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What is Theory of Knowledge? 

Theory of Knowledge is a mandatory subject for all the IB Diploma students. If well executed, the subject can go a long way to give students the opportunity not to only learn about acquisition and application of knowledge but also a chance to score high grades.

We’ve covered different aspects of TOK on Help for Assessment, and we want to give you full access to our content hub in this section.

In other words, this guide includes everything you need to know about the Theory of Knowledge as a subject taught in the IB, from what TOK is to what is new in the subject.

So if you are considering of enrolling in the IB Diploma course, you should go through this guide front to back to learn and understand everything about Theory of Knowledge.

What is Theory of Knowledge?

The IB Theory of Knowledge is a Diploma Program that provides students with the opportunity to study and reflect on the nature of knowledge.

As a core component of the program, TOK focuses on examining how humans know what they claim to know. It thoughtfully delves into various ways of knowing and different kinds of knowledge.

Often evaluated in the form of questions, the TOK course gives students more insights on their ideological and personal assumptions and enables them to appreciate the diversity and value of cultural perspective.

What is the Purpose of TOK?

Students learn Theory of Knowledge to become more aware of the interpretative nature of knowledge, which sometime includes personal biases that are subject to retention, revision, or rejection.

Through the IB TOK course, students learn to accept, appreciate, and embrace the nature and role of knowledge in their culture, the culture of other people, and the culture of the whole world.

The course teaches students to think deeply on the diverse nature of knowledge and ways of knowing.

The new syllabus requires you to look at yourself as a thinker who is not only aware of but also ready to embrace the complexity of knowledge.

Since humans live in an interconnected yet uncertain world, TOK become significant as it helps student to recognize the need to act more responsibly and  apply knowledge with not only a greater awareness but also with credibility.

Theory of Knowledge Course Description

Theory of Knowledge doesn’t teach the differentiation between right and wrong. Rather, the focus is on a balanced approach to knowledge claims.

The course uses a combination of ways of knowing and areas of knowledge in no particular order.

  • Ways of Knowing: Focuses on how we gain knowledge of the world. Students also learn the benefits and drawbacks of each way of learning and understanding the world. While they are important in the Theory of Knowledge study, they aren’t mandatory in the new TOK course.
  • Areas of Knowledge: Focuses on the methods or nature of gaining knowledge and analyzes the types of claims each area makes and the issues it considers.

What’s New in Theory of Knowledge?

The new syllabus introduces the TOK Exhibition, which teachers will first assess in 2022. This replaces the TOK Presentation, which has been in the course since 2015.

The purpose of the exhibition isn’t any different from the presentation. Students will have the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to apply TOK thinking to Real Life Situations in and outside of their classrooms.

Nothing has changed as far as the Theory of Knowledge Essay is concerned. It’s still 1,600 words in length and takes a conceptual starting point.

Types of Knowledge in TOK

There are two types of knowledge in the TOK subject: personal and shared knowledge. Also, there’s a correlation between them.

1. Personal Knowledge

Personal knowledge is formed form a number of ways of knowing and it primarily depends on the experience of an individual.

In other words, personal knowledge comes from experiences, involvements, and practices bound to an individual’s circumstances such as biography, interest and values.

Personal knowledge is also known as procedural knowledge and applies in the case where an individual has to demonstrate how to do something.

For example, learning how to cook a Belgian waffle or tuning a grand piano would translate to procedural knowledge.

Even with a stronger linguistic component, personal knowledge can be quite difficult to communicate, as it’s not easy to share.

2. Shared Knowledge

Shared knowledge is not just a product of more than one person. It’s also systematic and highly structured.

It springs from contributions of individuals, with the possibility of amendments of these contributions. In other words, it’s possible to make a contribution to already existing knowledge.

Take Physics, for example. It’s a subject with hundreds of contributors and teams who come together to build on the already existing knowledge.

In shared knowledge, individual contributions are subject to replication of experimental results and peer reviews.

According to the IB’s Guide on TOK, shared knowledge is dynamic. Changes can be slow and incremental or sudden and dramatic depending on the frequency of change in the methods of inquiry, experimental results, or new developments of an underlying theory.

Knowledge Claims

The TOK subject teaches two types of claims:

  • Claims made either by individual knowers or within a given area of knowledge
  • Claims about knowledge justified using TOK tools, which examines the nature of knowledge

Knowledge Questions

Students have examine knowledge claims and to do that, they have to ask significant knowledge questions, which are at the very foundation of the Theory of Knowledge course. Coming up with relevant KQ can be quite a challenge. So we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to TOK knowledge questions to make your work easier.

One of the most important things about KQ is that instead of questioning things people “know”, they tend to be general and focused on how students can arrive at knowledge itself.

Get TOK Writing Help

Let’s be honest:

The IB program isn’t easy. However, it doesn’t always have to be complicated if you have the right guide. In addition to the links we’ve provided to help you learn more about TOK, you can also get help from our TOK Writing Team.