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The learner profile and exhibition

This article presents a snapshot view of how the IB learner profile has been used within the context of the Primary Years Programme (PYP) exhibition.

The IB learner profile supports students in developing international-mindedness and acting for positive change. Exercising agency, students take ownership of their learning, make choices, voice ideas and opinions, and reflect on their development of the learner profile attributes.

At the International Schools of Paris the learner profile is part of our school’s culture and is modeled by the learning community. It is a key structure that transcends all three programmes and unites us with a consistent mindset and shared language. The 10 attributes synthesize many elements integral to PYP: inquiry, a quest for understanding, the development of values and dispositions and the acquisition of skills. The exhibition allows students to draw upon, develop and reflect on the attributes in the context of one extended inquiry.

“Separate, but Connected!”
The interior of 59 Rivoli at 59 rue de Rivoli, Paris

At different times in the exhibition journey, and depending on what each student is focused on and the goals they have set, different learner profile attributes are more visible and relevant than others. Below is a collection of reflections showing how students have developed and demonstrated the attributes throughout their exhibition journey.   


Students pursue their inquiries while considering different perspectives to understand how other people may think about ideas and their reasons for doing so. They collaborate with others beyond their close circle of friends, those who share a common interest.

“I have been very open-minded in this exhibition, for both my herbal remedies and homeopathic crystal remedies. I was trying to cover a lot of sicknesses and common problems so I had to do initial research then choose what I wanted to do further research on.” (Student S)


Exhibition students take responsibility for their learning and follow the guidelines established for academic honesty: referencing primary and secondary sources, using a bibliography and respecting copyright of different media.


Students carefully consider their journeys as inquirers and represent these visually. Students use blogs to post their reflections and comment reflectively on the posts of others.

“The easiest attribute to show in exhibition was being reflective, because we wrote reflections every day. Now it is sort of like a reflex to go home every few days to write on my blog or talk to my parents. It is also helps me figure out what I have to do the next day.” (Student I)

“When we looked at our survey questions and answers, they told me nothing about the awareness of grade 5. I realized that I had changed my goal since the time of writing and sending the survey.” (Student A)


Students visit with and speak to people beyond their immediate circle of friends and family, to gather more information and opinions. They conduct interviews and surveys and take risks by communicating their learning when sharing their exhibition.

 “I think risk taker and inquirer go together because to be an inquirer you dig deeper and take risks. You wouldn’t be an inquirer if you are just sitting in the comfort zone relaxing. You have to push your learning to the deepest.” (Student S)


Students think carefully – and in multiple and varied ways – about what would be meaningful, relevant and motivating for them to inquire into. The selection process to rule out other possibilities requires honest and deep thinking. Students think critically about complex ideas and generalizations, creatively in how they share their learning with others, and metacognitively as they consider what and how they have learned.

“Our students learn from their mistakes and make decisions about significant questions, reliable sources, where to find information and what to do with the information they find. The process is complex and requires a great deal of sophisticated thought throughout.” (Teacher S)


Students learn with and from others. They synthesize their learning and, for some students, there might be moments of tension. The entire learning community is sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. Students are also aware of their peers’ exhibition inquiries and actively look out for contexts, examples and resources to support the learning of others.


Students use their home and family languages to read, write, speak, listen, view and present. Parents visit each week to support the learning and progress of their children as well as engage in dialogue with other students. Both students and parents communicate honestly and regularly during the exhibition process. Students communicate their learning through models, diagrams, drama, art, music, movement and technology.

“I have done a lot of interviews and I love sharing my thoughts with my family and friends. When I was sharing about fabrics with mom she made a connection to her friend who works in a fabric store. I interviewed her and it helped me gain a lot more information about fabrics.” (Student J)


Students develop their own lines of inquiry to structure their learning, and reflect on what motivates them and is worth learning about for a sustained period. They understand inquiry is more engaging and rigorous than research and realize they may have many unanswered questions at the “end” of the exhibition unit. They are comfortable with this.

“During the exhibition, I saw students live and breathe inquiry. As inquirers they were naturally driven to take risks and dive into their research!” (Teacher L)


Students share their learning from one or more transdisciplinary themes. They are confident to share facts, case studies, places and moments in time related to their inquiries, and develop deeper conceptual understandings about many concepts embedded in their learning. Students support and exemplify more abstract understandings that are then transferred to different contexts.


Students manage their time responsibly and ensure that they conscientiously incorporate time-management and organizational skills. They pursue interests outside of school and maintain a healthy lifestyle through active living and informed food choices. They give rational importance to the exhibition, yet do not overly stress about the process or the sharing of their learning.

And finally…

The exhibition is an opportunity for students to use and apply the attributes of the learner profile. Embedded into all aspects of our school from nursery to grade 5, students have continued experiences in exploring, developing and applying each of the attributes in different contexts. We encourage students to embark on a purposeful and motivating exhibition inquiry to achieve a clear purpose. To do this successfully, and to exercise each student’s agency, all attributes of the learner profile are put into action.

Sean Walker is a grade 5 (10-11 yrs) teacher at International School of Paris, France. In his 22nd year of teaching, he has been fortunate enough to attend workshops with Kathy Short, Lynn Erickson, Kath Murdoch and Carol Ann Tomlinson alongside professional development at Harvard University for Project Zero’s Visible Thinking and at Reggio Emilia for best practice in early childhood. Sean is particularly interested in inquiry-based learning, teaching for understanding and maintaining the integrity of each discipline in the context of a transdisciplinary programme. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanPYPParis.