Theory of Knowledge: Class of 2022

What is TOK about?

The TOK course “at a glance” The TOK course provides students with an opportunity to explore and reflect on the nature of knowledge and the process of knowing. It is a core element of the DP to which schools are required to devote at least 100 hours of class time. In TOK, students reflect on the knowledge, beliefs and opinions that they have built up from their years of academic studies and their lives outside the classroom. The course is intended to be challenging and thought-provoking—as well as empowering—for students. The course centres on the exploration of knowledge questions, which are a key tool for both teachers and students. These are contestable questions about knowledge itself, such as: “What counts as good evidence for a claim?”, “Are some types of knowledge less open to interpretation than others?”, or “What constraints should there be on the pursuit of knowledge?”. While these questions may initially seem slightly intimidating, they become much more accessible when considered with reference to specific examples within the TOK course.

The TOK curriculum is made up of three deeply interconnected parts.

    • The core theme—Knowledge and the knower: This theme encourages students to reflect on themselves as knowers and thinkers, and to consider the different communities of knowers to which we belong.
    • Optional themes: This element provides an opportunity to take a more in-depth look at two themes of particular interest to teachers and students. The given themes all have a significant impact on the world today and play a key role in shaping people’s perspectives and identities. Teachers select two optional themes from a choice of five: knowledge and technology; knowledge and language; knowledge and politics; knowledge and religion; and knowledge and indigenous societies.
    • Areas of knowledge: The areas of knowledge (AOK) are specific branches of knowledge, each of which can be seen to have a distinct nature and sometimes use different methods of gaining knowledge. In TOK, students explore five compulsory areas of knowledge: history; the human sciences; the natural sciences; mathematics; and the arts.

To help teachers and students explore these three parts of the TOK curriculum, guidance and suggested knowledge questions are provided. These suggested knowledge questions are organized into a framework of four elements: scope, perspectives, methods and tools, and ethics. This “knowledge framework” encourages a deep exploration of each theme and AOK. Having these common elements run throughout the different parts of the curriculum also helps to unify the course and helps students to make effective connections and comparisons across the different themes and areas of knowledge.

The Assessments

ToK Exhibition

The TOK exhibition assesses the ability of the student to show how TOK manifests in the world around us. The exhibition is an internal assessment component; it is marked by the teacher and is externally moderated by the IB.This will occur in June of Grade 11 and will be practiced throughout the course

Here are is further guidance, examples and how the work will be assessed in the exhibition


ToK Essay

The TOK essay engages students in a more formal and sustained piece of writing in response to a title focused on the areas of knowledge. The essay is an external assessment component; it is marked by IB examiners. The essay must be a maximum of 1,600 words and must be on one of the six prescribed titles issued by the IB for each examination session in September of Grade 12. We will practice this during the whole course.

Here are is further guidance, examples and how the work will be assessed in the essay

Course Elements


Course elements

Minimum teaching hours

Core theme: Knowledge and the knower

This theme provides an opportunity for students to reflect on themselves as knowers and thinkers, and on the different communities of knowers to which we belong.


Optional themes

Students are required to study two optional themes from the following five options.

  • Knowledge and technology
  • Knowledge and language
  • Knowledge and politics
  • Knowledge and religion
  • Knowledge and indigenous societies

Areas of knowledge

Students are required to study the following five areas of knowledge.

  • History
  • The human sciences
  • The natural sciences
  • The arts
  • Mathematics



Students are required to complete two assessment tasks.

  • TOK exhibition (internally assessed)
  • TOK essay on a prescribed title (externally assessed)


Total minimum teaching hours


Knowledge Questions

How will you develop the knowledge, understanding and skills to complete these two parts?

Above is guidance on how your TOK journal is to be structured and some examples of particularly good ones.

ISS organises a TOK journal where you will be given opportunities to reflect on different aspects of your learning in TOK. This will form part of your overall e-portfolio and you will be given prompts regularly by your TOK teacher for reflection and discussions

Questioning knowledge-what does that mean?

Above is a link to student and teacher resources on the knowledge questions that will arrive our learning.

The TOK curriculum centres around the exploration of knowledge questions. Knowledge questions are crucial to effective TOK discussions as they help to make sure that students are focusing on questions about knowledge itself and about how we know things. Knowledge questions help students to move beyond subject-specific questions or specific real-life situations into the realm of TOK.

Knowledge questions are questions about knowledge—about how knowledge is produced, acquired, shared and used; what it is and what it is not; who has it and who does not; and who decides the answers to these questions. Instead of focusing on subject-specific content or specific examples, students focus on how knowledge is constructed and evaluated. In this sense, knowledge questions are distinct from many of the questions that students encounter in their other subjects.

Knowledge questions are contestable in that there are a number of plausible answers to them. Dealing with these open contestable questions is a key feature of TOK, although some students can find the lack of a single “right” answer slightly disorienting. In TOK discussions, it is perfectly conceivable that answers to a question may differ—what matters is that the analysis is thorough, accurate and effectively supported by examples and evidence.

Knowledge questions also draw on TOK concepts and terminology, rather than using subject-specific terminology or specific examples. Knowledge questions draw on central TOK concepts such as evidence, certainty, values, and interpretation.

Core theme: Knowledge and the knower

Link to Resources

Link to Optional Themes

How will you develop the knowledge, understanding and skills to complete these two parts?

The core theme—knowledge and the knower—provides an opportunity for students to reflect on what shapes their perspective as a knower, where their values come from, and how they make sense of, and navigate, the world around them.

Importantly, this theme does not focus exclusively on the individual knower. It also considers aspects such as the impact of the different communities of knowers to which we belong, and how knowledge is constructed, critically examined, evaluated and renewed by communities and individuals. This includes reflection on how our interactions with others and with the material world shape our knowledge.

This theme encourages careful and critical consideration of claims, provoking students to reflect on how we distinguish between claims that are contestable and claims that are not. It highlights the importance of not simply accepting claims at face value, and then explores how this can be reconciled with a recognition that many situations require us to make decisions without possessing absolute certainty.

The core theme has been explicitly designed to provide rich opportunities for teachers and students to make links to the IB learner profile. Students are encouraged to consider both the power and the limitations of the tools that they have at their disposal as knowers and thinkers, and to become more aware of their own biases and assumptions. They could also consider what it really means to be open-minded or consider the importance of caring about how knowledge is used and controlled.

Academic Honesty

Media Resources

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