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Guest Post: Commentary On New IB Theory Of Knowledge Guide

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Earlier this week, I posted Attention IB Theory Of Knowledge Teachers: How Is The New TOK Guide Going To Affect How You Teach?

I’ll be posting a few guest posts from TOK teachers in response to that post.

Today’s piece is from Brad Ovenell-Carter. Brad is the director of educational technology and TOK department head at Mulgrave School, an independent, coed K12 IB World School in Vancouver, Canada. Like Mark Twain, he thinks the ancients stole all out good ideas. And he wants them back:

To say I like the new TOK guide is not quite right; better to say I think it’s an improvement over the old one.

The arrangement of the WoKs and AoKs is better, meaning less Western, naked and absolutist. Mind you, I am still puzzled that religious and indigenous systems are seen as Areas of Knowledge, comparable to Art or History, rather than complete knowledge systems in themselves. I don’t think we’ve yet shaken our Western bias in this guide which means this is not really a TOK Guide but still a Western view of TOK guide. So, I will still have to put TOK itself in a larger context for my students.

And it seems odd to me that even as the IBO acknowledges that the original 10 AoK and WoK were necessary but not sufficient, and that we now need 16, we only have to teach 10. I don’t buy the argument I heard that we just need to teach the idea that knowledge has these 16 dimensions and only need to go deep in a few. That’s rather like saying the idea of an atom is made up of protons, electrons and neutrons but we only need to talk about electrons. I’ll teach all 16–I don’t think this is optional.

If TOK is still shaky conceptually, I do find some practical improvements: The map metaphor, the distinction between personal and shared knowledge and the knowledge framework are good organizational structures that can give us a more coherent approach to widely varying topics of discussion. I really like the new way of assessing the essay holistically, too. It makes much more sense in a subject like TOK. (I found moderated assessment under the old method quite inconsistent and maybe this will improve as well?)

Alas, I can’t say the same about the new assessment model for the presentation which, frankly, is a step backwards and flies in the face of well-established research. I am really puzzled by this and don’t yet know how to work around it to make it meaningful.

In short, I am grateful for the changes and I’m looking forward to implementing the new guide, but I still have a lot of adjustments to do to make the course work.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

One Comment

  1. Thanks for the post Larry and Brad. I am also a TOK teacher and head of Psychology at ESF King George V school in Hong Kong. I agree with you regarding the positives of the new TOK syllabus/frameworks. I personally don’t have a problem with the new AOKs – it is important to encourage students to consider the impact of culture and religion as distinct AOKs to Natural Science, Art etc and what they helps us know in our lives. The frameworks are proving helpful for our students too, with some support re interpreting the language. I do however feel that what is needed is access to more up-beat, hands-on activities to deliver key concepts. So much out there is very high-brow. For the last couple of years we’ve been collating a range of TOK lesson plans with a focus on interpersonal and practical learning. We have also developed a range of materials to help kids tackle essay writing, and presentations through a series of short practice tasks. We so often find that kids write in a perculiar lofty, woolly style when writing for TOK that is not at all how they write in Psych and other subjects.

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