COVID-19 and TOK

IBO guidance and other help for completing TOK whilst 'normal' school is not happening

Image: Fewings, Nick. Unsplash, 2020.

The impact on learning opportunities

Although TOK is perhaps the least affected of the three core components by the current COVID-19 crisis, like all the other Diploma Programme (DP) courses, it has inevitably been impacted by the fact that students have had less face-to-face time with educators and peers, and learning online can be more difficult than being in school for both learners and teachers.

In addition, part of the life-blood of the course - students’ own experiences outside of school - is likely to be less rich and varied because of the way the pandemic has forced all of us to travel less, take part in fewer cultural events, and meet fewer people beyond our own homes.

Weighed against this, though, is the fact that the world is going through one of the most significant events in history, and the reactions of individuals, societies, and governments around the globe have ranged from the admirable to the execrable, and from the perspicacious to the obtuse. In this situation, the opportunities for using TOK to make sense of current affairs have never been greater.

In short, TOK has become even more of an essential part of the DP experience.

Practical considerations - the essay

The TOK essay has always been a challenging task, and overall it hasn’t been fundamentally changed by the current situation. However, it’s worth bearing in mind the following things:

  1. It’s crucial that your teachers introduce the essay to you in a clear and organized way, explaining to you how to choose a prescribed title, structure your essay, and construct effective arguments. If this introduction now takes place online, it’s still vital that you are able to ask plenty of questions, and are given sufficient feedback to make sure you are completely aware of how to take on the task.

  2. Research for the essay will almost certainly have to be carried out exclusively online, although for most students trips to the library or bookshop have already become a thing of the past.

  3. The way in which the essay writing process takes place is via three ‘interactions’ with your teacher, in which they help you to develop your essay. Again, if these take place online, it’s vital that you turn up on time, and view them in exactly the same way as if you were meeting in the same room as your teacher. On the plus side, meeting online allows you to record the meeting, so you’ll be able to check the content of your conversation.

Image: Engenland, Steiner. Unsplash, 2016.

Practical considerations - the IA

More affected by the situation is the TOK presentation - and, if schools are not functioning as normal by 2022 - the exhibition. This is because:

  1. If you are doing the presentation during lock-down, you’ll need to make sure that you meet regularly with the other members of your group (if you are doing the presentation with partners). This can sometimes be awkward to arrange, but is essential in order to create an effective presentation.

  2. Although you are not obliged to meet with your teacher to discuss your presentation, it’s a very good idea to do so. Again, if this has to be done online, be prepared to schedule it and attend it promptly.

  3. Delivering the presentation online means you probably won’t have an audience, and will again require you all to be well-versed with Zoom or another platform. Your teacher should be prepared to act the role of the audience, so discuss with them how this will work.

  4. It's still a little early to say how the situation will impact the exhibition, as the first cohort delivering this will do so in March 2022. We'll keep you updated on this when we get nearer this date.

Overall, for both the essay and IA, online coordination with both your teacher and fellow group-members is vital, so you’ll need to monitor and respond to emails and other forms of communication in order to ensure that things proceed at the required speed.