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

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)


Philosophy 4 Children

This week on Sunday and Monday I took part in Philosophy 4 Children training at our campus. One of our curriculum objectives in Secondary is embed the concepts of Theory of Knowledge (a core component in the IB Diploma Programme) horiztonally and vertically through the Secondary Curriculum. The TOK course is concerned with developing students conceptual understanding of how knowledge is produced and utilized across the subject areas. It challenges kids to think about how knowledge claims can be justified and supported.

At the same time, our primary colleagues have been exploring how Philosophy for Children (P4C) can be used to improve children’s abilities to reason, justify and explain their ideas about broad topics.

One of the benefits of working in a K-12 school is that we can combine PD between Primary and Secondary which allows for some eye opening sharing of teacher classroom practice. This training provided a good opportunity for me as a curriculum leader to not only learn about P4C as a concept and teaching tool, but also to see how it might enable Secondary teachers to get a better grip of managing dialogue and understanding of abstract concepts in the TOK course.

During the training we encountered a variety of warm up activities that can be used to get thinking and discussion going, as well as a full P4C inquiry which is a structured 11 step process for generating a conversation about an abstract question. I am not going to write up all the activities that we did in this post as I tweeted an ongoing thread throughout the training detailing all of the tasks we used.

The first observation I had was that the P4C model of inquiry is highly structured, providing a scaffold for all learners (teachers included) to work through their thinking about a topic. Following the 11 steps from a real stimulus to a discussion about an abstract concept allows even someone who is relatively unconfident in this area to succeed in generating thinking and discussion.

Commentators who were following my thread were quick to point out that int there experience, P4C training was some of the best training for TOK teaching that was available.

Indeed, it became immediately apparent to me that the 11 step full inquiry is a perfect model for generating knowledge questions, one of the key, and most difficult steps for TOK learners to get. Here is a method that can be directly applied in TOK classrooms to help students unpack knowledge questions from a stimulus or real life situation. With practice, I am confident that many teachers would be able to use this model to help them develop TOK thinking.

In other secondary subjects, this model can also help teachers and students to unpack TOK concepts related to their subject area. For example in natural sciences, some of the key TOK concepts relate to models, uncertainty, inductive and deductive reasoning, falsifiability among others. Using the NoS statements from the subject guides with specific real life examples like models used to predict climate change as a stimulus, this model could be directly applied in the IB Biology classroom to help teachers and their students generate knowledge questions from examples in their syllabus.

Recently, I have been thinking about how I can get my IB biology students more engaged with real world issues or deeper conceptual questions like “what is life?”. I have lots of ideas for stimuli but beyond creating a DART or questionnaire linked to the podcast, video or reading I was at a loss as to how to generate deep thinking and discussion.

This tool, I believe, has given me the key to help my students, think about and generate questions in response to stimuli, and provide a basis for fruitful discussion about the topic of interest.

For example, I am thinking about how I can really engage my students with the issue of climate change, so that as well as learning about it from the biology syllabus, the learning develops real meaning and significance for them so that they are inspired to run a CAS project around the issue etc. I had an idea of using some of the recent planet earth documentary as a stimulus but was unsure how to use it. Now, myself, the Lang B teachers and the geography teacher are collaboratively planning to address this topic in sequence and we will think about how we can bring the 11 steps inquiry into our planning.

I am convinced that P4C is an excellent foundation for TOK, both of which are programs that can help student think and question more deeply as well as become more engaged with big ideas and questions.

P4C is broad, it is concerned with thinking about any of a range of concepts that could be thought of as philosophical. TOK is narrower in focus, and, in a Venn diagram, would sit inside the concepts of P4C. P4C can be focussed on knowledge, TOK is concerned only with inquiry about the nature of knowledge. Both programs are concerned with linking the real world stimulus to the abstract theoretical concept. The P4C 11 step scaffold provides an excellent ladder to allow learners to move between the real and the abstract.