Evaluating Knowledge Claims

Posted on Sep 10, 2013 in Featured Content, TOK
I know this is a frog. Photo - A. Clark

I know this is a frog. Photo – A. Clark

As my year 1 Theory of Knowledge Class builds momentum I work with my students to identify Knowledge Claims within real life situations and begin to develop solid Knowledge Questions to challenge and examine those claims. For the uninitiated, knowledge claims are statements of apparent truth or fact related to a particular area of knowledge that are often, but not necessarily, supported by arguments and/or evidence. One of the points of TOK is to help students recognize the central claims in the world around them and challenge them effectively to further validate or invalidate them. This process should better inform their own understanding and perspective. As a teacher of TOK, this intellectual development is one of the most gratifying outcomes to see in students as a result of this course. While many of the examples in the following video are far from profound it is a great primer for students to begin to similarly identify “things that they know” so that sources of knowledge can be identified and explored.

Video: Why the World is Awesome

Following this video, students identify and write on the board their own statements of fact that they believe to be true.

“My parents are married”
“I have a biological sibling and an adopted sibling”
“I used to live in Singapore”
“Bats are good for ecosystems”
“Coffee is made of roasted beans”
“Murder is wrong” etc…

We then look at each of the statements and identify the source of knowledge that would most likely either have lead to the knowledge claim or be used to support the knowledge claim. While there are others, knowledge from 1) authority, 2) intuition, 3) reason, and 4) sense perception is a useful lens to cast over the list of claims to see which sources they are derived from. The 2013 Oxford TOK Course Companion guide has a very useful 2 page reading on page 219-20 entitled “Should I believe it? A guide to evaluating knowledge claims” that is worth reviewing with students.

Bluff the Listener

Bluff the Listener Design Process

Click for Larger Image

From there those of you that know me or frequently read my blog will already be familiar with, we use a segment of Bluff the Listener from NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me to: a) identify the knowledge claims in each of the 3 stories b) identify which source of knowledge they are most clearly based upon. c) evaluate using the “source, statements, self” criteria from the Course Companion. We finish the class by creating our own stories from the week’s news in small groups to try and fool the rest of the class, “Bluff the Listener” style. – AC

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