Theory of Knowledge: Choosing an Object – 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.

17th June 2020

Choosing Objects for the TOK Exhibition

Thank you for tuning into our webinar series about the new TOK syllabus! This is part two of a follow-up Q&A post where David Spooner, the host of our webinars, has answered all of your questions. If you missed the first half, you can find it here. We also strongly recommend viewing David’s brilliant webinars on the topic of TOK here and here.

After receiving many questions about ‘objects’ as part of the new TOK exhibition, we decided to create a blog post specifically with all of the queries about how to choose an object. As it is a requirement of the new syllabus, there was a lot of ambiguity surrounding examples of what would, or wouldn’t be considered an acceptable object for students to pick. We have created a table to answer each of these queries, and you can click on each one to link to the explanation for each one further down the page.

 

Is … an object?

 

Is a religious statue an object?

Statue of a religious figure


maybe
Is a photograph an object?

Polaroid photos


Is a selfie, with the object, an object?

A girl taking a photo of herself on her smartphone


maybe
Is a generic internet photo an object?

A photo of a green landscape with the sun


Is a tweet an object?

The twitter logo blue bird with a speech bubble


A green tick
Is a poem an object?

A scroll of text with a feather pen


A green tick
Is a speech an object?

A man at a podium with a speech bubble


A green tick
Is a scale model an object?

A cube with arrows pointing from each corner


A yellow question mark
Is a piece of architecture an object?

A drawing of a house on a piece of paper


A green tick
Is a piece of music an object?

Music notes in different colours


A yellow question mark
Is a company logo an object?

Kognity's Logo


a red cross
Is the periodic table an object?

Chemical Elements


A green tick
Is lab apparatus an object?

A glass beaker of liquid


A green tick
Is a lab chemical an object?

3 test tubes with different colours


A green tick
Is an image of a dynamic performance e.g. a dance performance, an object?

A dancer on a podium



A green tick
Is an image of a singer an object?

A man sings into a microphone with music notes


A green tick
Is a video /film an object?

A camera reel with a play button in the centre


A green tick
Is a globe an object?

Image of the earth


A green tick
Is a tattoo an object?

Someone's arm with a sun tattoo


Maybe
Is a vaccination an object?

A hand with a medical glove holds a syringe


Maybe
Is a religious statue an object?

 

An object = “a product of knowledge” that is accessible for all but is not generic/symbolic. Does this mean that a Buddha could be an object, if we are concerned with which Buddha (historical context; produced for a purpose/place), but it can’t be a standard Buddha image which we don’t know about?

 

Is a photograph an object?

 

Can all three objects be pictorial artefacts? 

Is it correct that a photograph can be *of* an object, or the photograph can *be* the object?

 

Is a selfie, with the object, an object?

 

Can students be present in a photograph with the object itself?

 

Is a generic internet photo an object?

If “why these three rather than others” is key to top marks, won’t students be prevented from gaining top marks by not being able to access a physical object? After all, you’ve explained that a generic photo from the Internet is not accepted.

Is a tweet an object?
Is a poem an object?
Is a speech an object?

To me, a poem is an object; if a tweet is an object, then is this also true of a poem? Additionally, if an audio recording is not an object, what about a video of the key moments of a famous speech? 

What makes a tweet an object? 

Could you elaborate on taking a tweet by a political leader as an object?

 

Is a scale model an object?

Would a scale model of an object, for example Angkor Wat, work as an object?

 

Is a piece of architecture an object?

Is architecture taken as an object?

 

Is a piece of music an object?

Is a piece of music an object? If yes, would the context matter or its projection/interpretation? 

Can one of the artefacts for the Exhibition be an audio piece? 

I have not understood the rationale for why an audio piece cannot be an object for the Exhibition.

 

Is a company logo an object?

Am I right in understanding that the objects must be real and not symbolic (so, for example, something like a logo to represent capitalism would not be acceptable)?

 

Is the periodic table an object? / Is lab apparatus an object? / Is a lab chemical an object?

 

As a chemistry facilitator, may I use the periodic table or any apparatus or equipment – e.g. digital/analytical , chemicals from the lab – as objects?

 

Is an image of a dynamic process an object? / Is an image of a singer an object?

Could an image of a dynamic process (such as a captured phase of a dance performance, or an opera singer) be valid as an object?

 

Is a video /film an object?

Would a scene from a film be an object?

 

Can an object be a video/film?

 

Are there any limitations on the type of item that can be used? For example, if we reference a film, do we present a clip vs a DVD vs just the title/reference?

 

Is a globe an object?

Can a model of Earth be used as an object?

 

Is a tattoo an object? / Is a vaccination an object?

What would NOT be considered appropriate as an object? Could acceptable objects include a tattoo or a vaccination?

 

It seems like an object is an arbitrary thing. Will it not create confusion for students to determine what is an object?

 

Is the intention that these three objects together represent the methodology of the field? Do the three have to “combine”, or are they independent of one another? In my case, with changed and multiple methods, I can only cover a moment in time, or a particular approach, I feel.

 

Can/should objects follow a theme (the old KQ rearing its head)? 

Do students choose a specialist field based on a subject they have in their DP programme?  

If we keep the objects from the same event within a theme, for example history, would it be considered too narrow?

 


 

Do you recommend that the students choose the objects and then link them to the prompts or vice versa? 

In what order should students choose – theme–>prompt–> objects or object–> prompt –> theme? 

Do students choose the prompt first and then look for objects or the other way around?

 

Should the three objects unpack the prompt? If so, what is an effective strategy? 

Is it important that the three objects represent three distinctly different ways of responding to the prompt?

 

 

Is there any suggestion that the three objects chosen should be of distinctly different “sorts”? Is there any opportunity to introduce dynamism into what might naturally be static elements?


 

Can the artifact be something the student has created individually? Or perhaps created as part of a group activity?

 

Should the artifact have personal significance or can it represent a community or a group?

 

If a student uses a painting created in Visual Arts class as an object for the TOK Exhibition, is that considered “double-dipping” or academic dishonesty, as the same object is used for two different assessments? 

So, using an object created for Visual Arts is not considered as “double-dipping”? 

If using a Visual Arts object, isn’t there a risk of overlap in what students say in its exploration/explanation during the two exhibitions?

 

How should students connect three objects, a KQ and one of the IA titles?

 

All three objects should come out of one IA prompt. Can students make connections with more than one prompt?

 

What if a few students choose the same object or objects? Will that be allowed?

 

¿Qué tipo de preguntas podrían estimular la reflexión y profundización en el conocimiento a través de un objeto físico ?

2 Comments

  1. The tour was enlightening as many of my questions were answered. However I am still
    puzzled about the linking of the essay to a selected theme. Should the objects also be of
    the selected theme? For example if technology has been opted, is it necessary to select
    objects from the tech field?

  2. Hi! The Guide (p.40) states that students must select one IA prompt as the stimulus for discussing their three chosen objects: “Students must select one of the … IA prompts on which to base their exhibition, and all three objects must be linked to the same prompt.”
    You can check out our other blog post with more general questions about the Exhibition here: https://kognity.com/blog/tok-questions-1/

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