IB Learner Profile

Paul Main

Getting started with IB Learner Profile: A School Guide

What is the IB learner profile?

The International Baccalaureate® (IB) learner profile defines a wide range of responsibilities and human capacities on top of academic success. The learner profile helps schools to understand their students’ needs, strengths and weaknesses in order to provide them with an appropriate learning environment. It also provides a framework for assessing student progress throughout their International Baccalaureate programme.

What are the components of the IB learner profile and how do they relate to each other? The learner profile consists of three main components:

• A set of personal characteristics that describe the learner’s personality. These include self-awareness, motivation, resilience, curiosity, creativity, independence, responsibility, adaptability, perseverance and social awareness.

• The learner’s cognitive abilities, which include reading comprehension, critical thinking, problem-solving, logical reasoning, verbal communication skills and visualisation.

• The learners’ knowledge, skills and understanding, which include the ability to apply concepts, analyse information, synthesise ideas, make decisions, work independently, communicate effectively and reflect upon what has been learned. 

An IB learner profile shows a commitment to support all the school community members to respect themselves, respect people around them and give respect to the rest of the world. IB programmes are dedicated to students' personal development for the IB learner profile.

What are the attributes of the IB learner profile?

The IB learner profile intends to develop students who are:

Knowledgeable: They explore issues, ideas and concepts, that have global and local significance. While doing so, they develop understanding and acquire in-depth knowledge across a balanced and wide range of disciplines. They are informed about the world around them.

Knowledgeable students read books on topics being taught at school. They ask questions and make connections between the known and unknown. Parents and teachers can instil knowledgeable behaviour in the children in the following ways.

  1. By applying, acquiring and sharing knowledge;
  2. By looking at unique perspectives;
  3. By asking questions to deepen understanding;
  4. By considering each factor involved;
  5. By considering failure a part of learning;
  6. By encouraging students to listen to the news, read newspapers and become familiar with current events.

Monitoring the IB Learner Profile
Monitoring the IB Learner Profile

Students as Inquirers

Inquirers: These students develop their innate curiosity. They obtain the skills vital to conduct research and inquiry and indicate independence in learning. They enjoy learning, and their love for learning will be nurtured all through their lives.

Inquirers do not perceive themselves as experts, they like being a learner. In most cases, when children question parents or teachers, they immediately provide an answer. The better way is to say something like 'Good question! How could we learn about it?' And inquire together.

A child’s curiosity, creativity and thinking skills are improved when children use a variety of resources and carry out small, simple activities and experiments to investigate any topic, from making a circuit to seeing how it is impossible to create a circle with only straight sticks. The main objective of improving inquiry skills in children is to develop them into independent and lifelong learners.

Advancing Curriculum Learning and Communication Skills

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

Learners who are active communicators, can convey their ideas through drama, dance and music. Communication is key to expressing oneself, and communicators can often talk in more than one language.

Having good listening skills is an important characteristic of effective communicators. Active listening enables students to express empathy and gain new insights, perspectives and ideas. Teachers and parents can develop students who are communicators by:

  • Talking about children's daily activities;
  • Exploring other modes of communication along with speaking;
  • Actively listening to the children when they talk;
  • Talking about children's books and reading together.
  • Talking about the TV shows and videos and watching them together.
  • Asking questions to explain what a child is saying.

Developing Curriculum Learning alongside Communication Skills
Developing Curriculum Learning alongside Communication Skills

Promoting active learners and thinkers

Thinkers: They take the initiative of applying thinking skills creatively and critically to the approach and recognize complex problems, and make ethical, reasoned decisions.

Parents and teachers can build creative thinking skills in a child by encouraging him/her to solve problems independently. To develop critical thinking skills, parents and teachers may ask open-ended questions and discuss real-life problems with the children. It is also suggested to ask a child questions when they are working on a problem.

Developing open-minded students

Open-minded: They appreciate and understand their personal histories and own cultures, and are open to the traditions, values and perspectives of other people and communities. They seek and evaluate a range of viewpoints, and are willing to learn from their experience.

Open-minded students understand that everyone is different. They listen to many possibilities and consider the points of view of others before finalising a decision. They celebrate people's uniqueness and individual differences. Parents and teachers may:

  • Encourage students to try new ways, new foods, new activities and new games.
  • Expose children to different festivals, traditions and celebrations and present children in a non-judgmental manner.
  • Motivate children to listen to others when others speak.
  • Introduce literature about different cultures. It must be ensured that the literature is appropriate and appropriately reflects the culture.
  • Introduce learners to other global issues, countries, and cultures.

Building positive school cultures with principled learners

Principled: They take responsibility for their acts and the outcomes that accompany them. They show honesty and integrity, with a high sense of respect, justice and fairness for the dignity of persons, communities and groups.

An extraordinary feature of principles is that, unlike procedures and concepts, principles are discovered, not invented. Principles are the only type of content that depicts "truth" in any substantial way. Facts are mostly either false or true, and they are particulars, not generalities. As compared to principles, facts are trivial. A procedure may either create the desired goal (or output) or not. But procedures lack the details of how things work, and procedures can be changed and still create the desired goals. In most cases, there are more than one different procedures to achieve the same goal.

On the other hand, principles give us an understanding of the surrounding world, within us, and among us; an awareness of how things work and why they occur in a specific way. Hence, principles are considered among the most important type of content to include in teaching. It is helpful for teachers to learn how to implement the principles in unfamiliar situations.

Encouraging reflective learners

Reflective: They show thoughtful consideration for their experience and classroom efforts. They understand and assess their limitations and strengths to help their personal development and process of learning.

Reflective students have 3 essential characteristics. They:

  • Think
  • Reflect and
  • Grow

Reflective students know what they are not good at and what they’re good at. They try to make necessary changes where ever they can. They perceive their weaknesses and strengths in a constructive manner. Parents and teachers can help students in becoming reflective learners by:

  • Encouraging students to maintain a journal;
  • Asking learners to record a 1-second video every day;
  • Make students spend some time reviewing their class progress reports.
  • Reviewing the goals that learners could set for the next term.
  • Making a list of particular actions that students can take to accomplish these goals.

Developing reflective learners
Developing reflective learners

Embracing emotional learning

Balanced: They know the significance of emotional, physical and intellectual balance to attain well-being for themselves and others.

Balanced students know the significance of physical, intellectual, and emotional balance to gain well-being for themselves and others around them. They understand and assess their limitations and strengths to promote their personal development and learning outcomes.

These students achieve healthy school-life balance by exercising and eating a balanced range of foods. They know the importance of maintaining a balance between the mental and physical features of their bodies. They spend time engaging in many different activities.

Fostering caring learning environments

Caring: These students show respect, compassion and empathy towards the feelings and needs of others. They demonstrate a commitment to service, and act to bring a positive difference in the environment and lives of others.

Across different grade levels and throughout the school year, these students show their caring behaviour in many of their transdisciplinary units. Care can be integrated into the students' inquiries in various areas such as housing, garbage, money, migration, health and more. Teachers and parents can play their role in making children more caring by:

  • Modelling the caring behaviour they would want to see in the children.
  • Being an active listener, using kind words, and helping others.
  • Encouraging students to read books that demonstrate kindness and caring behaviour.
  • Helping students to reduce, reuse and recycle.
  • Emphasizing social skills such as sharing with siblings; saying thank you and please, and understanding when others may be having a difficult time.
  • Brainstorming ways children can get involved in the welfare of the community such as donating clothes, food, or toys and sending cards to the residents of a nursing home.

Encourage intellectual risk taking with the thinking framework
Encourage intellectual risk taking with the thinking framework

Encouraging intellectual risk-taking

Risk-takers: They show the courage to deal with uncertainty and unfamiliar situations and have an independent spirit to explore innovative strategies, new ideas and roles. They are articulate and brave in defending their beliefs.

Young children are natural risk-takers. They are curious, they love to discover and want to explore how the world works. Nonetheless, as they grow older, they may quickly stop themselves from taking a risk because they understand that there is a likelihood that they might fail. According to the rules of risk taking, the more the children avoid taking risks, the more difficult it will become for them to accept any challenges in the future.

Teachers and parents need to provide children with opportunities to be risk-takers. The goal should be to make children feel confident and comfortable while trying something new, even if they have to face failure in the end. In real life, most students reveal that when they take a risk, they are successful.

Monitoring Learner Profiles

Creating accurate assessments of the wider development of children is always going to be a difficult task. We created the learning skills profile that helps schools understand the development of the wider capabilities of their students. The framework enables classroom teachers to acknowledge when children have advanced their learning skills. Each of the competencies can be regarded as both an outcome and a mechanism for creating lifelong learners. These badges have been used to communicate with parents when children have made progress in any given area. The simple statements enable school communities to discuss the outcomes of children with greater confidence. Classroom tasks are filled with assessment opportunities for these essential skills, we use the term 'learning to become...'. In terms of how they are incorporated into daily school life, we follow the simple formula.

We are learning about: [e.g. Healthy eating]

We are learning with: [e.g. Mind maps and internet research]

We are learning to become: [e.g. Critical thinkers and good communicators]

Many schools around the world have already carefully embedded IB learner profile into everyday practice. If your school is considering how to take the first step you might want to look at how the schools have incorporated the profile:

  • International School of Texas
  • IB World School
  • Xi'an High-Tech International School
  • Beijing BISS International School
  • Seisen International School


Getting started with the Learner IB Profile

The main objective of an IB programme is to create globally minded 21st-century learners who, acknowledging their shared guardianship of the planet earth and common humanity, help to create a more peaceful and better world. The International Baccalaureate® (IB) learner profile defines the above human capacities and responsibilities on top of academic success. An IB learner profile is dedicated to supporting all the school community members to respect themselves, respect others around them and give careful consideration to the rest of the world.