Integrating TOK into the IBDP

A summary of my week hosting #DPChat focussing on the integration of TOK into the rest of the IBDP.

With much thanks to the many educators who got online and joined the discussion that week and provided the ideas that I have collated here. These are people to follow on Twitter:

@tuckbarrows @alexbclearning @agudteach @simunderhill
@melloluiz2 @natalie_carman @jdesegonzac @soloelsie
@ian_huffaker @richard_royal @malikah_sheriff @AdrianvWJ
@JungnitschM @UzayAshton @steppescience @Elfdaws


The general consensus was that TOK integration is thought to be important for furthering students understanding of the subjects they are studying and also for helping students inquire more meaningfully about their subjects. A focus on TOK in subject groups enables concept centered and inquiry focussed teaching.

The need to justify ideas and insights is central to most classes and that integrating TOK terminology into our lessons on justification presents a great opportunity.

DP teachers need to understand they’re more than single subject specialists. Too many DP teachers see themselves as “just X” and separate themselves from TOK.

Teachers cannot understand TOK any better than the students if they have had no specific training on it. They think it is the subject whenever a problem is debated. So to use GMO in foods or not becomes a TOK link. This is NOT TOK and saying this is unhelpful.

Ways to integrate TOK

  • Train the faculty on TOK. The Cat 3 “TOK for subject teachers” is a great way to do this when deployed as an in school workshop.
  • Link TOK to CAS by asking TOK teachers to explain and discuss early in the DP year the term “ethics” in context and how this knowledge can be applied by students when reflecting on one of the CAS learning outcomes: “consider the ethics of choices and decisions”.
  • Collectively brainstorm the essay titles with the DP teachers. Can be conducted informally and allows for rich discussion. Insights from different subjects can also help the advice we give students.
  • During whole faculty  time, create an opportunity for DP subject teams to complete a blank template for their AOK’s knowledge framework. Promotes great discussions and helps Ts to learn about TOK reqs.
  • Carve out common planning time for TOK teachers and subject teachers. Have open conversations and invite staff into your classes is a great way to start a conversation.
  • Have a small TOK icon to signpost RLSs and TOK concepts in student materials in other classes- this is a visual reminder for all of us that there is potential for making TOK connections which we flesh out together in class.
  • Concept based teaching is one good way to incorporate more TOK into lessons. I also ask my students what they are currently studying in TOK & try to build lessons around that. Good way to get our kiddos involved, too.

Resources

The advent of educational genomics?

One of the first overseas school trips I accompanied was to the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference. Looking back, I feel immensely privileged to have been able to work in a school that supported giving students in year 12 the opportunity to visit a world leading scientific conference.

Most of the material was way above the heads of even these academic high achievers, however I could see the value for them in pure inspiration. For many kids the days contained many lightbulb moments. Kids would be super charged with ideas that, while they may not have understood all the details, they could see how they connected to what they were learning in school. These were certainly intellectually high challenge events for a 17yo.

I remember, as an accompanying teacher, feeling like I was undergoing solid subject specific CPD and many of the workshops that I attended as a Masters-degree holding biologist were concerned with a topic known a pharmacogenomics. This was 2009, the Human Genome Project had concluded four years earlier and there was much discussion about the applications of this research.

Pharmacogenomics holds, crudely, the promise that essentially, one day, we will be able to have our individual DNA sequence read quickly, in a GPs surgery, and drugs tailored to our particular genome. That medicine can be tailored to us so that we all get treatments that are most effective for each of us individually.

There is no doubt that this is the way that medicine is moving, albeit slowly and it is likely that if the light’s don’t go out on civilisation we will see some version of this in the next 100 years.

Reading Robert Plomin’s Blueprint it was striking to read a psychologist begin to explain how 50% of the variance of intelligence within a population can be explained by genetics. This means that the biggest, stable, correlation of educational outcomes is with the DNA within an individuals genome. Plomin goes on to explain that the shared environmental influence of children attending the same school and growing up in the same family accounts for only 20% of the variance in school achievement (and only 10% at university).

This claim begs the question as to what are the implications for education if genetics is the best predictor of educational success?

As  Plomin is keen to stress these predictions are probabilistic and not fatalistic. Just because genetics is accounts for 50% of the variance of educational outcomes, this does not mean that kids with the “right” genetic mix are pre-determined to do well, just that, on average, they will. He argues for going with the grain of genetics, and, in the case of parenting, working in a way that exposes children to opportunity but develops children alongside what they appear to be interested in.

I found many of these ideas fascinating and I am left with the question – will we soon be in the time of educational genomics? Will we be able to sequence our DNA and from the information have an insight into our psychology in such a way that we can tailor instruction to be optimal for us?

I suspect that the differences in the DNA and psychological make up in the 1st and 2nd standard deviations of the population will be so small as to make tailoring of instruction as effectively meaningless. The fact is, that children need, for a host of reasons, to be educated communally, and this creates a whole host of issues with regards to the personalisation of education.

Still it is an interesting idea..

What films do TOK teachers recommend?

At the start of this year, a colleague and I joked about starting a Films for TOK Cocurricular/ExtraCurricular activity, and that got me thinking – what films would TOK teachers recommend we watch. So I went back to the facebook group and asked the questions.

The list below summarises their answers.

Download (DOCX, 14KB)


What books do TOK teachers recommend?

Just before the end of the last academic year I asked the following question on the facebook TOK teachers chat group:

The post sparked quite a few responses which I have typed up and linked to amazon. The list was:

Download (PDF, 202KB)


Curriculum Coherence: TOK & P4C concept lightbulbs

Today was the first day of the new academic year with students after a week of inset training.

Last week we had a whole secondary training on TOK for subject teachers which was the final part of training in our work towards curriculum coherence using TOK.

To begin to bring about a coherent curriculum we have decided to look at ways that TOK (Theory of Knowledge) can act as a joint between different subjects. This could be pursued in a variety of ways:

  1. Developing horizontal links between TOK and subjects within particular year levels.
  2. Developing vertical links by embedding TOK lower down the school:
    1. through form time activities
    2. through links to curriculum content in MYP and GCSE
  3. Inculcating conceptual ways of thinking within members of the teaching team over time.
  4. Inculcating thinking routines, moves and steps as techniques that learners of all ages can use to think through problems

Last year we began this process by learning about Philosophy for Communities (P4C) where we learned a suite of techniques that can be used to open up a classroom to dialogic teaching.

We now unpacked what TOK is with the aim of helping all teachers in the secondary understand a little more about what this strange subject is all about and help them get over their “Feary of knowledge”. We hope that this will encourage all our team to be a little more daring in trying to link to TOK in their lessons or plan to present their content in a way that is more exposed to uncertainty and therefore debate. This isn’t something that has to happen all the time but occasionally it will provide opportunity for students to reflect, discuss and debate.

To that end I updated the P4C concept lightbulbs (used in the P4C full inquiry method) to include terms more suited to a TOK classroom and I also weighted it a little more to the science classroom as that is one that I work. These lightbulbs will allow DP teachers to use the P4C inquiry model to open up discussion about the nature of knowledge with their students. What do you think? Can you add any more concepts?

Download (PDF, 600KB)