26/03/2020  •  49 min read

Theory of Knowledge: Making sense of the new syllabus – Q&A

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

If you missed the webinar, you can watch the recording here.

Planning your teaching 

Will the amount of teaching time spent on the optional and core themes be the same?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]The Guide recommends a minimum of 32 hours for both the Core theme and the two Optional Themes. Clearly, then, how we divide this time is by and large up to us[/bg_collapse]

 

What are the current resources available (textbooks, Kognity, etc.) to help plan the schemes of work in advance?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]P.49 of the new Guide offers a cursory outline of two or three ways in which we might plan for the new course. What is helpful is that the knowledge frameworks now feature specific knowledge questions. Imagine we were to use these for planning purposes, and we followed the Guide in terms of using these knowledge frameworks. Well, all of the new obligatory areas of knowledge already exist, and so a textbook like that produced by Kognity (which I was proud to contribute to) will still be hugely useful. At the same time, remember what I said (and wrote on the slides) about ‘integrating other subjects into ToK’? Our teaching colleagues already have, and teach, the materials that we can use as stimuli in our ToK classes, and this will have the extra advantage of ‘modelling’ ToK analysis of what and how they acquire knowledge in their other DP subjects. I still keep seeing references to the ‘Sapir-Whorf’ hypothesis in essays…but I have never found a Language B (or even Language A…) teacher who ever uses it…
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I’ve noticed the phrase “case study” repeatedly used re: new TOK course. To what extent is IB viewing this as a single class lesson (e.g. a 15-minute case study of the supply/demand curve) versus a more extended case study (e.g. a week-long case study of how Covid-19 public knowledge developed in March 2020, incorporating math, science, history as subjects)?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]I am using the phrase “example/case study/stimulus,” not the IB, and one of the reasons is precisely that stated in your question. Quite often in class, in response to a given knowledge question, we will assign a stimulus, usually a text, sometimes an audio-visual stimulus. (We might now, given the exigencies of the Exhibition, wish to include (physical) objects as lesson-starting stimuli…). However, for a week-long unit of study, a longer – ‘case study’ type – stimulus might be more appropriate. Many students, especially in Group 3 subjects, are familiar with case studies, so that might also provide further reinforcement of the idea that they, too, should ‘mine’ their other Diploma subjects for examples when it comes to constructing the essay and, in terms of a case study stimulus, taken from one subject (say, a case study about a particular psychological approach that students of Psychology may have studied), demonstrating how it might also be approached from a range of areas of knowledge, as you suggest with your Covid-19 timeline, will again serve to remind students that there are a variety of legitimate perspectives from which we might analyse a particular event. [/bg_collapse]

 

This would be my first time teaching Theory of Knowledge. Would I need any prior knowledge or qualifications in e.g. Language, Technology or Religions to be able to teach these themes effectively? Is it enough to have an open mind and a copy of the Guide?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of ToK. The short answer to your first question is ‘no,’ whilst the short answer to your second question is ‘yes.’ Here are the longer answers! You may remember that I said something in the webinar about us not being interested in the content but the methodology/mechanisms – what I mean by this is that, in Chemistry, or Economics, or English Literature, it is the content above all which is important, whilst in ToK the content is of little interest to us, but what is of interest are the procedures, methods of validation, etc that those communities use to come up with their content-based conclusions. We are interested in the question how do we know X?’ not what do we know?’ So, if we take an example guiding question from the Guide relevant to one of your bête noire, religion, “Can there be religious knowledge that is independent of the culture that produces it?,” we see that the key phrase here for us is “can there be…?” for which arguably little or no specialised knowledge is needed. What many of us have found over time is that whenever subject-specific knowledge is needed in class to move the discussion forward, there is always a student who studies that particular subject who is happy to ‘show off’ what is needed. My own weak spot in this new list of options would be technology, but none of the guiding questions frightens me, safe in the knowledge that my computer science or design technology students will be able to step up to the plate and explain briefly and precisely what an algorithm is.[/bg_collapse]

 

I wanted to clarify that the TOK Exhibition is recommended to have 8 hours preparation…is that considered group / full class preparation? Surely it isn’t individual…right? Thinking about our large cohort.

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]

The Guide has the following to say on this issue:
“It is recommended that a total of approximately 8 hours of teaching time should be allocated to the exhibition task. This should include:

  • time for the teacher to explain the requirements of the task and ensure that students are familiar with the assessment instrument
  • in-class time for students to ask questions and seek clarifications
  • time for the teacher to review and monitor students’ progress, and to check authenticity.”

Thus, and indirect answer to your question, the 8 hours refers to group/full class preparation. It is partly for these reasons that I suggested (and am going to do myself) incorporating in the ToK Journal that many of us get students to write an occasional ‘comment on a physical object and link it to anything so far studied in ToK’ section in order to help them ‘outside’ of those 8 hours, but which does not go against either the spirit or the laws of the Guide.[/bg_collapse]


Has the IB considered supplementing “DP-subject teacher conversations” with some published resources in order to connect our TOK course to the IBDP diploma classes? While it is clearly IDEAL, So many teachers don’t have time to do this… especially considering the fact that some subject teachers might require lengthy TOK explanations of what knowledge questions even are?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] I am not sure it has, and this is because of the insistence that ToK should be ‘integrated’ into other DP subjects, hence all the little ‘ToK links’ in various subject Guides and authorised textbooks. However, we know how effective that has been, in general. So, try this instead: publish for teachers a list of knowledge questions (thus avoiding the tedious need to try to ‘teach’ knowledge questions) and ask for exemplar materials that they use in their teaching, or that exist in their textbooks, or that are used for IA’s etcetera, corresponding to each of the knowledge questions. In my school, we have a board in the Library. In one column is a week-by-week breakdown of what the ‘knowledge question of the week’ is, and the other columns are for the other DP subjects being taught, and teachers provide a brief (post-it note sized) description of what they are doing in their own classes week by week, with an example of one stimulus (article, text extract, whatever) that they are using to teach that thing. Either of these can be ‘done’ quickly, and without having to get other teachers up to speed on the basics of ToK (we all know that they are supposed to be au fait with ToK, we also know that that is not necessarily the case….). [/bg_collapse]

 

 

Core and Optional Themes 

Can we see the shadows of personal and shared knowledge in the core theme? Knower (personal), Knowledge community (shared)

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] Absolutely. Just as we can see the shadows of the ways of knowing in there also. Arguably, how an individual student processes new learning in subject X depends partly already upon how much credence or value they place on subject X, and that credence and value usually arises from how much faith they have in, or connection to, that subject or group of subjects, and so they will appeal to (say) past best practice in subject X to justify their judgement. So, implicitly then, they are referring to the collective, as well as explaining why they possess such ‘faith’ in (say) Mathematicians or the economics community.[/bg_collapse]

 

Is it deliberate that the optional theme says “religion” which is distinctly different than religious knowledge systems inferred?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]I hope I was clear in my response to this in the actual webinar. I sometimes feel that I say more than I need to whilst communicating less! So, yes, it is. As well as the obvious caveat about ensuring that discussions of Knowledge and Religion focus on the first of those two concepts, p.23 says that “religions are often complex systems of beliefs, practices, assumptions and values.” This clearly indicates a move away from only considering how religious knowledge is produced, disseminated and acquired (a loose ‘definition’ of what was understood by ‘knowledge system). At the same time, the Guide also says “An example of a particularly interesting area of discussion in relation to this theme concerns the concept of evidence” (p.42) which, clearly, is closer to the idea of the knowledge system. Thus, what we can see is that the previous understanding of how systems produce and disseminate knowledge – and what counts as knowledge in that system – is expanded so that students can also more easily discuss (say) the effects, implications etcetera of acquiring such knowledge.[/bg_collapse]

 

Will the optional themes be more specialized in a disciplinary sense? Politics by a Global Politics teacher for instance?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]

An excellent question and – I hope – I responded clearly during the webinar itself. “More specialized in a disciplinary sense” appears to be a reference to disciplinary content and, if so, then ‘no.’ In ToK we are not interested in the content Chemistry, or Economics, or whatever, but on the epistemological questions raised by the mechanisms used by natural scientists, historians etcetera for producing and disseminating what is known/believed, rather than discussing what it is that they know or believe. So, in terms of the specific reference to politics, we as ToK teachers are not expected to be experts in Global Politics (just as there is no assumption that we are currently experts in any of the existing areas of knowledge), since – as ToK teachers we are interested in the underlying epistemology rather than the subject content.[/bg_collapse]

 

When you say “2 optional themes does that mean that we teach them throughout the whole year 1?” So, if I go with religion and politics I can completely forget about technology or language, for instance?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]The Guide recommends a minimum of 32 hours for both the Core theme and the two Optional Themes, and equally strongly recommends that the Exhibition take place at the end of Year 1. Clearly, then, how we divide this time is by and large up to us, but the teaching of the two optional themes will not take up the whole of the year. We are free to teach the others, of course, and we are free to refer to issues of language and technology even though our main focus will be on the optional themes of religion and politics, but this guidance does mean, yes, that we are free to forget about the other three.[/bg_collapse]

 

Could you provide some arguments for and against focusing on the different optional themes?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] Since you ask me for arguments, I shall provide some, but please bear in mind that they in no way carry the imprimatur of the IB. I shall also add some caveats, obviously. The first major caveat is that it is up to you, and your students. This, I think, is one of the strengths, since it allows for a greater degree of student and teacher agency/choice, in contrast to previous Guides so, depending upon what you, your students, and the circumstances of your school are, the choice is yours.

1. Knowledge and technology. The connections between these have been somewhat tangential, peripheral at times, and end up being a discussion of microscopes and computers, but often not getting much more profound than this. This could be a good theme in schools where Computer science, ITGS and Design technology are popular. Similarly, and perhaps especially next year, with the memory (hopefully) of corona-lockdown fresh in everyone’s mind, this could be a sadly wonderful opportunity to raise and discuss many of the suggested knowledge questions for this theme. At the same time, Historians have been very engaged in recent years with the impacts on their discipline of the internet and, tangentially, this si also a theme that will allow us to ‘do some more work’ under the radar, as it were, on the issues of academic honesty and so on, which some students still struggle with.

2. Knowledge and language. For teachers who already have a library of teaching and learning resources ‘left over’ for teaching the way of knowing of language, this seems an obvious choice,, especially given the fact that most knowledge is conceived of/and transmitted linguistically. At the same time, however, and as the Guide makes explicit, “It is crucial that discussions within this optional theme stay focused explicitly on knowledge rather than consisting of general discussions about language” (p.19). Ensuring that has been problematic over the years, since there are a lot of ‘off-the-shelf’ stimuli that ‘look good’ for ToK, but which only serve to allow many students to deviate from the focus on knowledge (for instance, the plethora of references to linguistic determinism/sapir-whorf which appear to be ‘ToK-rich’ but which few language teachers ever really use any longer, or stimuli about corporal language, or arcane discussions about whether mathematics is or is not a language).

3. Knowledge and politics. Provided, I think, that we are clear about the word ‘politics’ having a lower case ‘p’ (I am thinking of Aristotle’s idea that humans are political animals, in the broadest sense of the term) and not a capital ‘P,’ which is a tough sell, and depending on (let’s be honest) where in the world one is, this theme could have teeth. Ensuring that reflections and discussions do not simply revolve around the exchange of political opinions, or opinions about politics, is going to require a lot of us.

4. Knowledge and religion. As above, but more so. There are certain places in the world where we teach where ‘religion’ = ‘cathechism,’ thus even raising questions about it can be fraught with difficulty. Until recently, I taught in Ghana, and the immense majority of the students and colleagues were evangelical Christians. I have also taught in parts of the Middle East where it is better not to touch the subject with a barge pole if possible. However, provided the discussion can (i) be kept secular, and (ii) – again – the focus is kept on the methods for creating, assessing and disseminating knowledge, rather than proselytizing, which the example knowledge questions (and some of the existing materials for the current Guide do) then it can be done, and it can provide a wonderful opportunity for students to delve into a whole range of epistemological issues. The other subject I teach is Philosophy, and there is an optional theme in that course, the Philosophy of Religion which, whilst being agnostic myself, I enjoy teaching since it is – in my opinion – perfect ‘training’ for students of Philosophy, for ‘becoming-Philosophers’ since it covers all sorts of ‘critical thinking’ ground, and I look upon this theme in ToK in the same way.

5. Knowledge and indigenous societies. The mere use of the word “indigenous” was always going to be problematic, and still is. Looking at the guiding knowledge questions however, and reading the description of this theme, we could quite easily ‘rename’ it as ‘Knowledge and culture’ and use it to explore that relationship. Thus, rather than distinguish between ‘western’ (or whatever) knowledge and ‘indigenous’ knowledge, we are simply looking at the relationships between particular cultures and the creation and dissemination of knowledge. In that sense, one advantage is that it allows us to zoom in on wherever in the world we happen to be teaching. I am also heartened by the statement in the Guide, “it is important that students are encouraged to reflect critically on the category “indigenous societies” itself. For example, this could consist of discussion of the history and context of the emergence of the word “indigenous” and its contested meanings. It could also include discussion of the power relations that influence hierarchies of how knowledge is classified and validated” (p.24), thus allowing for a nice link to both the optional theme of Knowledge and politics, or knowledge and religion and, of course, the core theme. [/bg_collapse]

 

As a function of core theme – are students going to link it to their subject knowledge or should it be more general?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] In one sense, ToK is a ‘stand-alone’ course, as all courses in the DP are intended to be. At the same time, however, and as I have indicated in other answers here, and in the webinar itself (I think) the overarching aim and objective of ToK is to help students to reflect upon how knowledge is created, assessed, disseminated, etcetera in their other DP subjects. Thus, the core theme is in the first place created so that students can reflect upon themselves as knowers, as part of a community of larger knowers, whilst they explore other areas of knowledge via the knowledge frameworks (apologies for the jargon…). At the same time, given that the idea is that the stimuli for discussions in the rest of ToK ‘should’, ideally, be taken from the other DP subjects (rather than unconnected pre-digested ToK ‘staples’ that they never study elsewhere), this may well involve them linking it to their subject knowledge and, indeed, this should be encouraged, given the overarching aims and objectives mentioned above. [/bg_collapse]

 


Would it be crossing any lines to incorporate the topics of language in politics, religious language, or indigenous languages in the Language and Knowledge theme?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] Not at all – quite the opposite. Provided the focus is on knowledge, rather than language per se (language is a vehicle for transmitting knowledge, etcetera) then, rather than crossing lines, this would simply be a ‘guiding thread.’ [/bg_collapse]

Areas of Knowledge

 

Would it be crossing any lines to incorporate the topics of language in politics, religious language, or indigenous languages in the Language and Knowledge theme?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] This has been a ‘hot potato’ question for a long time in the IB, and the answer is fundamentally about the methodologies employed by historians being distinct to those employed by human scientists. This, itself, is arguable, contestable, and a good ToK discussion, but I think it is broadly true, and the reason why. In ‘The Fundamentals of History,’ historian Arthur Marwick defines history as the bodies of knowledge that consist of the production, communication and dissemination of information about the past, produced by historians. Therefore, what historians do is produce knowledge about the past, not reconstruct the past. There is an awareness of the distinction between history and the past. Again arguably, the past is, for other social scientists, relevant only in terms of its ability to provide ‘case studies’, as it were, which ‘the present’ has ‘improved’ on. Ask any Psychology student, or Economics student, for instance, ‘how’ the past in their discipline is ‘used’, and something along these lines is what you will hear. It is also the case that historians are not discipline-specific in the way that economists or anthropologists are. They are, in the true sense of the word, interdisciplinary since, in order to produce knowledge of the human past, and because the human past is not limited to a specific discipline, historians have to consider a wide range of types of primary sources. [/bg_collapse]

Ethics

Now how Ethics is incorporated? This was a crucial AOK.

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]Ethics forces us to think about the implications of enquiry in a variety of academic disciplines, many of which have a moral dimension, as students who make the link between the splitting of the atom and nuclear bombs never tire of reminding us! Psychology and natural science students (as well as CAS projects) have to work within a variety of ethical guidelines more directly. By extension, then, it is clear that we in ToK will encounter and discuss them, but now, rather than Ethics being a separate area of knowledge, which was always problematic as a stand-alone area of knowledge, it is considered an inseparable area of discussion within all areas of knowledge.[/bg_collapse]

 

Does Ethics come into all subjects as well?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]If by ‘subjects’ you mean ‘other DP subjects’ then it is hard to say ‘no,’ especially when thinking about the implications of enquiry in a variety of academic disciplines, many of which have a moral dimension, as students who make the link between the splitting of the atom and nuclear bombs never tire of reminding us! Psychology and natural science students (as well as CAS projects) have to work within a variety of ethical guidelines more directly. By extension, then, it is clear that we in ToK will encounter and discuss them, but now, rather than Ethics being a separate area of knowledge, which was always problematic as a stand-alone area of knowledge, it is considered an inseparable area of discussion within all areas of knowledge.[/bg_collapse]

 

Essay

Being that KQs of a higher/second order can be responded to via any of the AOKs, and given that the new essay titles are specific to one of the five AOKs, does this mean that essays must pursue a discussion that with examples only specific to the title’s designated AOK?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]It seems highly likely that the format to be followed by the Prescribed Titles will follow that with which we are already familiar, so we can expect questions ending in ‘Discuss with reference to any two areas of knowledge’, or ‘Discuss with reference to History and one other area of knowledge,’ so our advice to students is going to be similar to what it currently is. As I think I mentioned in the webinar, even if the PT states ‘two areas of knowledge,’, that still does not preclude a student from focusing exclusively on the chosen two whilst still making a brief, brief reference, for the purpose of comparison and contrast, to a third, before returning to focus on the main two.[/bg_collapse]

 

If there is no counterclaim how can the student come up with a clear conclusion? Is it only based on claim? 

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]Students will still, given that the essay has fundamentally not changed, address knowledge claims and counterclaims in their essays, because that is basically what a ‘compare and contrast’ essay asks them to do. What no longer features in the assessment instrument are references to that specific linguistic formulation, and it was this that I was referring to during the webinar/slideshow regarding less ‘formulaic,’ or ‘boilerplate’ essays.[/bg_collapse]

 

I have a two-part question: what are your thoughts on the new guide’s recommendation that ’10 hours’ be spent on the essay (teaching time I presume). Secondly, the expectation that teachers explicitly ‘not mark’ the essay draft seems out of line with a lot of our lived experience as teachers where we use these IB tasks as summative assessments. What are your thoughts about this?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ](i) Regarding the recommendation that we devote 10 hours to ‘teaching’ the essay, I think I am in broad agreement. This time can be spent, as I think I mentioned in the webinar, unpacking the essay titles, offering generic suggestions about how to approach them, teaching students how to structure the essays, how to find good examples, and so on and so forth. We can then use the interactions to dig deeper with each individual student. I think I am in broad agreement also because, as we know, much of the second year is spent in many, many schools only preparing students for the essay (and, in schools where the Presentation is also done in the second year, essentially only 1 year is spent actually teaching ToK). (ii) This second question is fascinating…In many cases, we wish to use the essay as a summative assessment (and this is partly because systems such as ManageBac encourage it, partly because ‘we’ ‘need’ to grade students on something at that point of the year, and it is difficult to think of what other assessment tasks to give them at that time, etcetera) rather than a formative one since it is such a substantial piece of work. However…if we give it a mark, then that mark becomes fixed in the minds of the students as the mark that they will probably get from the IB. However much we tell them that this is not the case, it is hard for many students to resist this conclusion. Also, we need to ‘generate’ predicted grades, and marking the essay is the only way to do this. However, I think it is best to keep this mark to ourselves, at least until it has been submitted as a predicted grade to the IB, and to treat the essay draft as a formative assessment.[/bg_collapse]

 

How can I help students to come up with good examples to reinforce their claims/counterclaims in TOK essay?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]This is a good question, and the response comes in two parts. Firstly, the assessment instrument (for Excellent 9-10) states “effectively supported by specific examples”, and the keyword here is ‘specific.’ The more generalised, the more hypothetical/invented, the ‘broader’ the example, the less specific it is and thus the less effective it is. So, (ii) we need to encourage students to take their (specific) examples from things they have come across in their other Diploma subjects. So, for example, instead of supporting a claim about the natural sciences by referring to some theoretical, abstract point about the problems of the methodology of data collection, or some vague historical reference to a dead scientist that nobody ever studies, take an example from your Chemistry textbooks, or an ESS internal assessment you did, or a lab you carried out in Biology.[/bg_collapse]

 

Does the essay have to refer to the themes especially the optional themes? And the core theme?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]Given that the Exhibition is recommended to take place in Year 1, and must be on one of the Optional Theme or the Core theme, this would imply that the Essay Prescribed Titles will refer to the Areas of Knowledge. Indeed, the ToK Essay assessment instrument makes explicit and specific reference to areas of knowledge but not to either optional themes nor the Core theme.[/bg_collapse]

 

Can you please give an example of how an essay title might look like (given as a Knowledge question)?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]If we take one of this year’s essay titles, we can easily imagine how it could be framed as a knowledge question and made applicable to the new Guide: “To what extent is it possible to state with any certainty that present knowledge is wholly dependent on past knowledge? Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.“[/bg_collapse]

 

Would the students be penalised if they continue using the “old” vocabulary (given that many of the TOK teachers are very entrenched in the old syllabus)?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]As I mentioned during my answer in the webinar itself, the idea of ‘negative’ marking (penalising) has never been a feature of IB assessment instruments, so the short answer is ‘no.’ The longer answer – which is also ‘no’ – is that, provided that the use of terminology, including the “old” vocabulary,” does not impede clarity and understanding, then there would be no reason to penalise an essay which included the concept of, for instance, “shared knowledge.”[/bg_collapse]

 

If WOKs are still going to be in use even if not in the actual “required vocabulary” will “Personal and Shared knowledge” still be used?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]As I mentioned during my answer in the webinar itself, “shared knowledge” is a conceptual denomination, so whether the student refers to it as “communal knowledge,” “discipline-specific knowledge,” “shared knowledge” or something similar, it will be clear to the reader/examiner that it is the concept that the student is referring to, and the same would go for the ‘language’ of the various ways of knowing. In any case, and again, provided that it is clear what the student is arguing, we should probably not worry too much about specific terminologies (but be glad that there is less of it!). With my own students, I have often counselled them to forget about ToK terminology altogether, and it has never negatively impacted their assessments. If you are talking about Chemistry, say ‘Chemistry’, since it is much more specific than “the area of knowledge of the natural sciences.”[/bg_collapse]


Will the essays still encourage comparison of 2 AOKs? Even if those AOKs are explicitly chosen in the title.

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] It seems highly likely that the format to be followed by the Prescribed Titles will follow that with which we are already familiar, so we can expect questions ending in ‘Discuss with reference to any two areas of knowledge’, or ‘Discuss with reference to History and one other area of knowledge,’ so our advice to students is going to be similar to what it currently is. [/bg_collapse]


If the exhibition has a danger of being relegated to a descriptive one, how does this help in building up analytical skills which are essential in the essay?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] As I think I mentioned in the webinar itself, the real critical thinking skill will be demonstrated by the way in which the students ‘extract’ (i) the ‘real-world’ significance of the artefact, and (ii) demonstrate how it encapsulates a knowledge issue latent in the IA prompt/knowledge question. Arguably this is analytical to a certain, limited, implicit degree but, aside from that, making these connections is still, nonetheless, a work of critical thinking applied to the ‘real world.’ In that sense, then, the reference in the assessment instrument to the need to ‘justify’ the inclusion of the chosen artefacts is going to provide a species of ‘differentiation by outcome.’ Arguably, a “strong justification” is going to be analytical because a justification cannot be merely descriptive, so this is where that analytical aspect can be encouraged.[/bg_collapse]

 

Exhibition: Artifacts/Objects 

For the exhibition: would you recommend that students choose their objects first or their prompt first?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] Which came first, the chicken or the egg? There are merits in both, but since you asked for my personal opinion, I shall give it to you. All educational experiences are, to a large extent, artificial. However, and in this case, selecting a prompt first and then desperately running around trying to find three objects to force to fit it is, arguably, more artificial than discovering the objects first and then considering what they each, individually, and together, illuminate about a particular prompt. However, to make it even more ‘genuine,’ rather than just introduce them to the Exhibition and ask them to run along and find three objects, why not – as I have suggested elsewhere – begin to use objects as stimuli for discussion in ToK lessons from the start, and/or have students occasionally – in ToK Journals for instance – write about objects that they come across with reference to their learning in ToK. In that way, (i) they will have already built up a ‘collection’ of objects and (ii) have seen how they can be thought about in the context of ToK via the discussions that arise in class.[/bg_collapse]

 

Are news articles considered as objects? Are texts considered as objects?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] A lovely, perplexing question! The Guide (p.42) states that “they must be specific objects that have a specific real-world context—objects that exist in a particular time and place (including virtual spaces).” One example given is a tweet, another is a physical text. This would indicate that CERTAIN electronic texts are considered valid, provided they are correctly contextualised. News articles ARE mentioned but, as I think I said in the actual webinar, a useful ‘rule of thumb’ until the IB have seen the first set of exhibitions and issued further guidance would be, I think, to try and move students away from these. At the same time, their explanation of the object (a news article in this case) and their contextualisation of it will demonstrate their critical thinking abilities, and so my suspicion is that – depending on the quality of the explanation, of course – those who do use, and those who do not use, newspaper articles may well be one of the ways in which students can be distinguished when it comes to assessing their exhibitions, but this is only a heuristic assumption that I am making based on experience.[/bg_collapse]

 

Physical Object?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]I think the IB has opened up a whole new can of worms here by not specifying that the object in question must be physical. The Guide states clearly that “The objects may be digital rather than physical objects” (p.42) and gives, as examples, a tweet from the President of the United States and a Buzzfeed news article. The Guide does add the caveat that “they must be specific objects that have a specific real-world context—objects that exist in a particular time and place (including virtual spaces),” but I think that is a get-out-of-jail-free card, and I think these examples pave the way for exclusively electronic ‘objects.’ So, I am personally going to insist upon physical objects (students may photograph them if they cannot bring them to class) that they have either encountered or studied, and I am going to model that by using only physical objects as stimuli in class. Incidentally, the stimulus for the idea of the Exhibition came from an ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’ which was a joint project of UK BBC Radio 4 and the British Museum. There is an accompanying book of the same name which I highly recommend.[/bg_collapse]

 

This “artefact” for the TOK Exhibition… how will the students gain experience working with “artefacts” during the course, based on the core and optional themes, and the AOKs? It seems very different from the work we are asking them to do on how we create, review, assimilate knowledge…

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] As I have suggested in answers to other, related, questions, why not begin to use objects as stimuli for discussion in ToK lessons from the start, and/or have students occasionally – in ToK Journals for instance – write about objects that they come across with reference to their learning in ToK. In that way, (i) they will have already built up a ‘collection’ of objects and (ii) have seen how they can be thought about in the context of ToK via the discussions that arise in class. In this respect, then, and provided it ‘works’, it might not end up being all that different. As I have mentioned above, the idea for the Exhibition came from ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’ which was a joint project of BBC Radio 4 and the British Museum. The accompanying book (and radio/podcast series) demonstrates wonderfully what, and how, we can learn, and how we may assess, the knowledge that interrogating such objects reveals.[/bg_collapse]

 

A visit to a gallery or museum?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]As I have mentioned above, the idea for the Exhibition came from ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’ which was a joint project of BBC Radio 4 and the British Museum. The accompanying book (and radio/podcast series) demonstrates wonderfully what, and how, we can learn, and how we may assess, the knowledge that interrogating such objects reveals. When I first heard about the Exhibition, I immediately thought the same as you, that this would be a wonderful opportunity to include gallery and/or museum visits as a legitimate and interesting part of the ToK course.[/bg_collapse]

 

I am worried about the fact that the Exhibition is descriptive rather than analytical as I think this makes it seem deceptively simplistic. How can this be avoided?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] As I think I mentioned in the webinar itself, the real critical thinking skill will be demonstrated by the way in which the students ‘extract’ (i) the ‘real-world’ significance of the artefact, and (ii) demonstrate how it encapsulates a knowledge issue latent in the IA prompt/knowledge question. Arguably this is analytical to a certain, limited, implicit degree but, aside from that, making these connections is still, nonetheless, a work of critical thinking applied to the ‘real world.’ In that sense, then, the reference in the assessment instrument to the need to ‘justify’ the inclusion of the chosen artefacts is going to provide a species of ‘differentiation by outcome.’ Arguably, a “strong justification” is going to be analytical because a justification cannot be merely descriptive, so this is where that analytical aspect can be encouraged. [/bg_collapse]

 


Students should focus on the prompt first in the exhibition – can all the prompts be easily linked to one theme as you recommend?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] P.39 of the Guide states that “Students must select one IA prompt as the basis for their exhibition. All three objects must be linked to the same prompt. The direct answer to your question is, ‘Yes.’ The reason I think this is that, as always, a knowledge question is intended to be open, general, and about knowledge (in the abstract), rather than about the specific content of knowledge claims in specific disciplines. If, at the same time, we focus first on the objects – by using them as stimuli in our classes, by directing students’ attention to them, then I think it is going to be doubly easy. In my school we recently ran a ‘trial’ of the Exhibition with the current DP1 students. They were asked to choose a prompt and then go out and find (and photograph), within the school grounds, three objects that they think ‘fitted’ the prompt, produce a corresponding text for each photograph, and then – at the end of the day (the activity lasted only an off-timetable day) – each gave a short presentation. It proved remarkably easy, even within those tight confines. [/bg_collapse]

 

Same matrix grid? Exemplar material for exhibition? Proof of exhibition? Uploading what for example?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] The ‘proof’ of the exhibition is twofold: firstly, the file/document provided by the students, with photographic reproductions of the objects, together with the textual explanations. Secondly, each school will provide a space/time for students to display/exhibit their work. With regards to what will be uploaded, the Guide states “Students should produce a single file containing their TOK exhibition…(which) is submitted to the TOK teacher to be marked. Samples of student work are then submitted to the IB for moderation.” (p.40). Official exemplar materials will, without doubt, be published on the TSM pages. Regarding the matrix, unless the IB has something up its sleeve, this stays the same.[/bg_collapse]

 

You said that the exhibition is descriptive and not so much analytical…so what is the student expected to do in an exhibition?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] Pp.39-40 of the Guide outline specifically what students must “do” for the exhibition. As to what they do “in” the exhibition, then there are lost of already-existing ‘models’ for this which are eminently workable. Students can either give individual presentations to those people who come along to the exhibition, or they accompany their exhibition work and speak to individuals who are ‘touring’ the exhibition (a la science fair formats). ‘Step 3’ of the process (p.40) list a variety of formats, including a virtual format. It is, then, up to teachers, schools, students themselves, how you/they wish to showcase this work to the wider community.[/bg_collapse]

How will the IA be moderated?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] For the moment….for the moment….the ‘what’ is more known than the ‘how.’ It is (a sample of) the files produced by the students that will be marked, uploaded and moderated. The ‘how’ is as yet unknown. However, in light of the discontent about the moderation of ToK presentations in recent years, it is to be hoped that the IB will be transparent about this.[/bg_collapse]

 


So, for exhibition we pick three objects and how they are connected by AOK or WOK or both or either?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] The Guide makes it clear that the exhibition connects the three objects to either one of the optional themes, or to the core theme. [/bg_collapse]

 

Has TOK been limited to just objectifying the world in order to understand it? I am lost to understand the purpose of reducing TOK to the minimalist way of thinking? (ref. TOK Exhibition)

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] No. Simply because objects exist in the world (I am typing this response to your question on an object whilst drinking coffee from another object, both of which are resting on a third object …) does not mean that objectification is taking place. As I have mentioned elsewhere, the idea for the Exhibition came from ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’ which was a joint project of BBC Radio 4 and the British Museum. The accompanying book (and radio/podcast series) demonstrates wonderfully what, and how, we can learn, and how we may assess, the knowledge that interrogating such objects reveals. Hermeneutics is about interpretation, not reductionist minimalism, to follow your own language. [/bg_collapse]


With the objects leading to the prompts, will the concept of claims and counterclaims still apply? Is there a particular template for the Exhibition, similar to what was available for the TKPPD?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] Step 2 of the “Summary of the TOK exhibition process” (Guide, p.40) offers a species of ‘template’, and no doubt there will be sample material made available via the TSM in due course. Because, also, the exhibition is less structurally complex than, the Presentation was, one hopes that the days of the TK/PPD are well behind us. However, the first of your questions is intriguing. The new assessment instrument states the following: “There is a strong justification of the particular contribution that each individual object makes to the exhibition.All, or nearly all, of the points are well-supported by appropriate evidence” (p.47). This of course describes the highest mark band. In order to offer a ‘strong justification’ and evidence (support) this justification, one must make certain knowledge claims. In order that this justification is ‘strong,’ and in order to support it, one must also at the same time demonstrate awareness of the ‘provisional’, interpretative nature of this justification, hence a ‘counter-claim’ might be needed. The answer to your first question, then, is a debatable ‘yes.’ [/bg_collapse]

Exhibition: Commentary/Written task

For the written task accompanying the Presentation of Knowledge artefacts- is there a particular structure for that written task? 

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]P.40 of the new Guide outlines that students must provide “a typed commentary on each object that identifies each object and its specific real-world context, justifies each object’s inclusion in the exhibition, and links to the IA prompt (maximum 950 words)”. In the pilot samples that I have seen, there have been 3 photographs, 1 per object, and each photograph has been accompanied by this explanatory text. There has, additionally, been a summative text wherein the students connect the three objects to each other, and to the IA prompt.[/bg_collapse]

 

Beyond the required components to be uploaded for moderation for the Exhibition, will there be documentation such as the PPD required?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]My understanding is that there will be such documentation. The Guide currently only states that “Samples of student work are then submitted to the IB for moderation” (p.40). However, it will in all likelihood not be as complex as the current PPD and will, again in all probability, be an elongated version of a document of authenticity.[/bg_collapse]

 

If there is no need to be analytical, which specific critical thinking skills are we assessing here?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]As I think I mentioned in the webinar itself, the real critical thinking skill will be demonstrated by the way in which the students ‘extract’ (i) the ‘real-world’ significance of the artefact, and (ii) demonstrate how it encapsulates a knowledge issue latent in the IA prompt/knowledge question. Arguably this is analytical to a certain, limited, implicit degree but, aside from that, making these connections is still, nonetheless, a work of critical thinking applied to the ‘real world.'[/bg_collapse]

 

The exhibition commentary is 950 words so about 300 words per object? (Combined with the question “three standalone commentaries or one coherent commentary that refers to all three objects?”)

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]P.42 of the new Guide states “950 words. This word count includes the written commentaries on each of the three objects.” This would seem to encourage a more-or-less equal division of the available words between the three objects. We must await, of course, the sample materials issued by the IB. However, and at the same time, the pilot samples that I have seen showed a textual commentary on each of the three objects, followed by a brief, summative, ‘tying-together’ paragraph within the 950-word limit.[/bg_collapse]

 

Do we still have to write comments on the Exhibition form?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]It would seem not, if we are following the new Guide, which states that the document created by the students for the Exhibition (i.e. the photographs of the three images, plus the accompanying text) “is submitted to the TOK teacher to be marked. Samples of student work are then submitted to the IB for moderation” (p.40). However, it is inevitable that there will be some sort of documentation that we will have to upload in order to provide – and possibly justify – the marks that we have awarded.[/bg_collapse]

Kognity

How is Kognity building TOK thinking skills throughout their resources and how is this different from the current Kognity resources?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]There is an emphasis on activities throughout the book with both individual and group exercises for students to complete. There are also a lot of open-ended questions throughout the book to encourage critical thinking that you can use in your class.[/bg_collapse]

Does Kognity have exemplars for good TOK essays?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ]In the Kognity TOK book in Subtopic 4.2, there is a breakdown and full support for writing the essay, including how to plan and write the essay, with examples of all the different parts with commentary. There are not multiple examples, as everyone already has access to the ones from the IB, so Kognity tries to offer a different kind of support.[/bg_collapse]

 

How do we encourage students to move from “how do we not know” or “what we can’t know” kind of approaches to constructing “how we can know” approaches and how is this evident in the new Kognity resources?

[bg_collapse view=”link” color=”#4e7a8d” icon=”arrow” expand_text=”Show answer” collapse_text=”Hide answer” ] The overarching guiding question of ToK as a whole is ‘How is knowledge created, assessed and disseminated?’ The focus, then, is on what COUNTS as knowledge, and HOW? The focus is methodological: HOW do Historians support their claims to know X? How do Biologists guarantee that what they claim to know is valid? The focus of ToK – thus the focus of the Kognity text – has this orientation, thus our questioning is reflection upon the methodologies, the ways of working, the modus operandi, of the various areas of knowledge. Some students disappear down the rabbit hole of epistemological skepticism, but most don’t. Most students will have some measure of certainty in the knowledge produced in their ‘favourite’ subjects and, if (as I have suggested elsewhere) we take our stimuli from what the students are actually studying, then that is what tends to emerge. Many students of science subjects will have faith in the various scientific methods; many students of Mathematics will stridently defend the ‘truth-claims’ of Mathematics; many Economics students will have faith in the modeling capabilities of that subject. If, then, examples of those things encountered in those subjects are used as stimuli in ToK, then the ‘starting-point’ tendency is less likely to be blanket skepticism, even though the reflection is about doubt.[/bg_collapse]

 

Students (and staff) often need a text as a crutch. Are you aware of texts in preparation for the new syllabus?

Yes, Kognity is currently in production with sample material already in the ‘Coming Soon’ book. Ask support for access to this book if you don’t already have it! 

 

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