As most IB Theory of Knowledge teachers know, and as regular readers of this blog know, the International Baccalaureate program has published a new ToK Guide 2015

After having a conversation with Chris Coey, a colleague who attended a summer TOK training, and carefully reviewing the new guide, I thought I’d share some of preliminary thoughts and an invitation to other TOK teachers to respond in a number of ways:

* Comment on any of the particular points I make or questions I ask in this post.

* Share other ideas on if and how the new guide will affect your teaching.

* Share specific resources that you think will be helpful to TOK teachers in the coming year.

Feel free to leave a comment on this post or send a message to me using my contact form. I’m also going to specifically invite some experienced TOK educators I know to share their thoughts in a series of short (300-400 word posts).

(FYI, here is a link to my previous TOK-related “Best” lists, to my 1,700 IB-related categorized links)

Here are my key “takeaways” from the Guide (and from my conversation with Chris). I want to emphasize that I’m “thinking out loud” and invite your reactions:

Ways of Knowing:
In addition to the “old” list of perception, language, emotion and reason, there have been several additions — imagination, faith, intuition, and memory. It’s only required, however, that four are covered in-depth.

Here’s an important quote from the Guide: Teachers should consider the possibility of teaching WOKs in combination or as a natural result of considering the methods of areas of knowledge, rather than as separate units.

It sounds like that was strongly encouraged at Chris’ training.

I’ve always taught the four Ways of Knowing as separate units at the beginning of the year, and then taught each Area of Knowledge through their “lens.” For example, after teaching the WOK units, I then teach Math by looking at math explicitly through perception, language, emotion and reason. I wonder if that would still be a reasonable approach in light of the new Guide? If it was, I’m thinking that I would also add a one very short unit lightly covering imagination, faith, intuition and memory preceding starting the Areas of Knowledge, and, when we study different AOK, invited students to identify how those new WOK fit in. Or, do you think this means it just won’t work to have the WOK taught separately at all?

Areas of Knowledge: The “old” ones remain — mathematics, the natural sciences, the human sciences, the arts, history, ethics — and two new ones are added: religious knowledge systems, and indigenous knowledge systems (religion, though, I had thought was one before, though I always only lightly touched on it). It’s only required, though, that six are covered in-depth.

Definition of Knowledge: Perhaps IB had always defined knowledge in the way this excerpt from the Guide describes it, but it was new to me:

Knowledge can be viewed as the production of one or more human beings. It can be the work of a single individual arrived at as a result of a number of factors including the ways of knowing. Such individual knowledge is called personal knowledge in this guide. But knowledge can also be the work of a group of people working together either in concert or, more likely, separated by time or geography. Areas of knowledge such as the arts and ethics are of this form. These are examples of shared knowledge. There are socially established methods for producing knowledge of this sort, norms for what counts as a fact or a good explanation, concepts and language appropriate to each area and standards of rationality. These aspects of areas of knowledge can be organized into a knowledge framework.

I think the three pages in the Guide on knowledge would be a good hand-out and discussion document to use in class.

Knowledge Issues: They’re not “knowledge issues” any longer. Instead, they’re “knowledge questions.” I definitely like that change, and think it helps clarify the concept for both teachers and students alike. The Guide gives a lot of good examples of knowledge questions, and I especially like a simple guideline they offered:

TOK Presentations: Here’s a quote from the Guide:

The maximum group size is three. If a student makes more than one presentation, the teacher should choose the best one (or the best group presentation in which the student participated) for the purposes of assessment. Students are not permitted to offer presentations on the same specific subject matter more than once. This refers to either the same knowledge question, or the same real-life situation. It is advised that the presentation should take place towards the end of the course, as otherwise students may not have had the chance to develop skills such as formulating knowledge questions which are key to this task.

The line about not being permitted to offer presentations on the same topic twice seems like a big change to me. I know that I’ve always had students do it twice and use the higher grade, and most of the materials I’ve seen from TOK teachers on the Web say the same thing.

Chris wondered if we might want to have students make mini-presentations at the end of AOK units as a sort of rehearsal for the final presentation. I think some version of that might be a good idea. What do you think?

Another quote from the Guide:

It is not necessary for schools to record presentations unless they are asked to do so, although it can be a useful exercise in order to standardize internal marking, where more than one teacher is involved.

I had always thought we had to videotape them in case we were audited by IB, but perhaps it was a misconception on my part. Nevertheless, I plan on continuing to video them — I suspect students take it even more seriously, and we can used them to standardize internal marking. I’ve posted some presentations here and have invited feedback, and that’s been helpful.

The rubrics for both the Presentation and Essay have been simplified and, I think, are a lot better.

Okay, that’s my “brain-dump.”

What do you think?