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  • Theory of Knowledge

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Contact Josipa Casey  Josipa Casey (626) 934-4551 English/English Department Chair/IB Theory of Knowledge
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Contact Jinasha Udeshi  Jinasha Udeshi (626) 934-4528 Biology/IB Advisor
Theory of Knowledge Locker

TOK

Theory of Knowledge (TOK)

TOK plays a special role in the Diploma Programme by providing an opportunity for students to reflect on the nature of knowledge, and on how we know what we claim to know.

The fundamental question of TOK is “how do we know that?” Students are encouraged to think about how knowledge is arrived at in different disciplines, what the disciplines have in common and the differences between the disciplinary. TOK therefore both supports and is supported by the study of other DP subjects, as students are required to explore knowledge questions against the backdrop of their experiences in their other DP subjects. Discussion and critical reflection form the backbone of the TOK course, centring around discussions of questions such as:

  • 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 types of 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. The TOK course is assessed through an oral presentation and a 1600 word essay. The TOK presentation assesses the ability of the student to apply TOK thinking to a real-life situation, while the TOK essay takes a more conceptual starting point; for example asking students to discuss the claim that the methodologies used to produce knowledge depend on the use to which that knowledge will be used.

TOK is a demanding and challenging course, but one which plays a crucial role in effectively preparing students for the complex and rapidly changing world they will encounter both during their DP experience and beyond.

Importance of TOK

The theory of knowledge (TOK) requirement is central to the educational philosophy of the Diploma Programme.

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, it 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.

 

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?"

It is a stated aim of TOK that students should become aware of the interpretative nature of knowledge, including personal ideological biases, regardless of whether, ultimately, these biases are retained, revised or rejected.

TOK also has an important role to play in providing coherence for the student as it transcends and links academic subject areas, thus demonstrating the ways in which they can apply their knowledge with greater awareness and credibility.