Precepts to use in everyday life

1. Think for yourself, 2. Be yourself, 3. Speak up, 4. Feel free to agree and disagree, 5. Be honest with yourself and others, 6. Be open-minded, 7. Avoid being judgmental and 8. Question everything - even your own thinking.

TOK Essay Titles Nov 2020

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

More on Knowledge Issues

Having scanned through some discussions by TOK teachers throughout the world (they have a discussion forum too!), here are some more thoughts about knowledge issues and what they are:

1. A KI attempts to establish the status of knowledge claims. In other words, it distinguishes between real knowledge, so to speak, and pseudo-knowledge: claims that pretend to be knowledge. For example, consider the claim 'I know that souls exist after they die'. What helps us to establish this as true knowledge? What hinders us? Is this knowledge a powerful tool for the advancement of humanity? Or is it simply a bogus claim to exploit people into joining a religious cult? How do we know the difference? Answer: identify the KIs implicit in the claim...

2. A KI is something that identifies not only the 'weaknesses' of knowledge, but also its 'strengths'. After all, knowledge can be a powerful tool in life and wielded for good or evil.

3. The phrasing of a KI (usually in the form of a question) should allow you to explore differing views on the answer. Your essay or presentation should actively engage with these differing views (the arguments and counter-arguments).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The use of examples

We're in the middle of marking the first set of Yr12 essays and noticing various issues relating to EXAMPLES.
  1. Many students are struggling to find RELEVANT examples.
  2. Many of you are repeating the same clich├ęd examples.

So we have decided it's time to do something about it. At the risk of being dictatorial, but in the service of INDEPENDENT THOUGHT, we are banning the use of the following examples in presentations and essays and for BOTH Yr 12s and Yr13s:

  • flat earth theory (please think of a modern relation!)
  • Adolf Hitler's extermination of the Jews (so much regurgitation of spoon-fed nonsense here, it's beginning to get brain-numbing)

Now, if you can write about these things INTELLIGENTLY and with INSIGHT and present a clearly researched and verified ARGUMENT or COUNTER-ARGUMENT, then please go ahead and use them as examples. But do NOT be mindless about it.

Watch this space for an addition to the list of banned examples...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Notes on Structure and Layout

The use of examples in Essays and Presentations

A student recently complained about the problem of using examples in the TOK essay: 'Do I make up my own examples or do I use TOK examples?'

I pictured him working out what a 'TOK' example was and screwing up his face in despair!

The simple answer to his question is: there is no such thing as a 'TOK' example. The distinction he made is a false one.

The best examples come from your personal experience of learning on the IB course or from things that you've read or researched. Often, good examples can originate from surveying current affairs: what's going in the world right now.

ANY examples you can think of, whether they are situations you've personally experienced or whether they are events happening in the world or recorded in books, count as relevant examples, but only if you can identify a KNOWLEDGE ISSUE within them. This, if anything, is what makes them 'TOK' examples.

What are the knowledge issues involved here?

Example 1:
"The present global financial crisis is cause by the credit crunch."

Example 2:
"The political unrest in Bombay make it unfeasible for the English cricket team to complete their test matches in India."

Example 3:
"Obama's Presidential reign will revolutionise the moral status of the U.S.A."

Example 4:
"Quantum theory suggests that there must have been an 'observer' at the point at which the universe began."

When you've identified the KIs embedded in these examples, try to explore both sides of the argument.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Knowledge Issues Re-visited

Roger's recent session on 'knowledge issues' elucidated some important ideas.

Firstly, anything that you claim to know about yourself, about others or about the world involves a knowledge issue: the KI is somehow embedded in your knowledge.

You may be conscious or unconscious of this KI, but it's there. Your job as a TOK student is to expose the KIs in your knowledge, tease them out, so to speak, and express them, usually in the form of questions.

How do you do this? You have to question your knowledge:

  • where does your knowledge come from? (sources, methods of verification)
  • how is your knowledge acquired? (perception, reason, emotion, language)
  • what are the potential problems with this knowledge? (bias, common sense, stereotyping)

TOK is about identifying KIs in everything we know by questioning everything we know...

Both in an essay and a presentation you should clearly state your KIs in the INTRODUCTION.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Notes on Structure and Layout

The TOK Presentation: How to present an introduction

The timing of the introduction is the key: if you're presenting individually (10 mins overall time), the intro should be about 45 seconds; if presenting in a pair (2o mins overall time), it should be about 90 seconds.

Let's suppose that you feel strongly about the topic of 'Spiritual Healing' and choose this for your TOK presentation.

Remember: even though you're not compelled to present using a slide show, you must aim to follow these FOUR steps that immediately address the marking criteria:

Step 1: present the real life example or situation (RLE) that got you thinking about the topic of your choice.

For example:
this could be a reading from the bible about Jesus' miracles or a video clip about more recent miracle events or even a song/hymn lyric that inspired you to reflect on your topic.

Note: this shouldn't last more than 15-30 seconds and should simply give a flavour of your starting point.

Step 2: present in bullet points, the common assumptions people make relating to your chosen topic - that is, reveal the beliefs people hold without question or what people usually take for granted.

For example:
  • Believers in miracle healings often assume that a higher power exists that carries out these miracles.

  • Divine intervention into human or natural events is the best explanation for, or 'cause' of these healings.

Step 3: State in bullet points the main knowledge issues your presentation will explore.

For example:

  • Is spiritual healing good evidence for the existence of a higher, divine power?
  • How far can the belief in a spiritual healing force be justified?
  • What is left for us when medical knowledge cannot help to make us better?
  • To what extent is it justified to resort to supernatural explanations when we reach the limits of medical knowledge?

Keep to a maximum of FOUR KIs: two main ones and two secondary.

Step 4: State the main approaches or perspectives that you will take to explore the knowledge issues.

For example:

  • History
  • Natural Sciences
  • Psychology

Note: these should be related to the AoKs and you should have a minimum of 3 (if presenting individually) and a maximum of 5 (if presenting in a pair).

You'll notice that there's not much difference between WRITING an introduction to your essay and PRESENTING an introduction: the structure is essentially the same. In the essay you write in FULL SENTENCES; in the presentation you can use coherent BULLET POINTS.