Profile of a lifelong learner…

This collaborative post was written with Miranda Rose, a PYP co-ordinator, in Accra, Ghana. We had fun working, crafting, building, hacking away … and learning together. It made me want to write a post about the power of collaboration. Miranda, are you in?

What does a lifelong learner look like?

“The IB promotes the education of the whole person, emphasizing intellectual, personal, emotional and social growth through all domains of knowledge… The Learner Profile is a profile of the whole person as a lifelong learner.”  (IBO Learner Profile )

Do you help your students strive to be thinkers, inquirers, knowledgeable, reflective, caring, balanced, open-minded, principled, communicators and risk-takers? Are you?

The  Learner Profile is not a list. It’s a whole school vision.  The attributes of the profile are the habits of mind that allow students to act in meaningful ways (Davy, 2005). We need to plan learning engagements to develop, discover and accentuate these habits of mind.

The Learner Profile is not a sign to laminate and post on the wall. It’s something every member of the school community should aspire to be. It is the value system that transcends learning and should be found at every turn in the school.

The Learner Profile is not another ‘thing’ to cover in class. It’s embedded in all our teaching and learning. We need to develop a culture, where the attributes of the learner profile are noticed, nurtured, modeled and expected.

Ron Ritchhart, in his book Intellectual Character identifies eight cultural forces that define a thinking classroom. These forces include : time, opportunities, routines & structures, language, modelling, interactions & relationships, physical environment and expectations (8 Cultural Forces by Ron Ritchhart). These ‘forces’ within the classroom environment can facilitate meaningful practice of all the attributes of the Learner Profile..

Some of our thoughts on how to make the ‘forces’ work to develop the Learner Profile in our classrooms:

  • Explore the attributes through the characteristics of world leaders, members of our local community and literary characters to help us identify what the Learner Profile might look like.
  • Help students take personal pride in demonstrating the attributes without extrinsically motivated awards.
  • Encourage students and teachers to set and reflect on personal goals based on the attributes of the Learner Profile.
  • Create essential agreements for effective functioning of groups and classes using the Learner Profile as a starting point.
  • Catch the students in the act of exhibiting the attributes of the Learner Profile. Display labeled photos of the Learner Profile in action.

And some further ideas via #pypchat, educators from all over the world sharing ideas…

  • We can model it through our actions. Make the language an organic feature of your pedagogy. Make it authentic.@wholeboxndice
  • Read stories in assembly showing LP. Be explicit about the traits. @LindyBuckley1
  • LP terminology is part of my daily language use. Library space makes reference to LP through posters and books lists @tgaletti
  • Use the language when discussing world news @CapitanoAmazing
  • Maybe the students can lead the community – teach the other stakeholders about the LP @jennysfen
  • Use language that relates to them. Students can display the LP even if they don’t use the ‘words’ @carlamarschall
  • What LP looks like as a parent-great way to intro it to them and gave good feedback to teachers @kassandraboyd
  • I think it has to inform everything you do as a teacher. Planning starts with it, instead of your standards or objective @PDin140orLESS
  • I like multi lingual / mother tongue displays & descriptions written by kids, often with parent help for translation @Saigon_Eldred
  • Students use them in literature circles for character analysis  @shaza33
  • All staff in school need to be involved in LP discussion, not just teaching staff @SarahHHK

We came to this post seeing ourselves as two knowledgeable PYP educators willing to take a risk and create a collaborative reflection. By communicating from different parts of globe, we began to think together. As we shared and processed our own ideas and the tweets from the first #pypchat, we became more open-minded about how the Learner Profile may look, feel and be developed in our schools. As a result, we now have more questions than we had before and our own inquiries into the Learner Profile have been inspired!

12 thoughts on “Profile of a lifelong learner…

  1. Thx Ed – once again, another very insighful post. I love the way you combine great practical advice (I have not come across Ron’s 8 Forces) and weave your own learning story into your posts – in addition to demonstrating the power of collobaration. I think what you and Miranda have done here with #pypchat is great – helping others to breathe life into the forces (by also showing what the profile is “not”). We need more posts like this!



    1. Thanks, Tony. I’m a bit slow in responding but it was good to chat the other day.
      I like using the ‘What is it not?’ approach with teachers and students… it helps clarify what something is, doesn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Totally – and it’s good to balance that with the questions – “What works for us?” & “What matters for us?”…and, “How do we know?”…

        For me, it’s these questions that help us become (and stay) real “thinking doers” – after all, that’s what we want from our students 😉

        Keep up the great work, Ed 😉



  2. Who are IB Learners? Not just the students, right! Great posting and process behind it. Thanks for sharing.

    One of my all time favorite quotes comes from the “Intellectual Character” book when Ron Richart quotes Shari Tishman and David Perkins…”The words we have available to us influence the way we think about the world, including the inner world of our own mental life.” Those “words” in an IB World School, in part, are made up from the Learner Profile.

    I recommend reading Chapter 4, about one week before you start a new school year!

    I believe that chapter is available for free on google books:


    1. Thanks, Dan. Sorry for being slow to respond! Discovering Ron Ritchhart and Visible thinking a few years back really changed the way I see teaching and learning. I love the first couple of chapters of Making Thinking Visible too.


  3. Dear Edna, once again an inspiring post! I read parts of the book from Ron Richhart but never occured to me to connect both ends, the LP with the 8 cultural forces. This could be a topic for workshop with my staff! I will def share this post with all my teaching staff. Thanks for these insightful thoughts. I’m getting jealous of not having taken part in the pypchat so far! I try to take my laptop tomorrow to school and have a go with my teachers during our meeting. You are always inspiring me!!! Thank you.


    1. Hi Vanessa
      The more I connect the bits, the more I clarify my thoughts and beliefs about teaching and learning. The challenge is getting teachers to make connections, rather than seeing each piece of the learning as ‘another thing’.
      It was great to see you even briefly in #pypchat. It’s a great learning experience for everyone.


  4. Thank you, Edna.

    You’re doing a great service to teachers with this blog. Very wonderful and inspiring dialog. I stumbled on your blog when I was looking up Sugata Mitra last week. Normally, I consider blogs a waste of time as the impression I’ve gotten about them is that they’re basically soapboxes.

    Yours is really outstanding. This is the first time I’ve ever returned to a blog let alone recommend it to my colleagues.

    The first time I was on this website, there was a link to an article, Unit Planning for Emergence by Craig Dwyer(?) in Japan – Teaching Paradox – (which I thought was very interesting) and you had an article on questions that included reference to the iceberg theory/model of culture which you had a link to a diagram. You mentioned that your students created a model iceberg in your classroom and that they put their deep questions at the bottom of it. I told a few of my colleagues about that article and now I can’t find it. What is the title of it or how do I access it?

    Also, last week I was getting some students ready to attend a presentation on the violin and when I told them the presenter would answer some of their questions, one of the students said well what should our questions be so I thought we’ll spend our next class coming up with questions about what they want to know about violin. Everyone got a piece of paper and had to come up with at least one question. They could work alone or with whomever they wanted to. This was a great activity. I had already decided on this and then saw your article. In four classes of grade 3’s , there was naturally some repetition of questions but I think in each class there was at least one question that no one else had asked. Thank you again. I enjoyed also a statement I just read on your blog – to let the students know you value initiative over compliance. What a great way to put it.

    Sorry this was rather lengthy.


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