Learner Profile – is it working for you?

In my experience, I have found that the PYP Learner Profile is a much maligned, ridiculed and – even worse – ignored element of the PYP. Yet, it encapsulates the very essence of what it means to be a PYP school bringing up future “global citizens”. It gets laminated and stuck on walls. Kids learn the words parrot-fashion and teachers whack them on planners in schools everywhere.

Yet, it is not often that we can put our hands on our hearts and say that the Learner Profile is alive, well and thriving in our schools. Why is this?

Well… part of it is confusion. The fact that there is a Learner Profile and some Attitudes makes it difficult to simplify things. Many of us wonder why both exist and so end up applying neither. I have found this fantastic tree diagram to be really helpful in establishing the relationship between the two:

With the Attitudes in the roots, they represent the hidden, internal behaviours that students need to develop. The more visible attributes of the Learner Profile are represented by the leaves and branches. Through development of the Attitudes, students will start to demonstrate the attributes of the Learner Profile. It is, therefore, much more powerful to work with the Attitudes regularly than it is to work with the Learner Profile.

A second reason that we struggle with the Learner Profile is the paucity of our own ethical educations! I have come to this realization in the last few weeks while being profoundly affected by Shane Koyczan’s powerful work. Let’s face it, the world he smacks us in the face with is the world we grew up in. It is also the world many of us still live in as we form cliques, gossip about each other, make judgments about people, criticize people who are different and generally act appallingly in the hallways, classrooms and staffrooms of the schools we work in. Of course, I am generalizing… but am I wrong?

The Learner Profile is the one thing that really sets the IB apart from other education systems. If we can start to take it more seriously and make it a priority in our schools, perhaps we could have a better chance of bringing up ethical citizens. If we can start using the Attitudes with more conviction, perhaps we will start seeing the Learner Profile come to fruition on a greater scale. If we can start being nicer to each other, perhaps some of that will rub off.

I will start a job as PYP Coordinator next academic year and this will be a major priority for me. I will share the strategies we use on this blog… in the meantime… what do you do in your school to make the Learner Profile work?



  1. Pingback: What do my actions say about me? | Notice… Reflect… Act
  2. stephaniebrook

    I appreciate your post today… this is something that our current PYP Principal put out to the kids at the beginning of the year, and we have worked to make this happen. I am teaching PYP Music in Tanzania, and have been guiding the students this year, from EC up to Grade 5, to write music about the Learner Profile. We took an existing song from the OCC and wrote music to a verse to accompany the chorus that we found. Each month, a different grade level brainstorms what one of the attributes means and write lyrics to a verse that is presented at assembly to rest of the student body. They use a variety of instruments to accompany themselves, and it sounds really great! On top of that, they are really discussing and talking about what being “Caring” or “Balanced” looks like in their world. It is rewarding to see these attributes coming alive for them.

    Like you, I think it is the Learner Profile that sets our program apart from others. I believe strongly in them, and think that we should be working to help our students put them into practice.

    Good luck with your new position. Cheers.

    • Mr. Sam

      Nice to get comments from Tanzania – I grew up there!

      The music idea sounds like a good one, provided the kids are really involved – and it sounds like they are. I do shudder at the memory of a class of early years kids marching into an assembly once chanting ” we are risk takers”!!!! But, that was totally contrived and scripted by adults whereas the approach your school is taking involves so much conversation amongst the students.

      • szbrook

        Thanks for the feedback. Yes, the kids are involved and it is really incredible to see them unpack the attributes and explain them in their own words. We had hoped to get through every attribute, but didn’t want to overdo it, or make the kids tired of the song, so we have given it a bit of a rest for now. Hopefully they will continue on with it in the coming years.

        • Mr. Sam

          It is nice to focus on a few of the attributes, get them looking for them in action, going into depth with them.

  3. katie

    I think especially when we realize the need to establish community in our schools. How that looks and what that means using the PYP attitudes and profiles as guides. I think part of my “issue” is that there are so many words, sometimes it feels overwhelming – too much.

    • Mr. Sam

      Agreed, too many words! This is why I like to work on the attitudes with the kids. I love what you say about the need to create communities. Schools can go either way – they can either be “containers” that everyone goes into each day, or they can be genuine communities. Using the attitudes/profile as your mechanism for community creation – with purely that goal in mind – is a great idea. Thanks!

  4. Suzanne

    I stumbled across your blog through a search on Pintrest to see what had been posted on the Exhibition, as ours opens tomorrow and so it is all I can think about at the moment. I will be working with you next year in HCMC as G5 team leader. I am excited to have your input about the Exhibition process as I am very much a fan of changing things up (even though they may have been done that way for a while) if it means giving the students a more fulfilling and genuinely engaging experience.

    When I read this post about the LP it resonated with me, particularly as we have been working on our self study for our eval visit next year and of course the LP came up. It sparked some conversation in a staff meeting, my argument being that there was definitely a degree of tokenism about the facilitation of the LP in the classroom. I believe it is one of the first elements that teachers new to the PYP cling on to as it seems somewhat “easy” to grasp and incorporate. I also believe it is one of the first things to slip by the wayside as your knowledge of and experience with the PYP deepens. Other elements can takeover as being more significant and worthy of your time and focus.

    I am very much looking forward to sharing ideas with you next year.

    • Mr. Sam

      Yes, you’re right – new (to the PYP) teachers really do cling on to it. I remember doing that myself as the system I had worked in previously offered nothing in terms of ethics or attitude. Then, as you say, there is a danger of tokenism – laminating not living! Other things do take over, yet, if the students are not prepared to be the best they can be, everything else is quite unlikely to fit into place. Same with the adults!!!

      Looking forward to working with you next year. My wife, Kelli, just got back from a trip to HCMC to find a house and she is really taken by the place.

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