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How to be Successful in TOK

Introductory Words of Wisdom

Theory of Knowledge is different from any class you have taken and will take at Dulwich College. The underlying notion is that you, along with everyone else (teacher and students), are responsible both as a learner and as a teacher. The emphasis is not on the course content that the teacher must disperse to you like a "fountain of truth", rather the content is simply the vehicle for which you are going to develop habits of mind. These habits of mind include:
1 Thinking critically about the topics that are put before you
2. Pondering open questions and evaluating the variety of possible responses through a systematic and refined internal dialogue
3. Writing coherently and cogently so that you can be clearly understood and you work to be a source of discussion for others
4. Discussing questions with your peers to collaboratively push each other to greater understanding for all

It is important that you approach each TOK lesson ready to engage with the material, your teacher and your peers. Only when we approach ideas and situations with an open mind, can we truly hope to grow as individuals and thinkers.

How do I Become Skilled in the Ways of TOK?

In order to achieve the above mentioned habits of mind for TOK, here are a few helpful approaches:

1. R_E_S_PECT
Disagreements happen almost every class in TOK so in order for is to function as a learning community, mutual respect is essential. While we will need to form judgments-to be human is to be judgmental-we must separate the person from the argument. There will be no gloating, no disparaging remarks, and definitely no name calling when interacting with classmates or the teacher. We can disagree with, but we can never discount, one another.

2. Openness and Tolerance
Our disagreements must be encouraged within an atmosphere of trust. This requires that we be open and honest without being hostile. When you hear a new idea, or a new way of looking at things, please attempt to keep any scorn out of your voice when you seek to clarify that newly heard perspective. No one is permitted to tell you what to think, while at the same time you are required to allow alternative interpretations to be voiced and explained. Without an open and tolerant mind set our classroom community will become stifled and negatively judgmental rather than a true learning environment.

3. Not Knowing and Understanding are OK
If another student or the teacher says something in class which you do not understand, it is your responsibility to ask that it be clarified. Expect, then, to be asked clarifying questions by both the teacher and other students as well. The goal is to grow together in our understanding and how help to push each other to think more clearly. If you already knew what you are going to learn, you would have already learned it.

4. Participation and Curiosity
There are times when all of us, including the teacher, find it more appropriate to sit and listen. This must be respected. When there are silences in class discussion (more of this in the next section), you need not feel discomfort or a need to fill the void. Silence allows us to ponder and consider our next comment before we make it. Your goal of participation is engagement; mentally and physically. You demonstrate this engagement by actively listening to your peers, writing thoughtfully during in-class writing, speaking during class discussions and completing all assignments in a complete and timely fashion. It is also important to be curious. Curiosity is to be respected in this class-especially yours but that of others as well. Behavior that indicates an honest curiosity is strongly encourage in TOK. Not only will your engagement play a role in your assessment for the term but it will also ensure that TOK class is exciting and fulfilling for all.

5. Discussion and Communication
A large part of the pedagogy (a fancy word for how we teach) of TOK is Socratic Seminar. The Socratic method will be used to introduce topics, as well as a form of formative and summative assessment. For more information on the Socratic Method, follow this link: Introduction to Socratic Discussions


Portions of the above were taken from IB TOK Subject Guide, 1989.