IB Theory of Knowledge
IB Core Week
What is TOK?
“The course does not declare. It invites.”
Ways of knowing
Areas of knowing
What is TOK?
This course introduces you to theories about the nature and
limitations of knowledge (basic epistemology) and provides practice in
determining meaning and validity of knowledge (critical thinking)
It is claimed to be a “flagship element” of the Diploma Programme,
and is the one course that all diploma candidates are required to take
TOK requires 100 hours of instruction, the completion of an externally
assessed essay of 1,200-1,600 words (from a choice of ten titles
prescribed by the IB), and an internally assessed presentation on the
candidate's chosen topic.
“knowing about knowing”
•the awareness that you have of your learning processes,
•the degree of control you are able to achieve in your
learning thanks to this awareness.
“In TOK discussions explore knowledge as a source of questions or topics for
exploration that rise to the surface when a spirit of inquiry is applied to the
process of knowledge itself”:
• its creation
Making you aware of the fact that you don’t “just know”, but that you know
from a particular perspective
It opens the way to recognising that others may have absorbed
different cultural, ideological or personal assumptions.
Exchange of ideas in a spirit of inquiry can contribute greatly to the
understanding envisaged in the IB’s mission statement that “other people,
with their differences, can also be right”.
Taking ideas seriously involves looking at them closely to understand why a person or
a group is putting them forward and what their grounds are for accepting them, no
matter who it may be
= assertion that something is the case.
claim of values
claim of religious belief
= the unarticulated givens, web of interconnected and
mutually reinforcing beliefs
cultural and ideological assumptions
own family experience
relative wealth or poverty
geographical spot on the planet
=grounds for accepting a knowledge claim
If you accept a particular claim, what further
claims are you likely to accept, and how are you
likely to act on their basis? What we accept
carries many implications in the looser sense- for
our attitudes, our sense of responsibility, our
Ways of knowing
=traits which knowers can possess and
through which they obtain and manipulate
Areas of knowledge
How do we decide between the competing
claims of different religious knowledge
Can there ever be a basis for religious
knowledge that is independent of the culture
that produces it?
Is atheism as much a matter of faith as
In what ways are sense perception and
memory crucial in constructing knowledge in
indigenous knowledge systems?
How do beliefs about the physical and
metaphysical world influence the pursuit of
knowledge in indigenous knowledge systems?
How do indigenous people use the concept of
respect to relate to their view of the world?
Part 1 External assessment (67% of the final mark)
Essay on a prescribed title (1,200-1,600 words)
Part 2 Internal assessment (33% of the final mark) The
presentation (10 mins per student)
Where the essay demands a high-level overview of knowledge
questions, the class presentation demands a close-up of a
knowledge in a real-life situation
Ethical judgments limit the methods available in the production of
knowledge in both the arts and the natural sciences. Discuss.
“Knowledge is nothing more than the systematic organisation of
facts.” Discuss this statement in relation to two areas of knowledge.
“The historian’s task is to understand the past; the human scientist, by
contrast, is looking to change the future.” To what extent is this true in
these areas of knowledge?
“A skeptic is one who is willing to question any knowledge claim,
asking for clarity in definition, consistency in logic and adequacy of
evidence” (adapted from Paul Kurtz, 1994). Evaluate this approach in
two areas of knowledge.
show thinking skills in the discussion of a prescribed title that may be
primary conceptual in nature
What evidence is there about how dinosaurs looked and behaved?
Demonstrations in China against the issue of a new history textbook
What makes a work of art?
demonstrate an understanding of knowledge at work in the world
The diploma point matrix
Points awarded for the externally assessed component, part 1, the essay on a prescribed title (40 points), and for the internally assessed component,
part 2, the presentation (20 points), are combined to give a total out of 60. The grade boundaries are then applied, to determine the band (A to E) to
which the student’s performance in TOK belongs.
The band descriptors are:
1. Work of an excellent standard
2. Work of a good standard
3. Work of a satisfactory standard
4. Work of a mediocre standard
5. Work of an elementary standard
What values does TOK give you?
help to make sense of what you encounter
discover and express your views on knowledge questions
share ideas with others and listen and learn from what others think
shape, enrich and deepen your thinking and understanding of
knowledge as a human construction
In the course, the aim is to help you become effective critical thinkers, with
the greater goal being to develop IB learners:
“internationally minded people who, recognising their common humanity
and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more
TOK students seek to find out how knowledge is
constructed using various ways of knowing and
by considering what constitutes knowledge in
various areas of knowledge. It is a fundamental
premise of TOK that personal knowledge should
not result from simple acceptance of knowledge
claims without sufficient inquiry and evidence.
TOK students examine thinking in order to
understand what constitutes good thinking and
also to recognize potential flaws in thought
processes. Students also think about what
thinking is required in a variety of situations, as
well as how thinking relates to emotional
processing and intuition.
TOK students need to be open-minded about
knowledge claims they encounter. They will learn not to
simply accept claims at face value, but to consider the
factual accuracy of any proposition and the potential
emotional, social or cognitive bias of any person making
a proposition. At the same time, they must learn to
balance skepticism with belief, and recognize that in
many situations there is a need to make decisions
without possessing absolute certainty.
TOK students must be willing to risk questioning what they
hold to be true. This means that they must be willing to risk
being wrong. When we are willing to accept being wrong then
we make progress towards correcting existing misconceptions
and increasing our knowledge and understanding of the world.
The word “judgment” is central in TOK, and students should be
prepared to take the risks involved in making judgments in
matters where the evidence does not definitively favour one
view or another, while at the same time acknowledging the
provisional nature of these judgments.
TOK students learn to reflect on the degree to
which their own and other people’s motivations,
beliefs, thought processes and emotional
reactions influence what they know and what
they are capable of knowing.
Dombrowski, Mackenzie, Clarke. 2010. IB Research Paper.
Perspectives on a curious subject: What is IB Theory of Knowledge all
Theory of knowledge guide. (First examinations 2015)