Teachers play a crucial role in embedding the theory of knowledge (TOK) across the Diploma Programme (DP) curriculum and helping students connect TOK to their studies. Natalie Parker, Assistant Principal DP coordinator and Amy Watson, High School TOK Teacher and Head of Group 3 at ENKA School Istanbul share their story to highlight how they got the whole school involved in conversations about TOK.
The theory of knowledge (TOK) course plays a special role in the Diploma Programme (DP). While it isn’t necessary for the TOK course to be taught within other DP subject classes, making links to TOK is a key part of all subjects. This provides students with the opportunity to reflect on the nature, scope and limitations of knowledge and the process of knowing.
Why did the school launch TOK-tober?
In October, ENKA School held a month-long celebration of TOK—TOK-tober—which aimed to inspire students of all ages to embrace the fun, fascinating and challenging nature of TOK.
We launched a range of challenges, games, spooky TOK lessons and competitions that aimed to stimulate critical thinking, not only for our DP students but the whole of our high school. Our DP students were able to get involved in the challenges in all of their classrooms, identifying TOK concepts in their DP subjects. This helped students make important connections to TOK across their subjects.
The event was open to the whole school as we believe it is important for students to engage with advanced thinking skills throughout their education, so they can begin the DP with a solid foundation.
What challenges could students get involved with?
Throughout TOK-tober, we held a number of events and challenges for our students which included:
- DP subjects, including Turkish Literature, Mathematics and Global Politics classes setting up bingo boards in each classroom so that DP students could identify TOK concepts within their classes.
- Students enjoyed escape room themed tasks. They needed to practice communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity to complete tasks such as building marshmallow towers or answering Mathematical problems. Teachers facilitated these challenges, but students were encouraged to read instructions, organise themselves and complete their tasks. This encouraged problem-solving skills and independence.
- Successful escape room teams unlocked a TOK-based question. They were asked ‘What counts as good evidence for a claim?’ and answers were given on postcards. We had many interesting responses, especially from grade 9 and 10 classes – TOK thinkers in the making!
- Creative students were challenged to answer a TOK question of their choice through a drawing competition. The winning entry answered the question ‘Has technology helped us to develop knowledge or just given us more reasons to doubt it?’ using a digital drawing.
- TOK classes focused on belief, evidence and emotions in ghost themed lessons, which saw lively debates about the reliability of the evidence for the supernatural. We used TED Talks and discussed these concepts to create and answer questions such as ‘Are feelings, emotions and intuition enough to create evidence of a claim?’ and ‘What standard/type of evidence do we need to change belief into knowledge?’. We thought about the contrasting experiences that ghosts and humans would encounter and how this would lead to different knowledge. This led us to very interesting discussions about communities of knowers and the question ‘Is some knowledge exclusive to some communities of knowers?’
Was the event a success?
At ENKA we value TOK highly and were thrilled that it was an overwhelming success, with students from all grade levels engaged and excited with the TOK-tober festivities. Our students really got into the ‘spirit’ of our TOK month and it created a fantastic atmosphere around the school. The event enthused our current DP students and hopefully inspired our future years with the fun, fascinating and challenging nature of TOK. We are already looking forward to next year with bigger and bolder plans!
More tips for embedding TOK across the curriculum
Here are top five tips for effectively embedding TOK into your school’s curriculum. IB coordinators and educators can access further information and a full list of tips in the TOK Teacher Support Material on the Programme Resource Centre.
- Inviting subject teachers to be audience members for TOK exhibitions.
- Encouraging students to keep TOK notebooks or journals where they note down examples from their other subjects to take back to their TOK lessons—encouraged by other teachers.
- Sharing TOK course outlines or unit plans with subject teachers so that they can identify opportunities where they can link topics or themes in their subjects to units being explored in TOK.
- Organizing in-school professional development experiences on TOK for subject teachers, or encouraging teachers to undertake dedicated IB professional development on TOK for subject teachers.
- Encouraging subject teachers to suggest and liaise with subject experts and members of the local community who could take part in TOK lessons or events.
Natalie Parker is the Diploma Programme (DP) coordinator, creativity, activity, service (CAS) coordinator and IBDP Chemistry teacher at ENKA Schools, Istanbul. Natalie believes in education for all and is passionate about motivating others to ensure inclusion for all students at all academic levels. You may connect with Natalie here.
Amy Watson is a DP theory of knowledge (TOK) teacher and coordinator at ENKA School in Istanbul, Turkey. Amy is devoted to facilitating the growth of critical thinking an autonomy in students and believes these types of skills are the foundation for students on the road to becoming true lifelong learners in and out of academic studies. You can connect with Amy here.