TOK is a course about critical thinking and inquiring into the process of
knowing, rather than about learning a specific body of knowledge. It is a
core element which all Diploma Programme students undertake and to which all
schools are required to devote at least 100 hours of class time. TOK and the
Diploma Programme subjects should support each other in the sense that they
reference each other and share some common goals. The TOK course examines
how we know what we claim to know. It does this by encouraging students to
analyse knowledge claims and explore knowledge
questions. A knowledge claim is the assertion that “I/we know
X” or “I/we know how to Y”, or a statement about knowledge; a knowledge
question is an open question about knowledge. A distinction between
shared knowledge and personal
knowledge is made in the TOK guide. This distinction is
intended as a device to help teachers construct their TOK course and to help
students explore the nature of knowledge.
* RHS Juniors with take TOK class during the second semester and Seniors will take the class during the first semester.
How is TOK structured?
As a thoughtful and purposeful inquiry into different ways of knowing, and into different kinds of knowledge, TOK is composed almost entirely of questions.
The most central of these is "How do we know?", while other questions include:
- what counts as evidence for X?
- what makes a good explanation in subject Y?
- how do we judge which is the best model of Z?
- how can we be sure of W?
- what does theory T mean in the real world?
- how do we know whether it is right to do S?
Through discussions of these and other questions, students gain greater awareness of their personal and ideological assumptions, as well as developing an appreciation of the diversity and richness of cultural perspectives.
Assessment of TOK
The TOK course is assessed through an oral presentation and a 1600 word essay.
The presentation assesses the ability of the student to apply TOK thinking to a real-life situation, while the essay takes a more conceptual starting point. For example, the essay may ask students to discuss the claim that the methodologies used to produce knowledge depend on the use to which that knowledge will be used.
What is the significance of TOK?
TOK aims to make students aware of the interpretative nature of knowledge, including personal ideological biases – whether these biases are retained, revised or rejected.
It offers students and their teachers the opportunity to:
- reflect critically on diverse ways of knowing and on areas of knowledge
- consider the role and nature of knowledge in their own culture, in the cultures of others and in the wider world.
In addition, TOK prompts students to:
- be aware of themselves as thinkers, encouraging them to become more acquainted with the complexity of knowledge
- recognize the need to act responsibly in an increasingly interconnected but uncertain world.
TOK also provides coherence for the student, by linking academic subject areas as well as transcending them. It therefore demonstrates the ways in which the student can apply their knowledge with greater awareness and credibility.