10 questions to provoke change…

The Urban Dictionary defines ‘shaking the cage’ as challenging a social system to instigate change.

It’s been suggested by a respected colleague that perhaps I ‘shake the cage’ too often. The way we did it was fine. Leave things as they are.  People have ownership of the old way. Too much change. Too many obstacles….

As I work in an IB PYP school, I’ve been reflecting on  ‘shaking the cage’ through the lens of the IB Learner Profile. It’s our goal to develop the attributes of the Learner Profile in our students, so don’t we need to live them ourselves? We need to ask ourselves these questions:

1. Are you a thinker?

Do you think critically and make reasoned decisions?  What do you believe about how learning takes place?  Have you thought about why you do things the way you do?

2. Are you open minded?

Are you open to new ideas and different ways of doing things? Do you seek and evaluate a range of viewpoints and are you willing to grow from the experience?

3. Are you knowledgeable?

Do you constantly explore concepts, ideas and issues? Are you constantly growing as a learner? Are you keeping abreast of new ideas in education?

4. Are you principled?

 Are you totally honest with yourself and others about why you prefer to maintain the status quo? Do you have a responsibility to help your students learn in the most effective ways?

5. Are you an inquirer?

Are you curious and do you actively enjoy learning?  Do you constantly question and wonder how to create the most engaging, challenging and meaningful experiences?

6. Are you reflective?

Do you give thoughtful consideration to your own and your students’  learning? Do you  constantly reflect on your practice? Do you listen carefully to your students’ reflections on their learning?

7. Are you a communicator?

Do you express ideas and information clearly and creatively?  Do you listen to and build on the ideas of others? Do you work effectively and willingly in collaboration with others?

8. Are you a risk taker?

Do you approach unfamiliar situations and uncertainty with courage and forethought? Do you have the independence of spirit to explore new ways of doing things?

9. Are you caring?

Do you work at making a positive difference to the lives of others? Do you care deeply about your students and how best they learn? 

10. Are you balanced?

Do you understand the value of intellectual, physical and emotional balance to achieve well-being for yourself and your students? Do you embrace the necessary changes to achieve  this?

If we live the Learner Profile, we are going to be shaking the cage all the time. We owe it to our students…



In some examples, I have used and adapted the actual language of the LP definitions.

17 thoughts on “10 questions to provoke change…

  1. Yes to all of the above! Does that mean I’m a cage-shaker, too?

    I’ve always regarded myself a thinker (hubby reckons too much even) As I get older, and perhaps wiser, I’m realising that it’s not enough. That is, I’ve got to be a doer too. And so I think that’s what’s missing above, i.e. the action component.

    If I model something (not fashion-oriented) and implicitly/explicitly invite others to ‘come play’ (yes, play), isn’t this a form of cage-shaking too? Less rattly and less unnerving for some. After all, who wants to be rattled all the time? Let me open the cage door myself.

    Oh, having said that, some cages have to be rattled more, in terms of frequency and intensity. Point is, there’s SHAKING and there’s shaking. Trick is in knowing how much, when and where.

    Thanks for the post. I’ve been mulling over this for a while now and prepping for a 2-minute (yes, 2) presentation at a TeachMeet tomorrow. THIS is what it’s about, more or less. Title? Trick or Treat?



    1. Apparently it’s more frequently called cage rattling. I like the sound of that better!
      I agree that ‘doing’ is more important than just thinking about it. In the IB PYP, ‘action’has its own whole separate category. Although I do think ‘risk taker’ incorporates the ‘doing’ component of the learner profile.
      I do use a modelling and ‘come out and play’ approach, but sometimes people don’t want to join me! So the questions above are supposed to provoke some thinking 🙂
      Can’t wait to hear about the 2 min presentation!


  2. Imagine a job interview that asked these 10 questions and with each one asked for an example of how the interviewee has demonstrated these in the past, (related to the job they are applying for).


  3. Yes I’m a cage shaker too! It’s impossible not to be really when you consider the learner profile and the area I’m involved in (ICT) which is changing the whole time. There has been a lot of cage shaking over the past 2 years that teachers at the time found uncomfortable – such as the fact that they were expected to be in the ICT lessons, that the ICT lessons became flexible, that the labs and laptops and even myself became bookable resources. It’s uncomfortable to be shaken and to have to move forward – but they have done it and they will never go back to the “old” ways again.


  4. I don’t work at an IB school, but I believe in your questions. They are right on for me!
    I liked them so much – I challenged the teachers I work with to read your post and share what they think with each other. Thanks for shaking my cage!


  5. I agree Malyn, I like the metaphors.. sometimes I rattle a cage and sometimes I shake the tree.
    Sometimes just a few leaves fall and sometimes the open door of the cage entices the more adventurous inhabitants out.
    I think that pressure and support are the core of good leadership and both are essential.
    I have found myself over the years on a seesaw (once more with the metpahors) between pressure and support. Sometimes I get the balance right and then it works well and sometimes too much pressure and then everyone rushes back into the cages (this metaphor business is addictive) Thanks Ed for the cage rattling.. we owe it to our kids and ourselves to want the best.


  6. I have this profile up in my classroom but have not used it in this way. I usually use the posters as a reminder to myself. Next year I’m going to share and discuss them more explicitly with the children. Thanks for the thought provoking post! Lynda


  7. I admire people who make and embrace positive change. It can be a tough process. I think most people are too scared to shake the cage. I feel that not everyone who encourages open-mindedness, integrity and action in the children are able to do the same themselves. I look forward to sharing your provoking questions with my team. I liked your questions so much that I have ‘borrowed’ them and made them kid-friendly. It is one more way of making them think and making the attributes more personal and real to them.


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