Marketing TOK to Teachers

In theory, all IB Diploma teachers are also TOK teachers, and the course should be drawn on and explored in each and every DP class. In practice, there are few non-TOK teachers who could properly explain what a knowledge question is, list the different themes and areas of knowledge, or describe the features of an effective real-life situation. Teachers will likely be aware that students write an essay in TOK, and deliver a presentation, but they may have little understanding of how these assessment tasks are marked, or how they might assist in supporting students carrying them out.

TOK is unfamiliar, conceptually challenging, nebulous, and can involve (although doesn’t have to) extra planning and work for teachers. Part of the job a TOK coordinator is to persuade teachers it’s worth the bother, and try to show them that the bother isn’t too onerous. Below we look at how you can do this.

Note: This section discusses what to market to teachers, rather than how to market it; you can find a consideration of the methods of delivery in other sections, such as Keeping staff in the loop, and Drafting non-TOK teachers.

TOK is thought-provoking and fun

The TOK course poses a series of compelling questions which should not only engage your students, but draw your teachers in as well. Publicise key questions that you are covering, in order to elicit responses from your faculty, and provide students with a wider range of perspectives. These questions might include:

  • How and why does knowledge change over time?

  • What makes an expert knower?

  • How does our understanding of the world depend on the way it is represented?

  • Do our perspectives shape the way we view the world?

  • How do we know when to trust our knowledge of the world?

Drawing on TOK ideas and concepts enhances other subjects

TOK will only serve to enrich and deepen a study of each subject, making lessons more stimulating, and therefore successful. Offer teachers examples of concepts that are covered in TOK, that could be explored in more detail within their classes. For example:

  • The role of perspectives in defining our historical knowledge

  • The extent to which mathematical objectivity means the subject is not prone to development

  • The extent to which science’s ‘provisional’ nature means it is always subject to development

  • Who is qualified to make judgements about art, music, film, and literature

  • Whether accurate predictions can really be offered in economics

  • How psychological theories can be properly tested

  • Whether the language we speak defines the way we view and understand the world

Including TOK doesn’t have to involve extra work

In addition to stressing that including TOK will make teachers’ lives easier because it will help to make their classes more effective, it’s important to reassure teachers that including TOK in their lessons doesn’t mean they have to put in more work. Consider offering the following arguments and support:

  • The likelihood is that they are already dealing with TOK ideas; all that is probably required is for them to make this more explicit. When teachers are shown the key elements of TOK, they will almost certainly realise, “I’m already doing that!”, and will appreciate a clearer framework in which to express their ideas

  • If they want to promote more TOK discussion in their class, help by providing them with regular real life situations and knowledge questions, which can be linked to what you are currently covering in TOK. These could come from the TOK newsletter, from the emails you use to update staff on what’s happening in TOK, or just from conversations you have in the staffroom

  • If teachers tell you that they’d like to include more TOK, but simply aren’t sure how to do it - and haven’t got the time to figure it out - offer to drop into their lessons to do small (10 minute) segments of TOK. You can make this either closed-ended activity, or set it up for the teacher to continue

A TOK approach can support the two other core components

Done properly, both the EE and CAS should link very closely to TOK (and vice versa). Explain to teachers who act as EE supervisors, or help run the CAS course, that they should ‘think TOK’ when it comes to writing reflections. For example:

  • How has the experience changed their perspective?

  • How has their knowledge of a topic or field developed as a result of their work?

  • Do they feel that an empirical (experiential) or rational approach to finding out about the world is more effective?

  • What is the relationship between increasing one’s understanding of something, and being able to communicate that understanding to others?

University applications can be strengthened by referring to TOK

All teachers share the aim of ensuring their students end up in a university of their choice, studying a course that will help them to forge their future careers. TOK is an immensely appealing element of a student’s resume when they come to apply for university, as we discussed in our integrating TOK section, so it is definitely worth stressing this to other teachers as you seek to get them on board.

The aims of TOK have never been more important

We live in a world of unprecedented information overload, in which public figures claim that ‘truth isn’t truth’, and the media is widely accused - sometimes justifiably, sometimes definitely not - of being purveyors of ‘fake news’.

Students can be forgiven for thinking that this environment is confusing, hostile, and insecure, and wondering what information they should trust to try to make sense of reality. TOK is arguably the best course in the world to help them prepare for this challenge, and will help them not only to think critically about events and issues, but also develop more tolerance, and creativity. We explore these aims, and skills required to achieve them, here.

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