IB Theory of knowledge


Nature of the Subject

The Theory of Knowledge (TOK) programme is central to the educational philosophy of the International Baccalaureate.  It challenges students to reflect critically on diverse ways of knowing and areas of knowledge, and to consider the role which knowledge plays in a global society.  It encourages students to become aware of themselves as thinkers, to become aware of the complexity of knowledge, and to recognise the need to act responsibly in an increasingly connected world.

As a thoughtful and purposeful enquiry into different ways of knowing, and into different kinds of knowledge, the TOK Programme is composed almost entirely of questions.  The most central of these is 'How do I, or how do we, know that a given assertion is true, or a given judgement is well grounded?'  Assertions or judgements of this sort are termed 'knowledge claims,' while the difficulties that arise in addressing these questions are the broad areas known as 'problems of knowledge.'  The programme entails the application of this central question to many different, yet interrelated topics.

The TOK Diagram

The following is a useful pictorial representation of the TOK Programme.


Because the programme is centred on student reflection and questioning, the diagram places the Knower (s), as individuals and as groups, at the centre.

Surrounding the Knower(s), four ways of Knowing are identified, which may permeate an exploration and interpretation of the world: the receipt of sensory stimuli through 'perception', affected, perhaps, by an emotional and spiritual dimension labelled as 'emotion', formulated and expressed through 'language', and shaped by attempts, through 'reason', to seek order and clarity.

Within the perimeter, Areas of knowledge are identified, which represent a classification of knowledge into subject areas, many of which the student pursues in the IB Diploma programme.  Six such subject areas are included: mathematics, natural sciences, human sciences, history, the arts and ethics.  No solid barriers, however, separates the Ways of Knowing and the Areas of Knowledge, because it can be maintained that the questions 'How do I know?" (pertaining to the Ways of Knowing) and 'What do I know?' (pertaining to the Areas of Knowledge) interact.

Assessment Outline

The assessment model in TOK comprises two components, both of which will be completed within the course.

Essay on a Prescribed Title (1,200 - 1,600 words).  One essay on a title chosen from a list of ten titles prescribed by the IBO for each examination session.

The Presentation (approximately 10 minutes per candidate).  One presentation to the class.  One written self-evaluation report, including: