June 8, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo
Along with students in my other classes, my TOK class evaluated the course and me (you can see the forms I used here).
As usual, both the course and my teaching was evaluated generally quite highly.
And, as usual, though the vast majority of students didn’t share many suggestions on how to make it better (the most common statement was along the lines of “keep it exactly the way it is”), one critique was explicitly mentioned several times, and another typical shortcoming was clearly apparent to me.
A few students said I let some take advantage of me by being too flexible. As I mentioned, this always come up in my TOK evaluations. I’m sure there is some truth to these comments, and there are clearly areas where I can “tighten-up.” However, I also attribute at least some of this critique to the fact that I heavily recruit students who are not taking any other IB classes, and I think a few others might not have that much experience being in a class with so many others without the same academic background and habits.
The other shortcoming I always notice is that when I ask students how they can apply what they have learned in TOK to their lives, the responses — apart from just about everybody saying the presentation and writing skills they learned were useful — are generally pretty shallow. I have tried a number of different strategies to make this kind of “transfer” more effective, but nothing has seemed to work over the years.
Next year, I’ve decided that, when we are studying each Way of Knowing and Area of Knowledge, I’m going to be very explicit about connecting them to current events and encouraging students to do the same. One great resources is the free monthly newsletter from Theory of Knowledge.net, which shares current news articles, Knowledge Questions connected to them, and lesson ideas. You can see their archive here, and you can subscribe there also.
I can’t imagine why a TOK teacher would not want to receive it!
In addition, for a fee, you can subscribe to their premium newsletter.
I’d also love to hear other ideas about how teachers have been successful helping students apply TOK concepts to their outside-of-school lives….