Developing knowledge questions in Theory of Knowledge.
TOK assignment at the ISUtrecht
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Developing knowledge questions in Theory of Knowledge.

At the start of their Theory of Knowledge course DP1 (grade 11) students learn how to develop Knowledge Questions from Real-Life Situations.

By Olivia Ayes, Theory of Knowledge coordinator

At the start of the TOK course, the DP1 students, taught by myself and Ms. Angela Liu, are getting the foundations. They learn about types of knowledge, Ways of Knowing and Areas of Knowledge. They also learn how to develop Knowledge Questions (KQ) from Real-Life Situations (RLS). The students have just finished their first unit entitled, “Perceiving and Reasoning in the Natural Sciences,” which ended with an abbreviated TOK presentation based on a RLS in the Natural Sciences:

RLS: NASA’s curiosity rover finds unexplained oxygen on mars

  • KQ: How does evidence affect belief?

RLS: Development in the use and supply of morphine

  • KQ: How can changes in scientific knowledge affect our perspective due to faith?

RLS: Greenhouse gas concentrations

  • KQ: How do we know when scientific conclusions are justified? 

The DP1s have now begun their next unit: “Humans in the Past and Present”​ (Human Sciences & History – Memory, Ethics, & Emotion). One planned activity will be an ethical debate about George Washington’s teeth: not made from wood but from his former slaves’ teeth. It will be centered around at least one knowledge question, perhaps from a previous TOK exam, where students wrote an essay focussing on this question: “Should key events in the historical development of areas of knowledge always be judged by the standards of their time?”

Growth mindset

As teachers, it is our perpetual hope that students engage with concepts and gain appreciation for what we teach them. While there will always be those who may believe otherwise, it is fulfilling when students seem to showcase a growth mindset and apply their understanding:

What do our students make of TOK?

  • “It is a class that teaches us how to think, how to ask questions, and question the world around us.” –Sina
  • “TOK is an obligatory IB course where we learn to observe our own thinking patterns and the reasons behind them.” –Elias
  • “Usually, when I explain TOK I say it is a form of philosophy. We learn to justify what we think is true. We are taught to question knowledge that we acquire in our classes but also outside and to not immediately think of everything to be the truth.” –Fabienne

What has been the most beneficial?

  • “Practising and preparing for the presentation because it has given me a visualisation of what I need to do. We also had an interesting topic which motivated me to benefit from it.” –Sanne
  • “The class relates a lot back to real life situations, making it more enjoyable. It also makes us think about various things.” –Laura
  • “Seeing how other people’s perspectives can change one’s own.” –Liv