Theory of knowledge (IB course)
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Theory of knowledge (TOK) is a required core subject in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. It receives a letter grade like the Extended Essay, and combines with the latter to contribute numerically (maximum 3 marks) to the awarding of the full IB Diploma.
Theory of Knowledge is a course created by the IB organization and must not be conceived as pure epistemology. This course involves a process of exploring and sharing students' views on "knowledge questions" (an umbrella term for "everything that can be approached from a TOK point of view"), so "there is no end to the valid questions that may arise", "there are many different ways to approach TOK," "the sheer scope of the TOK course is daunting" and "teachers and students need the confidence to go too far outside their traditional comfort zones." Teachers are entitled to select a teaching methodology and course material that will convey the theoretical foundation of essential concepts and may provide an environment in which these concepts can be discussed and debated. The focus of the discussion should not be the differentiation between "right" and "wrong" ideas but on the quality of justification and a balanced approach to the knowledge claim in question.
The TOK course uses a combination, in no particular order ("many entry points and sequences are possible"):
- Ways of knowing: (sense perception, reason, emotion, faith, imagination, intuition, memory, and language). How do we gain knowledge of the world, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each way in which we learn of the world and our place in it. Until the fall of 2014, there were only four ways of knowing (sense perception, reason, emotion, and language, but the IB curriculum then changed to include four other ways of knowing: intuition, imagination, faith, and memory).
- Areas of knowledge (mathematics, natural sciences, human sciences, history, religious knowledge systems, indigenous knowledge systems, the arts and ethics): their distinct natures and methods of gaining knowledge, the types of claim each makes and the issues to consider (e.g., "How do you know that the scientific method is a valid method of gaining knowledge?", "What is the reason for having historical knowledge, and how is it applied in life?"). The IB originally had six areas of knowledge: mathematics, natural sciences, human sciences, history, the arts and ethics. In the fall of 2014, the IB curriculum changed to include two more areas of knowledge: religious knowledge systems and indigenous knowledge systems.
- Factors that transcend individual ways of knowing and areas of knowledge:
- Nature of knowing: what are the differences between information, data, belief, faith, opinion, knowledge and wisdom?
- Knowledge communities: what is taken for granted in a community? How can we decide which beliefs we ought to check further?
- Knowers' perspective and applications of knowledge: how do age, education, culture and experience influence selection of sources and formation of knowledge claims? If you know something, or how to do something, do you have a responsibility to use your knowledge? By using different types of AOK ( Areas of knowledge ) and WOK ( Ways of knowing ) you can then start to write counterclaims and claims in different types of texts.
- Justifications of knowledge claims: why should claims be assessed critically? Are logic, sensory perception, revelation, faith, memory, consensus, intuition, and self-awareness equally reliable justifications? Use of coherence, correspondence, pragmatism, and consensus as criteria of truth.
The TOK course is expected to involve 100 teaching hours over the two years of the Diploma Programme. Having followed the course, students should be competent to analyse knowledge claims and respond to knowledge issues in the context of different areas of knowledge and ways of knowing, expressing ideas accurately and honestly, using examples from their own experiences as learners and in outside life.
- Personal knowledge is the systematic assimilation of shared knowledge acquired in different areas of knowledge through a process that vary within disciplines.
- Shared knowledge is the accumulation of bodies of knowledge in different areas of knowledge, the media and society.
- The Knowledge Framework is a scheme that contains five elements: scope and application, language, methodology, historical development and links to personal knowledge.
Theory of knowledge is assessed in two parts: an externally examined 1,200–1,600 word essay and an internally assessed presentation. Each part is scored using assessment criteria (four criteria for the essay and four for the presentation) that describe levels of achievement (e.g., "The inquiry explores knowledge issues. Most points are justified; most arguments are coherent. Some counterclaims are considered." describes level 5–6 in one of the essay criteria). The total score is converted into a grade from A to E. A similar system is used for the extended essay and students can gain up to 3 points for the diploma based on the grades achieved for TOK and EE. No diploma is awarded if a candidate fails to submit either the TOK essay or TOK presentation, or receives grade E for either the extended essay or theory of knowledge.
|Theory of Knowledge|
|Source: The diploma points matrix. May 2015 onwards|
For each exam session the IB prescribes 6 essay titles from which students must choose, e.g., "All knowledge claims should be open to rational criticism. On what grounds and to what extent would you agree with this assertion?" Each title raises generic cross-disciplinary questions about knowledge, and the student is expected to consider the issues raised in the title and reach conclusions about them. The essay should put forward claims and counterclaims, linking knowledge issues to areas of knowledge and ways of knowing, and show evidence of original thinking by the student. Essays over the maximum word count of 1,600 are penalised with a one mark reduction, and any content beyond the 1600th word of the essay is not read by the examiner.
TOK presentation (Last exam 2021)
During the Theory of Knowledge course, students must plan and deliver at least one (in individual or small group, maximum three students) presentation to the class. The topic is based on a real-life situation of interest to the student, e.g. "Reliability of media reporting of science", "What makes something a work of art?" and the presentation is expected to show why the topic is significant, linking it to a relevant main knowledge question (KQ), and discussing those issues and examining the implications of approaching the question from different perspectives, given by WOKs (ways of knowing), taken through one or two of the AOKs (Areas of knowledge). Teachers have wide latitude to help with topic selection and identifying suitable approaches. About ten minutes should be allowed for each presenter, and almost any form is permitted (e.g. debates, games, skits, interviews etc.) except reading an essay aloud. If a candidate reads an essay, they are very likely to fail.
TOK exhibition (First exam 2022)
The TOK exhibition is a new assessment component implemented for all the candidates graduating in 2022. It replaces the TOK presentation and bears the same assessment weight (33%).
According to the new IB Guide, the TOK exhibition explores how TOK manifests in the world around us by creating an exhibition of three objects (or images of objects) that connect to only one of the themes (either core or optional) and on only one of the 35 prompts provided within the new Guide. Each object must be accompanied by a written commentary.
These 35 prompts are actually knowledge questions such as: What counts as knowledge? Who owns knowledge? Are some things unknowable? etc.
- Theory of knowledge guide (first examinations 2008). International Baccalaureate Organization. March 2006. pp. 3–4.
- Theory of knowledge guide (first examinations 2008). International Baccalaureate Organization. March 2006. pp. 6–35.
- Theory of knowledge guide (first examinations 2008). International Baccalaureate Organization. March 2006. p. 3.
- Theory of knowledge guide (first examinations 2008). International Baccalaureate Organization. March 2006. p. 5.
- Theory of Knowledge Guide. Cardiff, Wales: International Baccalaureate Organization. 2013. pp. 17–33.
- Theory of knowledge guide (first examinations 2015). International Baccalaureate Organization. April 2013. p. 28.
- Theory of knowledge guide (first examinations 2008). International Baccalaureate Organization. March 2006. p. 41.
- February 2016
- "Core: Diploma requirements – 2 Theory of knowledge". 2009 Handbook of procedures for the Diploma Program. ibo.org.
- Theory of knowledge guide (first examinations 2008). International Baccalaureate Organization. March 2006. p. 44.
- ""Help" with IB assessment tasks". ibo.org. Archived from the original on April 20, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-11.
- "Assessment Details". Theory of Knowledge guide. International Baccalaureate Organization. March 2013.
- Theory of knowledge guide (first examinations 2008). International Baccalaureate Organization. March 2006. pp. 46–50, 57–60.
- "Theory of knowledge presentation: Tips and Pitfalls". presentationexamples.org. 2016.
- Theory of knowledge guide (first assessment 2022), International Baccalaureate Organization, Cardiff, 2020.