Building in Choice

Choice should form a central element of the way all students learn, in every subject and level, and TOK should be no exception. Where you can, you should give students a choice of what to focus their learning on, and given that TOK is not based on a fixed curriculum assessed by a final exam, the potential for doing this is considerably greater than in other subjects.

Begin each unit with a areas of knowledge and optional themes

A great way to begin each unit is to get the students to choose (either individually, or in groups) an area of knowledge or optional theme in which to consider the central idea or theme of your unit. Obviously, this works best if you are using question-based unit titles (see our section on this). To give a couple of examples:

  • If you are looking at a unit on perspectives, ask students to consider the extent to which knowledge in a chosen AOK is subject to the interpretations of different perspectives

  • If you are thinking about how knowledge develops over time, ask students to assess how much their chosen AOK has changed over time - and why

After they have worked on their own choice of AOK, they can exchange ideas with other individuals or groups in the class, and compare the different AOKs.

Multiple real-life situations to explore ideas and concepts

As we’ve looked at, TOK ideas and concepts should be supported via up-to-date and engaging real-life situations. But one of the things that will make them engaging is if the students themselves get to choose them. So if you can, offer students the chance to explore alternative RLSs in order to understand the idea being explored. Once again, get students to exchange their findings with other members of the class, so they are able to draw on more than one example to support their understanding.

Include plenty of choice in assessment tasks

When you design the assessment tasks for your students (such as practice presentations or essays, or journal-writing tasks) ensure that you give students a choice of questions or topics. Not only will this engage them in the task more fully, it will also provide them with better practice for the ‘real’ assessment tasks, in which selection is part of the process.

Allow students to choose their form of expression

Not only should you build in choice based on content, but consider also allowing students to express their ideas according to their own preferences. So if you’re setting them a question or research task, allow them to create a presentation, or write a blog, or a video - or whatever suits their talents and interests.

Make one of your units totally student-chosen

As well as incorporating choice on the level of individual lessons, think bigger by offering your students the chance to explore a whole unit based on what they have chosen to do.

For example, in the unit titles we looked at on this page, the last question - “What makes someone an expert knower?” - lends itself particularly well to this ‘elective’ approach to TOK, with students potentially able to choose any area of knowledge, and research what qualifies a knower as being ‘expert’ or not. Just as with small activities, an exchange of ideas after students have reached their conclusion is vital: for example, peer assessment of presentations based on this question would be a great way to deepen understanding, as would question and answer sessions.

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