The IB Learner Profile and Approaches to Learning Skills

The learner profile serves as a compass for all aspects of the IB, making it a coherent experience. It offers a vision of the ‘whole student’ and is focused on ten key characteristics of lifelong learners. 

IB learners strive to be:

Inquirers

They develop their natural curiosity. They acquire the skills necessary to conduct inquiry and research and show independence in learning. They actively enjoy learning and this love of learning will be sustained throughout their lives.

Knowledgeable

They explore concepts, ideas and issues that have local and global significance. In so doing, they acquire in-depth knowledge and develop understanding across a broad and balanced range of disciplines.

Thinkers

They exercise initiative in applying thinking skills critically and creatively to recognise and approach complex problems, and make reasoned, ethical decisions.

Communicators

They understand and express ideas and information confidently and creatively in more than one language and in a variety of modes of communication. They work effectively and willingly in collaboration with others.

Principled

They act with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness, justice and respect for the dignity of the individual, groups and communities. They take responsibility for their own actions and the consequences that accompany them.

Open minded

They understand and appreciate their own cultures and personal histories, and are open to the perspectives, values and traditions of other individuals and communities. They are accustomed to seeking and evaluating a range of points of view, and are willing to grow from the experience.

Caring

They show empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs and feelings of others. They have a personal commitment to service, and act to make a positive difference to the lives of others and to the environment.

Risk-takers

They approach unfamiliar situations and uncertainty with courage and forethought, and have the independence of spirit to explore new roles, ideas and strategies. They are brave and articulate in defending their beliefs.

Balanced

They understand the importance of intellectual, physical and emotional balance to achieve personal well-being for themselves and others.

Reflective

They give thoughtful consideration to their own learning and experience. They are able to assess and understand their strengths and limitations in order to support their learning and personal development.

Approaches to Learning Skills

The development of skills such as thinking skills and communication skills is frequently identified as a crucial element in preparing students effectively for life beyond school. Developing students’ ATL skills is about more than simply developing their cognitive skills; It is also about developing affective and metacognitive skills, and about encouraging students to view learning as something that they “do for themselves in a proactive way, rather than as a covert event that happens to them in reaction to teaching” (Zimmerman 2000: 65).

Thinking skills

Concern with developing students’ thinking, far from being a fad, is one of the most persistent and ambitious aspirations of education.

(Swartz and Perkins 1989: 5)

Developing thinking skills is a key feature of the constructivist approach that so heavily influences all IB programmes. In this approach, the teacher is seen as a facilitator who “guides the student, stimulating and provoking the student’s critical thinking, analysis and synthesis throughout the learning process” (Briner 1999: 1). Being “thinkers” is explicitly identified as one of the IB learner profile attributes, and is defined in terms of exercising initiative in applying thinking skills critically and creatively to recognize and approach complex problems, and make reasoned, ethical decisions.

Communication skills

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.

(Stephen Covey, 2004: 239)

Surveys asking hiring executives which skills they are looking for in potential future employees frequently report oral and written communication skills as being top of the list (see, for example, the survey in Wagner 2010). Students in the final years of their school-based education need to be very aware of this link, as the requirement for strong communication skills is often implied or explicitly identified in job descriptions (Krapels and Davis 2003).

Social skills

To function effectively in the school environment, students need to be adept at both peer-related and teacher-related social communication and behaviour. These skills are closely linked to communication skills and also to attributes of the IB learner profile, such as being caring (for example, through students being aware of the impact of their behaviour on others).

Self-management skills

This skill category breaks down into two separate areas.

  1. Organization skills—managing time and tasks effectively, goal-setting, etc.
  2. Affective skills—managing state of mind, self-motivation, resilience, mindfulness, etc.

Organization skills

One of the most crucial skill sets needed for success in the DP are organizational skills, and within that the particular skill of time management. Students at both secondary and tertiary levels are very aware of their own deficiencies in this area, but often do not have effective strategies to overcome them (Weissberg et al. 1982).

Affective skills

The development of affective skills is a key part of the development of self-management skills. This can enable students to gain some control over their mood, their motivation and their ability to deal effectively with setbacks and difficulties. There is also an important link between this area of ATL and the crucial area of student health and well-being, which historically has tended to be “mostly separated from other aspects of school life” (Konu and Rimpelā 2002).

Research skills

Most students think of researching as putting key words into a search box which leads them to undervalue the importance of other methods.

(Nichols and Mellinger 2007)

The development of research skills is given a central place in the DP, as can be seen, for example, through the importance placed on the extended essay. The extended essay provides the opportunity for students to undertake personal research into the study of a topic of their own choice, yet with the support and guidance of a supervisor. The extended essay is a demanding task, which is intended to help students to develop sophisticated research and writing skills. Yet the completion of such a task in a school environment, with the support and guidance of a supervisor, is intended to serve as excellent preparation for university studies, where students are likely to have to undertake similar tasks without the same level of structure, scaffolding and support.

We would like to extend special thanks to the IBO for providing the information contained on this page. Please follow the link (website) for more information on the ATLs.

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