IB Learner Profile Exploration Series – Session 3: Thinkers

As part of our IB Programme, we continue to showcase the ten IB Learner Profile attributes throughout the school year. BIBS students are encouraged to portray the IB Learner Profile focusing on one attribute each month.
 For the month of November, the attribute was THINKER: we use critical and creative thinking skills to analyze and take responsible action on complex problems. We exercise initiative in making reasoned, ethical decisions. As explained by our MYP Coordinator Mr. Terry Linton, “The key to being an effective thinker is to take in all facts and use those to make judgments. The judgments should then be reasonable and ethical.”

IB Learner Profile Exploration Series, Third Session: Thinkers
On the wall of a classroom at the BIBS Shunyi Campus, two sentences appear: “Learning without thinking is useless. Thinking without learning is dangerous.” These two sentences from Confucius are well known in China and tell us that learning and thinking should be closely integrated. Naturally, the IB Programme has also attached great importance to “thinking”, and has designated “Thinker” as one of the ten IB Learner Profile attributes.
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From late October until Dec 4, I followed the trans-disciplinary project “Language is Culture in Motion” launched by BIBS Shunyi campus Spanish teacher Roser Amigo. Bearing the “Thinker” in mind, my exploration this time was try to find out how teachers and students reflect on the relationship between language and culture and how could they express their thinking.

Inspiration of the thinking (from concept into thinking). On the afternoon of December 4, BIBS Shunyi campus welcomed students, parents and guests to their “Twilight Exhibition” – the final presentation the project of “Language is Culture in Motion” by way of performing and visual arts, design and technology to vividly exlore dynamic language, the fact that it changes over time and that it is reflected through culture. The project, organized by Spanish teacher Roser Amigo, was inspired by a famous quote by linguist Savignon. In 1983, Savignon wrote “language is culture in motion. It is people interacting with people.” Inspired by this idea, and reflecting on the IB MYP Language Acquisition Guide, Ms. Amigo proposed a idea to build a collaborative, trans-disciplinary project. She invited Peter Trethewey (Head of the the BIBS Languages Department), Terri Moore (Visual Arts teacher), Julie Bond (Drama teacher), Deric Law (IT Coach), Maria Barroso, Terry Linton (MYP Coordinator), Roland Schmidt-Bellach and Manjusha Aneesh (CAS Coordinator) to get together. From this professional group the “Language is Culture in Motion” project and the “Twilight exhibition” were born: from concept to detailed thinking to creative product.
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Collaborative thinking: The benefit of mutual discussion (thinking is a process)
Language is dynamic, changes over time and is reflected through culture. This abstract concept is not easy to understand – indeed a great amount of thinking is needed by both students and teachers. There is an old Chinese saying: “Give a man a fish, you have fed him for today; Teach a man to fish, you have fed him for a lifetime.” With some creative thinking, our teachers created a blueprint for our students. More important than the blueprint however, was the preparation for the presentation of student work. That required collabrative thinking from many people, with students taking the lead. Ms. Amigo notes: “One of the ‘Language is Culture in Motion’ goals was to provide our IB learners with an experience where they had the opportunity to deeply Think about What Language is, How It both modifies and is modified by our own and others’ Culture, as well as How It Changes and Evolves with Time. As such, the ‘Language is Culture in Motion’ Exhibition gave Grade 9 students the time and space to not just Think about the meaning of these three concepts, but also to come up with different Visual Ways to make them approachable to the whole BIBS Community.” Under teacher guidance, Grade 9 students immersed themselves in the thinking for this project. For 6 weeks, they explored the concept, thinking on different ways to present their understanding. The final exhibition was diverse, filled with humor and creativity, but I know the process of their thinking and planning was serious and rigorous. Our inspired teachers then lit inspiration within the students, continuing the process of teaching them how to think and exploring what a thinker really is.
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The Fruits of Thinking (Thinking leads to action). Thinking is a bridge, but only if you cross the bridge can you reach the other side. Thinking leads to action and good action comes from careful thinking. After 6 weeks of work, the Grade 9’s efforts were revealed. The exhibition covered a wide range of responses, including performances, posters, visual arts work, Aurasma interactive displays, iMovies, iBooks, music and more. “Language is Culture in Motion” inspired our students to think about the knowledge we learn from the books, to think in a creative way, to think the way of demonstrating our thoughts, then through all these thoughts, resulting in the transformation of book knowledge into practical knowledge. From this project, benefitting from their thinking, our students are continuing their paths to become deeper thinkers themselves. Here their thinking is also developing into good lifelong learning habits.

Learning is a process of being taught and thinking. While being taught and learning is the basis, thinking is the deepening and mastery of knowledge. Similar to taking in food, learning without thinking is like eating without chewing or digesting. If we can’t benefit from the food, knowledge is useless. Decare said, “I think; therefore I am.” B.Brecht said thinking is mankind’s greatest enjoyment. Plato said, without thinking life is not worth living. Newton said, thinking, continuous thinking — can usher in a gleam of dawn, exposing a million hectares of light. Here I would like to add: thinking is a kind of power. Today, with our bilingual program, what students learn is not only on the language level, but is rather the culture behind the language. Both ancient Chinese thoughts and the values of the IB Programme are dedicated to encouraging students to become people with strong thinking abilities. I believe that for BIBS students growing up with bilingual cultures as their base, “thinking” will inevitably follow them lifelong and that they will become globally minded citizens who are also powerful Thinkers.
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