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Prva gimnazija Varaždin

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Knowing about knowing

TOK is a course about critical thinking and inquiring into the process of knowing, rather than about learning a specific body of knowledge. It is a core element which all Diploma Programme students undertake and to which all schools are required to devote at least 100 hours of class time. TOK and the Diploma Programme subjects should support each other in the sense that they reference each other and share some common goals. The TOK course examines how we know what we claim to know. It does this by encouraging students to analyse knowledge claims and explore knowledge questions. A knowledge claim is the assertion that “I/we know X” or “I/we know how to Y”, or a statement about knowledge; a knowledge question is an open question about knowledge. A distinction between shared knowledge and personal knowledge is made in the TOK guide. This distinction is intended as a device to help teachers construct their TOK course and to help students explore the nature of knowledge.

The ways of knowing

While there are arguably many ways of knowing, the TOK course identifies eight specific ways of knowing (WOKs). They are language, sense perception, emotion, reason, imagination, faith, intuition, and memory. Students must explore a range of ways of knowing, and it is suggested that studying four of these eight in depth would be appropriate.

The WOKs have two roles in TOK:

they underlie the methodology of the areas of knowledge

they provide a basis for personal knowledge.

Discussion of WOKs will naturally occur in a TOK course when exploring how areas of knowledge operate. Since they rarely function in isolation, the TOK course should explore how WOKs work, and how they work together, both in the context of different areas of knowledge and in relation to the individual knower. This might be reflected in the way the TOK course is constructed. Teachers should consider the possibility of teaching WOKs in combination or as a natural result of considering the methods of areas of knowledge, rather than as separate units.

The areas of knowledge

Areas of knowledge are specific branches of knowledge, each of which can be seen to have a distinct nature and different methods of gaining knowledge. TOK distinguishes between eight areas of knowledge. They are mathematics, the natural sciences, the human sciences, the arts, history, ethics, religious knowledge systems, and indigenous knowledge systems. Students must explore a range of areas of knowledge, and it is suggested that studying six of these eight would be appropriate.

The knowledge framework is a device for exploring the areas of knowledge. It identifies the key characteristics of each area of knowledge by depicting each area as a complex system of five interacting components. This enables students to effectively compare and contrast different areas of knowledge and allows the possibility of a deeper exploration of the relationship between areas of knowledge and ways of knowing.


There are two assessment tasks in the TOK course: an essay and a presentation. The essay is externally assessed by the IB, and must be on any one of the six prescribed titles issued by the IB for each examination session. The maximum word limit for the essay is 1,600 words.

The presentation can be done individually or in a group, with a maximum group size of three. Approximately 10 minutes per presenter should be allowed, up to a maximum of approximately 30 minutes per group. Before the presentation each student must complete and submit a presentation planning document (TK/ PPD) available in the Handbook of procedures for the Diploma Programme. The TK/PPD is internally assessed alongside the presentation itself, and the form is used for external moderation.
                                                                                  (TOK Guide 2015)

In Prva gimnazija Varaždin TOK, as a core IB subject, is more intense incorporated last years within the other IB subject and in the life of the School in general. Throughout the school year TOK meetings were held where teachers and students had TOK presentations and discussed, in a TOK way, exploring many questions from different perspectives. We call it Let’s Talk TOK Live.

            The school has an internal Web page (Let’s Talk TOK) where teachers and students, along with TOK teacher, have possibility to discuss TOK issues across the curriculum and post their thoughts or videos. TOK teacher and Coordinator is included in the projects outside the school, like Project 4. The purpose is to drive attention on important elements of interdisciplinary thinking and different perspectives within the project, the important TOK elements included in the student’s Internal Assessment (TOK Presentation) and External Assessment (TOK essay).

Throughout the year, every month once, TOK Coordinator comes to a visit IB subject classes and spend two hours or more to discuss TOK topics and questions present in the textbooks, thus making a bridge between subject teachers and students, helping the both: teachers to be aware of the TOK elements in teaching their subject and students to synthetize the both.

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