Theory of Knowledge Presentations

Article by: Joaquin P.

Edited by: Joaquin M.

Graphic by: Elena D.

The dust of the new academic year has finally settled, and school is fully back in session now that Battle of the Bearcats (BOB) has finished. However, for those who recently won BOB, another daunting task looms on the horizon: Theory of Knowledge (TOK) presentations held during the first week of October. Though students take varieties of course combinations to complete the IB, the core requirement includes the Theory of Knowledge course, of which the presentations are an essential part.

Theory of Knowledge is a course unique to the IB Diploma Programme. However, unlike other IB courses, it does not focus on just one area of knowledge. According to the IB Course Guide, “Theory of knowledge (TOK) is a course about critical thinking and inquiring into the process of knowing, rather than about learning a specific body of knowledge.” The guide continues, “TOK also provides coherence for the student, by linking academic subject areas as well as transcending them.” The course analyzes how one acquires knowledge, examines it, and disseminates it. It also encourages students to critically evaluate their own long-held thoughts and beliefs, and any information they
receive in the future.

TOK investigates the concept of knowledge itself through questions that focus on the various areas and ways of knowing. The presentations seniors will give, as well as an essay, focus on those types of questions. The presentations emphasize a real-life situation and expect students to apply TOK thinking to it. An example knowledge question is, “To what extent is it ethical to decide the guardianship of a child based on genetic or biological relation?” which is based on a case study of custody between a surrogate mother and birth parents. The presentation, like many others, uses the situation and TOK concepts to draw a conclusion with regards to the question.

The TOK presentation is considered by some to be one of the most stressful and demanding core components of the IB program due to the higher-order thinking it requires from students, as well as the fact that a script must be written and rehearsed early on. It is very hard to find a senior who is not stressed out about this task. “Start your script early,” stressed-out senior Sofia D. responded when asked for advice to future TOK students doing the presentations.

The school is also taking its own steps to alleviate this stress. Recognizing that senior year is already hectic and filled with other lengthy requirements, the juniors will give their TOK presentations second semester of this year. “Way to alleviate their workload. I’m jealous,” an anonymous senior who is “ready to pull [her] hair out” remarked. “We have to do this on top of last-minute IAs, college applications, and standardized test preparation. They have slightly less stress.” Though it took rigorous preparation to get this year’s TOK presentations ready, seniors are now looking forward to sharing their intellectual discoveries and keen TOK insights with the rest of the ISM community.