Supporting your TOK team

After you have successfully inducted your team into the subtleties and difficulties of TOK, the hardest job is done, but you will still need to support and oversee them as they deliver the course. This process should include the following:

Model good practice

The most important characteristic of an effective TOK leader is being available. This means always being contactable either in person or electronically in order to support your team as they deliver the course. Consider the following strategies and resources in order to achieve this:

  • Having a specific place in which you work at school, ideally a dedicated TOK office, but alternatively a TOK classroom, or deskspace within the staffroom

  • Ensuring that all members of the team have easy access to each other’s timetables so they know when conversations can happen (see below about meetings and collaboration time)

  • Set up email groups to send out messages quickly and efficiently, and be efficient about replying to anything from your team

  • Think about communicating as a group via WhatsApp, Messenger, Slack, or another communications app

Holding regular meetings

It’s incredibly important to meet regularly with your team in person. Although technology can help you stay in touch and deal with issues more efficiently than ever, nothing can replace actually spending face-to-face time with your team, so it’s vital that you have specific slots in your timetable for this to happen. The purpose of meetings can vary, and all heads of department have their own approach to running them, but here are a few aspects that could form the basis of department meetings:

  • Debriefing the week’s lessons, going over what went well, and what could be improved

  • Introducing lessons coming up, focusing on anything challenging that the students will encounter

  • Checking to see if specific concepts were understood by students

  • Ensuring that students are on track with the assessment tasks

Observing lessons

Your school will have its own policy on lesson observations, and the role they play in the process of staff appraisal. However, we advise you approach observations in the following way:

  • Encourage your team to have an ‘open-door’ approach to teaching TOK, and be comfortable about informal visits to their classrooms at any time

  • This is something you should reciprocate, encouraging your team to drop in to your own lessons whenever they want

  • Formal observations should never be imposed on teachers, and should be arranged at the convenience of your teachers

  • Formal observations should serve as specific a purpose as possible, with teachers identifying the areas they’d like help with

  • Formal observations should be well-documented (ideally filmed), with plenty of time given for feedback and discussion based on this afterwards

  • Follow-up observations should be carried out to measure the success of implementing feedback and suggestions; again, based primarily on the specific areas identified by the teacher

Encouraging collaboration

Distinct from ordinary meetings, it’s important that the team gets together regularly in order to jointly plan lessons, units, and the strategies used to oversee the assessment tasks. Finding time for collaboration can be tricky, so the following suggestions are offered:

  • The best time for collaboration is at the beginning of the academic year, the start of term, or during INSET days. TOK can often be overlooked by the planners; be ready to fight your corner, and insist on time for crafting your TOK course

  • Make full use of collaborative documents and the functionality of ManageBac to keep in touch with the ideas of your team electronically

  • Use Google Docs and Slides for sharing lesson resources, and encouraging your team to share feedback

Offering professional development opportunities

TOK is a tricky course to teach, which means that there are many opportunities to participate in online and in-person workshops and courses. These are organised in terms of the complexity of their content, from Category 1 (educators who are “new to the IB”), to Category 3 (educators looking to “strengthen your understanding and mastery of a particular subject”). You can find out more about PD organised directly by the IB here.

There are also many non-IB organisations and schools that are authorised to run IB PD courses, such as Ibicus (worldwide), UWC in the United States, and St Clare’s in the UK.

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