Making sense, and making use, of the international baccalaureate learner profile

Year: 2014

Author: Howard, Stevenson, Lucy, Bailey, Patricia, Thompson

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

  The International Baccalaureate (IB) Learner Profile ‘is the IB mission statement translated into a set of learning outcomes of the 21st century'. Alternatively it can be described as the organisation's mission statement ‘in action'. IB's mission statement reflects the three fundamental principles that inform all of the IB programmes - communication, holistic learning (Hare 2010) and intercultural awareness (Hayden and Thompson, 2011), and hence the Learner Profile is common across the IB continuum (in contrast to other elements where the nomenclature varies across programmes).  This placing of the Learner Profile in all the IB programmes arguably ensures it has a significance within the IB curriculum above all others.  It is, in essence, the definition of the IB Learner, presented in the form of 10 attributes. However, despite its centrality within the IB philosophy the Learner Profile's role in IB pedagogy is ambiguous.  The attributes within the Learner Profile are both complex and contested, while the role of the Learner Profile itself is not always clear.  It is both core and peripheral in the sense that it is fundamental to the philosophy of IB, but at the same time it is not assessed in any formal sense. This paper draws on two studies to explore how teachers in IB schools make sense, and make use, of the Learner Profile.  The studies investigate teachers' use of the Learner Profile in relation to two LP attributes. The first study looks at the attribute ‘Open Minded' and draws on the views of teachers in four United Kingdom schools teaching in the Middle Years Programme.  The second study looks at the attribute ‘Caring' and data was collected in nine schools across six countries (in Europe, MENA and Asia). This study looked at the Learner Profile in Primary, Middle Years and Diploma Programmes. The paper presents the different ways in which teachers make sense of the Learner Profile as a set of core values that underpin their pedagogical processes. It also identifies the diverse ways in which teachers make use of the Learner Profile to plan learning opportunities.  The paper highlights the tension that can exist when a values-based approach to learning comes into a conflict with a ‘pressure to measure', and the different ways in which teachers seek to reconcile these conflicts.