Brave spaces for community exploration

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Just as students are encouraged to contemplate how they come to know what they know, it is vital that teams acknowledge the range of perspectives in the community and create brave spaces where all views are valued. Resolution can then be found as shared values emerge as shared understanding and a common vision.

Whenever we contemplate making important, sustainable changes, we need to build brave spaces so that honest and open discourse is possible, and inclusive of the lived experiences of each member of the community.

People like to be able to tell their story.

People also connect to each other on a basis of what they value. When approaching the range of understandings about the way IB education is designed and who it is for, it is practical to bring the community together on what matters to them.

IB classrooms give students space to explore, discuss, and create as they engage with the subject matter. What if the subject matter to be explored by the school community is:

  • The ways the IB education model can meet the diverse needs of learners in the school
  • Whether the IB is too difficult for many students
  • To what extent does a schoolwide adoption of an IB course limit students’ choices

… or something else?

How will your community come together to engage in a shared learning journey to understand the beliefs and values, and find common ground?

Why is collaboration in the IB community so important?

Learning and teaching in the IB grows from an understanding of education that celebrates the many ways people work together to construct meaning and make sense of the world. Represented as the interplay between asking (inquiry), doing (action) and thinking (reflection), this constructivist approach leads towards classrooms where different attitudes and perspectives are valued. All collaboration should be used to achieve this goal.

From IB Coordinator Resource. “Grouping for programme development support. Area: Collaboration (Learning)” IB Programme Resource Center.

How will we move forward, if we don’t have trust?

No matter what we believe about teaching and learning, educators are committed to doing what is best for students. When new initiatives are introduced, our nature can reject or oppose them out of a protective instinct. Trust is the foundation for exploring something new and a bridge to building dynamic communities that advance in ways that benefit all students.

It has been said that trust is an act of “choosing to make something important to you, vulnerable to the actions of someone else”—Charles Feltman.

Take a moment to watch the video from Brené Brown, “The Anatomy of Trust”. What role does trust play in building a brave culture? What does trust look/sound/feel like in your work context?

Making healthy team culture a platform for success

Even in the most trusting of cultures, we sometimes have to have difficult discussions. Understanding how we individually tend to act, react, and respond in these situations can help us be more courageous and build braver spaces.

Take a moment to work through this daring leadership assessment created by Brené Brown for the Dare to Lead Hub, a companion to the #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal Best Seller List book, Dare to Lead.

Once you have reflected on the feedback provided by the daring leadership assessment, your team may like to put the principles to work in the context of your schoolwide exploration. Brené Brown’s work can support your community to find common ground, in shared values. Developing trust is the cornerstone for shared ownership, which drives the success of teams that are grappling with significant challenges.

After all, the ultimate goal is to remove barriers for all students to access and benefit from high-quality education. This is a challenge that has been undertaken unsuccessfully through many different initiatives, over time. These failed attempts are lived experiences that generate skepticism about new initiatives. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge how important it is for the community to approach such a goal, together.


Brené Brown provides an activity that pushes each of us to consider what our two core values are. In the Dare to Lead Hub, there is a list of values and guidance for identifying what matters most to each of us, individually. You may choose to find a creative way to share these values and let them shape the core values for your team.

Or, you may like to dive deeper by using Brené Brown’s resource, “Living into our values”, to explore how these core values inform our behaviors. Doing this can be a powerful reflective experience that positions individuals to be a little more open-minded to the values and perspectives of others.

Increased open-mindedness is important for Professional Learning Teams who are pursuing a collaborative learning journey. Open-mindedness creates room for trust and a healthier team culture.

What are the core values of an IB education?

Now, with a greater sense of what the school community values and how these values are lived and expressed in the way we provide education for students, let’s explore what the IB values. The IB’s mission statement, as well as the IB learner profile, are at the heart of everything they created for students and teachers.

As individuals or in groups, explore these activities to identify value propositions stated in the IB Mission Statement as the rationale for why the IB exists as a non-profit organization, and what type of benefits are offered to students, who develop in the ways expressed by the IB Learner Profile. What are the IB core values that strike you as most important, impactful, and aligned with your own core values?

Sharing these insights and connections as a group can build a firm foundation for the next steps the school community will take, in the IB Schoolwide Adoption strategic planning.

Exploring beliefs and claims about IB education

Now it is time for the hard part. If your Professional Learning Team agrees to approach various beliefs and claims about the IB programmes in the school with respect and understanding grounded in trust and shared values, one conversation starter might be perceptions about the IB programme itself.

Download Common beliefs and claims about the DP (PDF)

Using this list, or creating one organically as a team, you can lay out the beliefs that define the narratives owned by different groups in the school community. With a willingness to trust others with these stories, the whole team can begin to understand where these beliefs originate.

For example, a belief that only the best students in the school are suited to an IB education could be informed by policies that have been in place to attract top-performing students, or by observation of the specific type of student that has chosen the IB, over the years. While these experiences are real and valid for forming a particular impression about who the IB is for, logically there is still room to understand how the IB can benefit a broader range of students.

Having had this open dialogue, what might be the most relevant focus areas you or your team to work on, as you explore the possibilities the IB Schoolwide Adoption initiative can open up, for more students in your school?

Are we ready to be brave?

Brene Brown

Are you still struggling to have these challenging conversations?

In Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead Hub, there is a guide to The Story Rumble Process. It is an excellent tool to help a team work through some of the differing perceptions or beliefs.

The process is designed to help identify, clarify, and articulate concerns, uncover why people feel and think the way they do about an issue or idea, and draw into focus what we want to consider and accomplish as a community.

Brené Brown. Photograph by Randal Ford

Reading and insights

Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead. Vermilion.

Rose, J., Wetzler, J., Woods, J.H. (2022). Out of the Box: How Innovative Learning Models Can Transform K-12 Education. New Classrooms & Transcend.

IB professional development

Leading the learning (Free nano PD)

Principles of equitable and inclusive education (Leadership series)

Leading and managing teams (Leadership series)

Leading mission, vision and strategy (Leadership series)

IB Programme Standards and Practices

Purpose 1.2: The school develops a mission, philosophy and/or strategy that includes a holistic approach to education that goes beyond academic development and encourages awareness beyond the individual and the immediate community. (0101-01-0200)

Student support 3.2: The school demonstrates in its systems, processes and policies attention to the social, emotional, and physical well-being of its students and teachers. (0202-03-0200)

Student support 3.4: The school promotes open communication based on understanding and respect. (0202-03-0400)

Teacher support 3.1: The school allocates dedicated and scheduled and/or timetabled time for teachers’ collaborative planning and reflection. (0203-03-0100)

Approaches to teaching 4.1: Teachers collaborate to ensure a holistic and coherent learning experience for students in accordance with programme documentation. (0403-04-0100)

IB Excellence and Equity Framework

Dimension 1: Philosophy and culture to support demanding academics and high expectations for all students

“Teachers and counsellors clearly and consistently communicate the benefits of challenging academics and high expectations for all students, including examples of how all students benefit from participation in the DP/ CP.”

Visit the IB Excellence and Equity Initiative page