Theory of Knowledge: The New Exhibition – Q&A

IBDP TOK book cover

Written by David Spooner

David has been teaching TOK since 1999, in a variety of countries including Ghana, the UK, Spain, Finland, Greece, Lebanon, Jordan and Italy. He has been an IB workshop leader since 2004, and has a range of examining experience. In addition to this, he is an IB Verification Visitor and Consultant for schools wishing to adopt the IB Diploma.

5th June 2020

Thank you to the hundreds of teachers who attended our webinars about the new TOK syllabus! We hope you learned a lot from David Spooner and that it helped you feel more prepared. As we mentioned during the webinar, he answered all your questions from the Q&A session, which you can find below, organised by theme.

Please note that due to the very high volume of questions regarding ‘Objects’, we have decided to list those queries in a separate blog post. Check back here next week for the full post. 

If you haven’t already seen the webinars, we really recommend going back and watching the recordings first (you can do so here and here).

General New Syllabus Questions


How can WOKs be explicitly disregarded in the new curriculum? I feel that how knowledge is created does include WOKs. 


How will subject scope be included in TOK now?


What if the student wants to explore a different theme from the two themes chosen by the teacher? Do they explore it on their own? What support should teachers give to those students?


The optional themes do not reference the Arts as an area of knowledge. However, the idea of an Exhibition is closely related to the curatorial practice in Visual Arts. How would you situate the knowledge of the Arts in the new course?


How do you feel this approach (as embodied and described) by the assessment criteria and description of the aims of the project (Exhibition) will support and prepare students for the process of writing the essay? This is the toughest thing for most students.


Is TOK shifting from the constructivist approach to a more pragmatist approach to knowledge?

Writing Component


Is it a maximum of 950 words for the entire IA or 950 for each artifact?


To clarify the IA prompt, do students select one IA prompt for all three objects, or do they select more than one IA prompt?



So if a level 9–10 needs a strong justification of each, would that mean that using some of the 950 words for a summary would be wasted?


Is the 950-word commentary that serves as a justification per object in the form of an argument? The regular claim and counterclaim approach? 

Justification of an interpretation may not always be valid but yet it should be acceptable. Right? 

What does it look like when a point is “supported by appropriate evidence”? 

The assessment criterion states: “well-supported evidence”. What is the nature of this evidence? Does it have to be real-life based examples/academic reference?


Academic Honesty

How will academic honesty be monitored? As I understand it, the KQ will be given and will not change for the duration of the syllabus. I am concerned that “help sites” might offer “objects” that match these KQ. 

If we do virtual Exhibitions, how do we ensure academic integrity? 

How can we stop students from plagiarising or purchasing an exhibition from a format sold or suggested on Reddit. Any suggestions for staying ahead of the cheaters?


General Exhibition Questions

Would a group of students be allowed (by the IB) to set up and run the Exhibition as CAS?


Would it be recommended to do mock Exhibitions and keep the students in groups for those?


Should the TOK teacher be there during the Exhibition?


Is there any form they have to fill in to describe the process of preparing the Exhibition?


How do you feel about the multipurpose Exhibition with the PYP, MYP and DP all in one? Do you think it will really work, or is this an idea created in the IB clouds?


Are the ‘pilots’ mentioned actually student-generated, or developed as exemplars by the course revision team?


Do you have a sample of an exhibit, like three objects connected to a prompt?


Is the Exhibition an internal assessment and what percentage of the final mark does it represent?


Do we mark the written 950-word commentary or how they orally describe it to us?

Can it be in digital format?


Since the Exhibition is to be conducted in year 1, what is the recommendation for a mock Exhibition?


Any thoughts on timing – i.e. when should we hold the Exhibition? Does it have to be in the second year or can we hold it at the end of the first year? 

Regarding the timeline of the course, when do you recommend the TOK Exhibition takes place? Is the Exhibition something that can take place during the course or is it best to wait until the end?

 When in the first year should the students do their presentations?


Some schools get the presentation done by the end of DP year 1. With this new assessment, is there a recommended time, between year 1 and year 2, that would be best for candidates to work on this internal assessment? What would you suggest?


Is the theme chosen by the students guided by teachers, or should teachers decide for them? Also, is it an individual theme for each student, or will it be the same theme for all students in one year level?

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  1. Theory of Knowledge: Choosing an Object Q&A - Kognity - […] of our webinars, has answered all of your questions. If you missed the first half, you can find it…

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