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Starting and Planning the TOK Essay


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Structuring the TOK essay is an essential component for obtaining many points on the essay. This post illustrates the first steps.

More info can be found here: TOK Essay and Presentation Help

You just received the list of the ten prescribed TOK essay titles. What are the next steps?

  • Read all of the prescribed titles: do this several times and take your time. You may not understand every title yet and you may not be certain on what the quesdtion asks you to do. You need to take your time to understand the titles.
  • Choose one prescribed title: Select one title based on your personal interest and previous knowledge on the issue. Be careful – you already may think that you know an answer to the title. Be aware that you have to answer the title question in a balanced way. Do not limit your options by focussing on one answer too early.
  • Highlight the relevant terms in the title: What are the key words of the title? What does the question ask you to do?
  • Continue reading »

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Theory-based TOK Syllabus


Straw roof
I’ve compiled a list of theoretical TOK topics which may help teachers in preparing their course. The list of topics may also prove useful for providing a theoretical basis for the essay or presentation. The list is quite different from the IB TOK guide and focuses mainly on epistemological theory.

I would like to share with you a TOK syllabus (lesson plan) of a somewhat different kind. I’ve made a list of epistemological topics that fit to the different Ways of Knowing and Areas of Knowledge covered in the course. In my view, TOK should not be taught too theoretically. It is a critical thinking course, and by merely covering philosophical/epistemological topics you do not promote critical thinking. Nevertheless, I consider a theoretical basis helpful and useful for a variety of reasons.

  • As a basis for discussion: The topics can be woven in into the course to provide a more solid foundation for classroom discussion.
  • For the TOK Essay and presentation: Students can include theoretical components into the TOK essay to support their arguments. There is the danger, however, that some students merely summarize these concepts without reflection and this must be avoided.
  • Continue reading »

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What are Knowledge Issues or Problems of Knowledge?


Desert grass
Here I’ll show you (yet again!) how to identify Knowledge Issues or Problems of Knowledge (KI/POK) for the TOK Presentation. It’s not easy to define what KI/POKs are, because the terms are so broad and can include many different aspects.

The TOK essay and presentation require you, the TOK student, to identify knowledge issues / problems of knowledge. And this is often not an easy thing to do, and it shouldn’t be – after all you get points for identifying them. In this post, I’ll refer to Knowledge Issues and Problems of Knowledge as KI/POK. Both of these terms mean the same thing.

Possible reasons why it is difficult to identify knowledge issues

From my experience, a difficulty can be found on several levels:

  • The terms “knowledge issue” or “problems of knowledge” are rather broad and there is no single, easy definition. And if there is a definition, then this definition itself my cause confusion. Essentially many people do not know what they should be looking for in a KI/POK. The TOK Guide from the IB states that Knowledge Issues include “everything that can be approached from a TOK point of view.” Now what is a “TOK point of view”? Essentially KI/POKs (and thus TOK itself) address all these aspects where we ask ourselves “How do I know?”, “Can I be certain?”, “What are my assumptions?”, “Am I biased?”. The motto of TOK is: “It depends how you see it.” KI/POKs address these aspects.
  • Continue reading »

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TOK Essay Prescribed Titles – May 2010


Waves on the shore

Here are some (possible) guiding questions to help you deal with the TOK Essay titles.

I have compiled a list of questions which should help students analyze their chosen prescribed title question (Nov 2009, and May 2010 session). The presented questions are meant as a source of inspiration. Some of you may think that simply answering these questions is enough for passing the TOK essay. Trust me, it’s not enough. And don’t say that you didn’t know. The purpose of these questions is to get you thinking about the prescribed title. I’m not saying that the questions are directly relevant for your particular approach to your chosen title question. I have to be honest with you: For many of these questions I myself do not even know an answer and maybe some questions do not even have a single, clear answer. Some of the questions may not even be relevant for your approach to the prescribed title! If you already have an approach to your prescribed title, then do not let these questions distract you. You must read these questions critically and reflect on them.
Continue reading »

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TOK Essay FAQ


 

Sea shells
This post addresses several Questions in relation to the TOK Essay.

Disclaimer: The following advice is my personal advice to my students and not approved by the IB (or by anybody else). TOK examiners may have a different opinion on these issues. Use the information at your own risk.

1. Can I use the word “I” in the essay? Can I write the essay in first person?
The TOK essay is a personal essay. Yes, you can use the word “I”, but you do not have to. As a matter of fact, this may even be useful if you give personal examples. Still, do not forget that the TOK essay is a formal essay. Do make sure that the essay uses a formal language nevertheless.

2. Do I have to do research? Do I need a bibliography?
No, research is not required according to the criteria, but it may be helpful. The TOK Essay is not a research essay, it is an argumentative essay. You will not get points for only summarizing other people’s ideas. You get points for analysis and for understanding of these ideas. If you do use quotes or other people’s ideas, then you must give a proper bibliography, of course (as a matter of fact, points will be taken off otherwise).
Continue reading »

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TOK Essay Checklist


 

Door with a #1 sign
Here is a short checklist of points to watch out for when writing the TOK Essay.

Here is a short checklist of points to watch out for when writing the TOK Essay. Over the years I have proof-read uncountable essays, and there are often similar issues that appear. Many of these issues are addressed below:

  • Introduction: You must give it a clear introduction that allows the reader to understand in which direction the essay is going. The introduction must also contain your thesis statement (“knowledge issue”). What is the problem of knowledge? You must answer the essay title and not modify it. As there are several ways to answer the essay title, you must make it clear in the introduction which way you are going.
  • Terms: You must define the terms of the essay question, but do not simply give dictionary definitions! How do you interpret these terms? If you do use dictionary definitions, then you must critically reflect on them to get points.
  • Structure: The essay must be divided into separate paragraphs, each paragraph must relate to the point that you make. The paragraphs answer should directly answer your thesis and the title question.
  • Continue reading »

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The TOK Presentation – Possibility 2


 

Green door
The TOK Presentation: A second possible approach for planning the presentation.

For some of you my previous recommendation on the TOK Presentation (“The TOK Presentation – Possibility 1″) may be a bit formal and rigid. Not all of you may find it easy to identify a (good) knowledge issue from a real life situation. I would like to therefore introduce to you an alternative approach.

  • Step 1: Start off by trying to find a knowledge issue / problem of knowledge right from the start. Knowledge issues often start with the words: “How do we know that….” or “How can we know that…..”, but it is not limited to this. Make sure that your knowledge issue is directly TOK related. Continue reading »
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The TOK Presentation – Possibility 1


 

Wall and windows
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. Continue reading »
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TOK Essay – The First Steps: Identifying Knowledge Issues


 

Flying sparks
Some prescribed TOK essay titles may require you to find a knowledge issue or a problem of knowledge which relates to the title. Sometimes there are several hidden issues. How can you find them? This edition should motivate you to play with ideas to find a possible hidden knowledge issue.

The identification of a problem of knowledge in the prescribed TOK essay title is probably one of the most important first steps. But it may also be one of the most difficult tasks. What is the problem of knowledge that is implied in the title? How can one identify it? It may not always be necessary to identify an implied problem of knowledge in the prescribed title, but it may be helpful in structuring the essay.

“[Mathematics] is a creative art because mathematicians create beautiful new concepts; it is a creative art because mathematicians live, act, and think like artists; and it is a creative art because mathematicians regard it so” (Paul Richard Halmos)

– To what extent can this view of art, beauty and creativity be applied to other areas of knowledge? Continue reading »

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TOK Essay Marking Critieria – Introduction


 

Chocolate cake
The TOK Essay is marked against 4 criteria (A-D). I will explain these criteria to sensitize you on what to look out for when you write the essay.

In this edition I will give you a brief introduction into the marking criteria for the TOK essay.

A. Understanding knowledge issues

  • Depth and breadth of understanding: Are you considering different ways of knowing and areas of knowledge and do you explore them in sufficient depth? Are you comparing them?
  • Careful: Is the knowledge issue relevant to the prescribed title?

Continue reading »

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