Written by Adrian von Wrede-Jervis, Bavarian International School gAG

In every guide on about page 7 is a copy of the IB learner profile which states: “The aim of all IB programmes is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.”

In 2018 a team of researchers from the University of Bath, led by Elisabeth Barratt Hacking, explored “International Mindedness in Practice: The Evidence from International Baccalaureate Schools” and wrote up their findings in the Journal of Research in International Education. In their thorough review they wrote: “Findings of this study strongly suggested that intentionality was one of the hallmarks of promising practice.”

Combining these statements leads to the following claim:

If we are to fulfill the aim of an IB education, then we need to be INTENTIONAL about international mindedness.

It cannot be something that is left to chance. We cannot merely assume that because we have a diverse international student body or a faculty from diverse cultures that we are developing internationally minded folk. Sure, international schools have a huge advantage in that they pose a potential of a place for many cultures to interact, but a diversity in student and faculty nationalities will not get you there on their own.

The reason is this – for the most part international mindedness is hidden. It is not observable. It has to be looked for. Consciously. Deliberately.

The greatest barrier to international mindedness is “Not Seeing”.

Whether it is ignorance denial, or superficiality, international mindedness is something that needs to be searched for. Why? Because most of our cultural iceberg lies underneath the observable surface:

The diagram on the right is the model first suggested in 1976 by Edward T Hall, the one on the left is a later iteration by Brook Graham. I like elements from both.



Both diagrams show that what we see of culture is only a fraction of the picture. Brook Graham’s diagram is helpful in that it shows that some observable elements extend below the surface and so provide pathways to exploring deeper aspects. For this reason I appreciate the so-called 5Fs (food, flags, festivals, fashion, and famous people). They provide a point of connection to the aspects of culture that lie beneath the surface. However, if all they do is adorn our schools and their calendars, then they tend to remain at the superficial level.

Staying at the superficial level is not what international mindedness is about. Instead, it is about understanding what is going on under the surface. Getting to know a culture beyond the stereotypes and addressing ignorance, blindness, and fear.



Strategies to dive deeper into culture

I have three I wish to share.

The first is based on the principle that if you want to explore another person’s culture then you first have to uncover your own. The first step to reaching out is reaching in.

Strategy 1 – The Tree of Life – Uncovering Yourself

Sketch on a piece of paper a tree with roots, trunk, and branches. On the roots, write down all the cultural influences on the person you were born as. On the trunk, write the experiences as a child that set you off in a certain direction. On the branches, identify the events that caused you to rethink some of the ways you thought about yourself or others.

Strategy 2 – Evaluating Claims – Uncovering Perspectives

This is repurposing a tool that I use in TOK to explore how a person or discipline reaches a conclusion. It involves naming the claim and then deconstructing the evidence and assumptions behind it.

Strategy 3 – Using Global Thinking Routines – Uncovering Thinking

You possibly have already used a range of Thinking Routines from Havard Project Zero. Project Zero has since developed a set of Thinking Routines designed specifically to unlock attitudes we look for in international mindedness, called Global Thinking Routines. A great site to use here is Western Academy Beijing’s library of resources which houses great posters created by Stephen Taylor.

The 3×3 tool to support international mindedness

A possible tool that might support purposeful planning for the outcomes of international mindedness in your unit is one that looks at the interplay between two ways of categorising aspects of international mindedness.

The first way we can divide up international mindedness is based on the IB’s definition of it (found in What is an IB education – Note for the updated 2019 version please log into the Programme Resources Centre):

“International-mindedness is a multi-faceted and complex concept that captures a way of thinking, being and acting that is characterized by an openness to the world and a recognition of our deep interconnectedness to others.” (p7)

The ways of thinking, being and acting could be considered as the 3 H’s of Head, Heart and Hands.

The second approach is to divide international mindedness by its outworking on the personal realm, the interactions within a community, and the ways we connect to those outside of our community (both at a local and global level). I refer to these as the 3 A’s – Awareness, Attitude and Advocacy.

The red sphere is the personal sphere. At this level we can be more discerning when trying to understand ourselves, reflect on our character, and make necessary changes.

In the green sphere, we get to listen to learn from other cultures that we mix with, we empathise with each other’s cultures and take responsible community action to promote international mindedness.

In the outer blue sphere, we care to find out about the world beyond our immediate social network, i.e. beyond the community walls both globally “but” locally, and when inspired by compassion for their situation, we act. Indeed, it would be great if more Service and Action activities emerged from the taught curriculum rather than see it as something done extra to the curricular.

Each intersection of the 3Hs and 3As has a particular set of learning opportunities

No single unit can tackle all of them, so pick one or two of them and weave the outcomes of these questions into the intended learning outcomes of the unit.

International Mindedness and the Learner Profile

Did you know that the learner profile was created to promote international mindedness not solely focused on promoting learning success? The IB states this on all the learner profile posters:

“The IB learner profile represents 10 attributes valued by IB World Schools. We believe these attributes, and others like them, can help individuals and groups become responsible members of local, national and global communities.”

So being knowledgeable is principally about being culturally aware and globally informed, not just well versed in subject matter content. It is more about being observant than clever.

Leveraging the Statement of Inquiry to Bring International Mindedness to Focus

Every MYP teacher knows that the statement of inquiry is informed by a focus on the global contexts, and key and related concepts. To leverage the SOI it is worthwhile spending time to select the ones that are most appropriate.

For the global context I have found it easier to select a good choice by turning them into questions and then looking at the unit to see which question can be answered. Here’s an example of how global context inspired questions can be created:

For the concepts, I advocate for using concepts that have global reach. Ones that can be accessed by all subjects. Remembering that we can always freely extend the key and related concepts given to us. The following work well, as tools, to unlocking internationally minded issues:

Chosen well, the global context and our chosen concepts work synergistically to build students’ conceptual understandings of how the world works. In addition, when we are deliberate about developing greater sophistication in the use of concepts (i.e. we start to unpack the various stages of the use of a concept) we simultaneously support growth in international mindedness.

Are we growing in international mindedness?

If the aim of an IB education is to see students becoming more internationally minded, then we really ought to be monitoring this. We call this assessment. The pity about this term is that it often conjures the notion of quantification or grading. This is not a helpful notion in the case of something as qualitative and subjective as international mindedness. There are, however, some ways we can keep an eye on things.

With regard to the head, we can adapt our task specific assessment criteria towards our more internationally minded statement of inquiry. Concerning the heart, we can ask students to record reflections of what challenged them and how they changed to being more aware or empathetic. We can monitor the work of the hands by tracking activities and service reflections.

One last share is the idea by Stephen Taylor of mapping whole school growth in international mindedness. The idea is unpacked here. Essentially eight themes are identified, each of which is covered by about 4 or so statements that are rated on a 1-5 scale. Averages for each theme are calculated and the results plotted on a radar chart. Such a visual representation can help highlight areas for whole school focus.


Be intentional:

  • Think about which tools you will use to take students under the surface of their, and others’, cultural icebergs.
  • Think about what section of the 3×3 tool you are aiming at and what questions you wish to address.
  • Think about how you are using the global contexts, the concepts and the SOI to work together to deliver international mindedness.
  • Think about how you will monitor (not necessarily measure) growth in international mindedness.

To watch Adrian’s webinar on this topic please go here!

Adrian von Wrede-Jervis has been teaching for over 25 years. He cut his teeth as a science teacher and Head of Faculty in UK state schools until he moved to Germany 10 years ago. He has for this time worked at the Bavarian International School gAG as Assistant Principal & International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Coordinator, Director of Studies & TOK Coordinator and Director of Continuum Learning. In these roles he has developed a thorough working knowledge of school management systems (eg ManageBac, Timetabler), data analysis (Diploma results analysis and pupil monitoring) and a deep understanding of each of the four IB Programmes and how they can be more closely aligned to one another towards a coherent Continuum of IB education.

Recently Adrian’s focus has been on how schools can adapt to the changing needs of our current social and economic context. Adrian is a trained and active ACE accreditation visitor and has a practical understanding of what constitutes a transformative learning community. Adrian dreams of an education system that develops interdisciplinary conceptual understanding, enables effective and informed inquiry and that supports the growth of a holistic range of learner competencies.