A major part of IB that gets brushed over is the Theory of Knowledge among the Internal Assessments and the Extended Essays. From my personal experience, the International Baccalaureate’s Theory of Knowledge is one of the most challenging subjects I have come across.
The concepts that it delves into such as the areas of knowledge and ways of knowing, shared and personal knowledge, knowledge questions, and claims can be fuzzy to learn especially when your task is to question everything you know every step of the way.
Having an IB Tok tutor i.e. someone with more experience in the subject can always be of immense help especially when that subject is taken for the first time and is pretty much an intro to college-level philosophy and concepts.
According to the IB, “TOK aims to make students aware of the interpretative nature of knowledge, including personal ideological biases – whether these biases are retained, revised, or rejected.
” Which means to question, “how do we know what we know?”. There are 12 key concepts that the subject revolves around and that have to be kept in mind while learning the course: Evidence, Certainty, Truth, Interpretation, Power, Justification, Explanation, Objectivity, Perspective, Culture, Values, and Responsibility.
The subject is as complex as it sounds and can be puzzling if your teacher does not get the meat and potatoes of the subject through to you.
The teacher’s way of explaining may not be personalized enough to your understanding.
The overall goals of the subject are simple.
You will have to write an essay (worth 67%) on a prescribed title given to you by IB and do an exhibition (worth 33%) based on the prescribed guiding prompt and find 3 objects that reinforce that prompt, incorporating the areas of knowledge and the ways of knowing.
The exhibition may sound alarming but it aims to assess how you can apply TOK concepts to the world around you. Areas of knowledge pretty much sum up what it means, the areas where knowledge is present and can be acquired.
There are also agreed ways to investigate things.
This includes Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Human Sciences, The Arts, Ethics, History, Religious Knowledge Systems, and Indigenous Knowledge Systems.
The same can be said for the ways of knowing, which are the ways in which the knowledge from the areas of knowledge is acquired or interpreted.
This includes Imagination, Intuition, Reason, Memory, Sense Perception, Emotion, Faith, and Language. This is the core of the subject and everything you learn will be based on them.
Although it sounds straightforward, the amount of research and skills required to put the researched material into essay and exhibition format is where the complexity of the subject lies.
The subject is driven by real-life examples and knowing the perspectives of hundreds of philosophical scholars and artists, their work and their theories can be overwhelming.
However, you may be inherently skilled at the subject were hiring a tutor may just be redundant. Two more main concepts that are highlighted are shared and personal knowledge. Shared knowledge is the knowledge that is coherent with other people’s beliefs and can be checked and corrected by other people, it can travel across cultures and pass to ongoing generations. An example can be historical facts and interpretations.
Whereas personal knowledge involves feelings and skills, where it cannot be fact-checked or stated as incorrect by other people. An example can be a person experiencing the taste of food.
Moreover, you have knowledge questions and knowledge claims. As stated before, “How we know what we know”, is a knowledge question.
Hence, these are questions that ask about how we know things. It asks about how a piece of knowledge is produced and the methods and mechanisms behind it.
They are open, they don’t have to be right, and are general to multiple examples. Knowledge claims are used to answer knowledge questions.
They are split into first and second order. These are claims are made by individuals and communities about how the world works, however, it does not have to be true i.e. “All fish can swim”.
On the other hand, second-order claims are made about knowledge itself i.e., “Mathematics makes extensive use of deductive argument.”
The more you read it the more complex it becomes.
Also Read: Is IB Tutoring Online Effective?
Even if you are an academically inclined student, you will also find it challenging to ace TOK because there is no right answer to any question. Having an IB TOK tutor will undoubtedly aid you in understanding this subject better and avoid an influx of confusion with every concept you learn.
Yes, the subject does get very dry very quickly especially when you’re bombarded with examples and concepts you do not find interesting. And depending on your school you might only have 2 class sessions of TOK per week during year one and 1 session per week in year two.
In my strong opinion, this does not provide enough exercise to your thinking muscles in order to write a top-tier TOK essay or an exhibition. especially when it means failing will withhold you from getting the holy grail i.e., the IB Diploma.
The most efficient way to work around this subject as mentioned is to hire a tutor, and that too, a good one who helps you comprehend this subject in a personalized manner.
Hiring a tutor not only benefits those in dire need but those students who just cannot grasp singular concepts and if you know TOK, a single concept can go a long way.
The assessment criteria too, is a convoluted read and can only be explained best by someone with experience and who understands it completely. A good score is anywhere between 6 to 10. However, you will need to aim higher just to be safe.
To attain maximum score as outlined by IB for the TOK essay, “The discussion has a sustained focus on the title and is linked effectively to areas of knowledge.
Arguments are clear, coherent, and effectively supported by specific examples. The implications of examples are considered. There is clear analysis and evaluation of different points of view”. The exhibition takes place within the first year of your diploma.
Hence, you will be required to know all the crucial concepts prior. TOK is one of those subjects that students dread to study and it cannot really be studied in an orthodox way as there are minimal TOK books to actually learn from.
You will need to put in hours upon hours of research to link your areas of knowledge and ways of knowing with a real-life situation with documented research.
It requires someone to not only provide you with additional information more than you learn from in-class hours but also someone to push you to actually invest time into learning TOK as it gets brushed over in the grand IB scheme of things.
It is very cost-effective. Even though there are a plethora of resources online, it may not be relevant to the changes IB has made in recent times due to the pandemic and also only gives you a vague idea of what is to be done.
If you’re someone like me and lack the attention to learn dry concepts in class and are distracted easily, a tutor is recommended to give you personal attention so that you actually understand TOK.
Due to the pandemic online learning has been on the rise however, learning TOK in a large class of IB students may be the best setting for some students as they may feel like they lack participation.
IB TOK online tuitions are a great way to have batches or small sets or even one-on-one sessions to keep students engaged as participation offers perspective and perspective is a major component in TOK.
Tutors can also give opposing perspectives to give level-headed arguments and points which are key in the essay and exhibition.
Furthermore, depending on the type of student you are, I strongly believe that TOK tuitions will be the most bang for your buck more than other subjects due to the nature of TOK.
It requires a lot of personal thinking to be able to link concepts to the areas of knowledge to the ways of knowing and present it in a manner of a 1600-word essay and a live exhibition meeting all the required criteria to achieve a good score.