internationally minded citizens of the world. The 10 attributes are:

  • Inquirers
  • Thinkers
  • Knowledgeable
  • Communicators
  • Open-Minded
  • Reflective
  • Caring
  • Balanced
  • Principled
  • Risk-Takers

Since it’s inception with the PYP in 1996 the profile itself, while since being adopted by all 3 programs,  has undergone very little change, even though the organization has grown considerably. The profile is the living, breathing manifestation of the IB Mission statement and at the heart of all three IB programs. All teaching and learning in the IB, including knowledge, concepts, skills, attitudes and action can in theory be born of the Learner Profile.

As with any review that takes on a truly reflective stance, questions start to arise, such as: is the Learner Profile truly an international set of attributes? Does the profile impose a set of western values on schools in the east? Where should the emphasis of influence lie if the Learner Profile is truly representative of global citizens who are in effect living without borders? Are there attributes that should not be a part of the profile? Are there attributes that are missing? Just how many attributes should define what an internationally minded, globally conscious citizen is striving to be? Is there an end to our growth within the profile? Is the profile in and of itself measurable if there is no end? Should we be measuring it? How? When? …

These are just some of the questions the IB is grappling with as it examines and reflects upon the Learner Profile across the continuum. I admire and commend their work. No, the Learner Profile isn’t perfect. But, it does ensure that how we are educating our students is at the core of what we do. For me, it keeps the calling of education to be something nobler alive. The Learner Profile is not just for students – it is for EVERYONE – we are ALL learners (or at least that is the hope!).

“I think it must be apparent to every thinking mind that the noblest of all professions is that of teaching, and that upon the effectiveness of that teaching hangs the destiny of nations.” ― David O. McKay

Do you have opinions and ideas you would like to share with IB as they continue collecting feedback? Do your students? I encourage you to take action by completing the learner profile global survey and by participating in the virtual focus group. Visit before October 31. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to be a part of the evolution of IB!

The Human Factor

It’s just about a full month into the new school year and already the voicemail is alight with parent calls, the email box is pinging, and questions and comments arise in spontaneous, face to face conversations.
Not so long ago, I would have looked at my voicemail, or my email and been filled with a sense of dread or impending doom. “Egad! A parent wants to talk to me? I better run and hide so they can’t find me. Why can’t they just leave me alone and let me do my job?” It’s true, ignorance is bliss. But bliss only lasts so long and ignorance comes back to bite you time and time again. Coming out of the classroom and into a leadership role has given me a very different perspective on the relationship between parents and schools.
Parents are an asset to any school. They are our biggest resource, most important partners, best critical friends…the list could go on and on.
Over the years I’ve had some amazing conversations with parents about learning, children, and the world. I’ve also had some challenging conversations that stretched me in ways that made me feel quite uncomfortable. Conversations that forced me to reflect on my practice and caused me to challenge my own assumptions. I also know that as a parent of three children, my own expectations for accountable schools are quite high.
Listening to the parents who bring their children to our schools is a crucial part of a high quality education system. We need to hear them, respond to them, and above all, show them we care. When a parent makes contact they are showing they care, even when they approach us from a frustrated or angry stance, or are looking for someone to blame when something didn’t work out the way they hoped for their child. Those conversations can be hard in the beginning. However, all conversations are crucial and when we approach them with the mindset that everyone at the table, regardless of how they may express their feelings cares, we find we have more in common than not, and can build partnerships rooted in trust.
I call this the “human factor”. The “human factor” trumps everything we do. It trumps learning, it trumps assessment, it trumps planning. It is the one variable educators can’t control, yet we waste so much energy trying to do just that.
I don’t know who might be on the other end of the line, or what the intended tone of an email may or may not be, or who might be waiting to catch me in the hallway. But what I do know is that I have a responsibility to show I care through how respond to the “human factor”. Now, when I see the voicemail I think, do I have the time to really pause, listen to and respond? When I read that email, I ask myself, is this better responded to in person? When I see a parent approaching, I perk up my ears, smile and get ready to listen. I am as much a part of the “human factor” as they are, and I want them to experience the caring variable…and just maybe they will find that refreshing and that will make all the difference in the world.