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Theory of knowledge (TOK)



The TOK course, a flagship element in the Diploma Programme, encourages critical thinking about knowledge itself, to try to help young people make sense of what they encounter. Its core content is questions like these: What counts as knowledge? How does it grow? What are its limits? Who owns knowledge? What is the value of knowledge? What are the implications of having, or not having, knowledge?

What makes TOK unique, and distinctively different from standard academic disciplines, is its process. At the centre of the course is the student as
knower. Students entering the Diploma Programme typically have 16 years of life experience and more than 10 years of formal education behind them. They have accumulated a vast amount of knowledge, beliefs and opinions from academic disciplines and their lives outside the classroom. In TOK they have the opportunity to step back from this relentless acquisition of new knowledge, in order to consider knowledge issues. These include the questions already mentioned, viewed from the perspective of the student, but often begin from more basic ones, like:
  • What do I claim to know [about X]?
  • Am I justified in doing so [how?]?
Such questions may initially seem abstract or theoretical, but TOK teachers bring them into closer focus by taking into account their students’ interests, circumstances and outlooks in planning the course.

TOK activities and discussions aim to help students discover and express their views on knowledge issues. The course encourages students to share ideas with others and to listen to and learn from what others think. In this process students’ thinking and their understanding of knowledge as a human construction are shaped, enriched and deepened.

Syllabus outline


Ways of knowing
  • Emotion
  • Language
  • Reason
  • Sense-perception

Areas of knowledge
  • The arts
  • Ethics
  • History
  • Human sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Natural sciences

Assessment


The assessment model in theory of knowledge (TOK) comprises two components, an essay and a presentation, both of which should be completed within the 100 hours designated for the course.

The TOK essay: The students write an essay of 1200-1600 words on a title chosen from ten prescribed titles.

The TOK presentation: The students hold an individual presentation of approximately 10 minutes to the class on a relevant topic chosen by the students themselves.

Students are awarded a grade from A-E based on their achievements in TOK. This grade counts towards calculating the awarding of the three extra points in the programme. The exact number of extra points awarded is calculated by using a matrix that takes into account the student results in extended essay and Theory of knowledge.

Adapted from the IB Theory of knowledge guide © International Baccalaureate Organization