Linking IBDP Subjects with TOK

Posted on Dec 10, 2015 in TOK

No matter how good your academic program is the interdisciplinary links drawn between subjects can always be improved upon. Within the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, there are many natural connections at conceptual and approach levels with Theory of Knowledge positioned well to pull the entire program together. To that end, this week at the Grade 11 year level meeting, we began a series of conversations about linking IBDP subjects with TOK (Theory of Knowledge).

The focus of TOK is on knowledge: development, justification, certainty, value.

There are three main goals for these meetings:

  • The first is to help all teachers become familiar with and have a common vocabulary that is in alignment with the most current TOK course guide.
  • The second objective is to give us as a school an opportunity to re-visit the knowledge questions and concepts regarding TOK provided in the different subject guides to both identify those that we use and those that we could be using but are not.
  • The third objective is to provoke discussion where ideas can be shared about to improve student reflection upon knowledge.
linking IBDP Subjects with TOK

Knowledge Framework Overview – Click for Expanded View

Knowledge Framework Overview

In order to address the first objective we went over an overview of the knowledge framework so that teachers would be more familiar with how we give consideration to their disciplines within TOK. Part of the objective here was to share the approach we take so that teachers, as the true experts in their fields, can help students develop more in-depth understanding regarding the scope/application, methodology, language, historical development, and links to personal knowledge as they come up as a natural part of their course progression. A second objective was to help teachers who have been working within the IBDP for some time to become more familiar with how the course has changed; i.e. more focused on knowledge and much less oriented toward a knower in the center of the TOK paradigm.

Gone is the problematic relativism from emphasis on “the knower”.


Teacher’s Role with TOK Assessment Tasks

The next essential piece of information before going into specific approaches linking IBDP subjects with TOK was to take a brief look at the two final assessment tasks of the TOK course in light of the changes in emphasis. At YIS we primarily approach the presentation in the first year of the IBDP and the essay in the second so that the level of analysis the each task requires is as well matched as possible with student preparedness. A brief overview of both tasks was provided using the following two slides.

linking IBDP Subjects with TOK

TOK Tasks

linking IBDP Subjects with TOK

2016 Prescribed Titles

Next Steps Include a

• Review of the linking questions and concepts suggested by the IBO that we have implemented either implicitly or explicitly with an aim to make those more transparent for students.

• Critical look at the gaps between what we should be doing but are not to better integrate TOK into other subjects.

• Discussion of new ideas and possibilities to link individual subjects and TOK.

The Influence of Assessment

Lastly, as a friend and colleague insightfully pointed out, while everyone may be or eventually be on board with the aims and objectives of TOK and see how to connect their subject with the course, until it is somehow reflected in the assessments their students complete as part of the IBDP it will continue to be pushed aside in favor of more pressing topics that, in the currency of the IBDP, are more highly valued because they are assessed. This leaves us with a pedagogical prescribed title “Teachers value most the concepts that are reflected in the assessments students complete.” To what extent do you agree with this statement?

1 Comment

  1. Rebekah Madrid
    December 14, 2015

    This is an interesting issue and thanks for sharing this!

    If you look at the highest levels of each subject level exam criteria, it requires critical thinking, looking at counter arguments, and considering implications. This is TOK. I think a big part of getting teachers to “do” TOK in their class is realizing that the 7s are earned by students who are thinkers.


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