The TOK Presentation – Possibility 1


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The TOK Presentation: A 7-step approach for planning the presentation. This approach is suitable for students who have no idea where to start.

Where should you start with the TOK presentation? The following section should help you out. I recommend that you try to find the required “real life problems” with the help of newspapers, but this is not an IB requirement. The following system is only one approach of many to tackle the presentation. I admit that it is a bit rigid and formal, but maybe it helps those students who have absolutely no idea on how to start off.

  • Step 1: Get yourself several newspapers and a few (news) magazine covering current events.
  • Step 2: Flip through the pages and try to find articles that deal with controversial issues. A controversial issue is an issue on which different people have different opinions. For right now, I’ll use the issue on whether genetically engineered foods are risky for the environment.
  • Step 3: Identify the people or groups of people that have different opinions. Be careful that you do not generalize! Let’s assume that the issue deals with the potential risks of genetic engineering (for example). In this case do not generalize and say “the scientists are for genetic engineering” and “the consumers are against it”. Not all scientists and not all consumers have the same opinion.
  • Step 4: Identify a knowledge issue or the problem of knowledge. This is the tough part and you need time for this. Many students make the mistake that they think that the original real-life situation is the problem of knowledge. In many cases it is not. Ask yourself WHY the different groups have different opinions. Could it be that they have different values (ethics!)? Could it be that they have different experiences and therefore assess the risks of genetic engineering differently? Could it be that they disagree on certain definitions (a language problem)? Could it be an issue of fear (emotion)? Try to identify the underlying problem of the debate.
  • Step 5: Once you have identified the hidden knowledge problem, try to identify the sources of knowledge for each side. If side A is for genetic engineering, try to find the sources of knowledge of side A. From where do they have the knowledge that makes them support the technology? Why do they have this opinion? Do this for each side of the debate.
  • Step 6: Now critically reflect on the sources of the knowledge of the different parties. How reliable are these sources? What are some of the problems and pitfalls? If one side is against the use of genetically engineered foods because of emotional reasons , then try to analyze how valid emotions are in this case. If people have a certain opinion because of their experiences, then analyze how reliable experiences are. In any case, it is important to give a balanced view of the issue. Your task is to try to understand each side of the debate in an objective manner.
  • Step 7: Try to identify a related issue. What is a related issue? A related issue is a real-life issue where a similar problem of knowledge (see step 4) appears. Maybe other controversies have a similar structure and similar reasons.

    2 Responses to The TOK Presentation – Possibility 1

    1. admin

      The “student’s perspective” can indeed be found throughout the presentation. It is not a separate point. Some students make the TOK presentation like a “research presentation”, this is bad. They use hypothetical examples or those which they found somewhere on the Internet. The example “Is it morally OK to steal to support your starving family” is such a hypothetical textbook example. It does not show much personal student involvement. When was the student ever in such a situation where he/she had to make a decision of stealing to support the family?

      It’s much better to use examples that show some kind of personal involvement in the issue: “I once had to decide if I should allow my friend to copy my homework, and then I was in an ethical dilemma because…..”.

      Another bad thing is if the students start to simply cite the opinions of different philosophers on an issue, without further exploration. This is then the perspective of the philosophers, but not the student’s perspective. Students can/should apply and evaluate their views, but it is not enough to simply list them.

      The simple question is: Do I as a teacher get the impression that the student considered the issue personally relevant? Do I see some personal engagement, which goes beyond merely listing (Internet) researched information?


    2. Richard Bernard


      I like your advice on your website and am using it with my TOK students this year. In the advice on the Presentation, where’s the Knower’s perspective?? You don’t specifically mention this…is it the student’s entire presentation that represents their perspective??

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