TOK is taught in a great variety of ways – and sometimes very badly (as the current subject report laments). But what is the BEST way of teaching TOK?  I offer today a recent paper of my own, expressing my own thoughts on how best to structure and connect the ideas of the course, and where to place the emphasis to make the course integrated and purposeful.

In most ways, Purposeful TOK is nothing new. You can imagine me as a workshop leader running activities for teachers, getting everyone to highlight the key words of the aims, objectives, and marking criteria – and then calling for discussion on the questions that everyone can see coming! I apologize that, in a paper, I give a lot of assertive sentences, no anecdotes – and no coffee breaks.

My goal in writing should be clear. I love TOK, see its skills as urgently important in the world, and want all teachers at least to consider my argument that it is, when taught best, a course on critical thinking applicable to the world. We need it!

I hope the paper might also stimulate some discussion toward developing and refining the already-substantial support that TOK teachers are given by the IB in core documents. Although I consider the new subject guide to be a fine document taking TOK very good directions, I am critical of some of its shortcomings. Above all:

  • The concept of “perspectives” (central in the TOK aims and marking criteria, and, I would say, in IB educational goals) is given inadequate explanation and development.
  • Although ways of knowing are asserted in the guide to “underlie the methodology of the areas of knowledge”, the knowledge framework in its generic version ignores the ways of knowing, and in its subject-specific versions does not develop them consistently.

I hope that the ideas I offer, including both ideas aligned wholly with the new guide and criticism given gently and respectfully, will stir up thought on effectively connecting the syllabus with the TOK aims.  Those aims are, in my mind, the essential goals of an education that can hope to guide students to thoughtful engagement in the world.

PAPER ATTACHEDEileen Dombrowski Purposeful TOK