The Theory of Knowledge, or TOK as it is commonly known, deals with understanding what it means to “know”. Rather than studying a particular topic, TOK seeks to pursue more conceptual ideas of what it takes to acquire knowledge and how to apply it to real-world settings. TOK is strongly associated with epistemology. A branch of philosophy, epistemology studies the nature of knowledge, belief, and truth. TOK teaches students to reflect on areas of knowledge and how to question that knowledge.

How is TOK structured?

As a thoughtful and determined investigation into different forms of knowledge and about different types of knowledge, TOK is composed almost entirely of questions. The most central of these is “How do we know?”, While other questions include: What counts as evidence for X? How do we judge which is the best model of Y? Through discussions of these and other questions, students gain a greater awareness of their personal and ideological assumptions, as well as develop an appreciation for the diversity and richness of cultural perspectives.

What is the meaning of TOK?

TOK aims to educate students of the interpretive nature of knowledge, including personal ideological biases, whether these biases are retained, revised, or rejected. It offers students and their teachers the opportunity to:

  • Critically reflect on various forms of knowledge and areas of knowledge
  • Consider the role and nature of knowledge in your own culture, in the cultures of others, and in the world at large.
  • In addition, TdC encourages students to:
  • Be aware of themselves as thinkers, encouraging them to become more familiar with the complexity of knowledge.
  • TOK also provides consistency for the student, by linking academic areas and transcending them.

Therefore, it demonstrates the ways in which the student can apply their knowledge with greater awareness and credibility. Critical analysis is integrated into all parts of a TOK course. Other objectives include:

  • Raise awareness about how communities and their individuals develop knowledge
  • Develop awareness and enthusiasm for diversity of cultural perspectives and mindsets.
  • Increase awareness of personal ideological assumptions and how to critically analyze them.
  • Assess the responsibility that knowledge entails

In a world where sources of information are plentiful, TOK can provide students with the tools they need to sift through knowledge and identify truth. Basically, a student who has been through a TOK class should ask himself: How do we know? What counts as evidence of X? How do we judge which is the best X model?

Know about knowing

Cuando alguien hace una afirmación sobre lo que cree que sabe, esto se conoce como una “afirmación de conocimiento”. El trabajo de un estudiante de TdC es examinar exactamente cómo esa persona puede decir que lo sabe. Cuando se trata de tener éxito en TdC, primero debe ser consciente del tipo de afirmación de conocimiento que se está haciendo. Igualmente una afirmación de conocimiento sobre cómo es el mundo o cómo funciona. Conocidas como afirmaciones de primer orden, son afirmaciones realizadas dentro de un área de conocimiento. Se refieren principalmente a áreas temáticas individuales. Una afirmación de conocimiento sobre la naturaleza del conocimiento en sí. Denominadas afirmaciones de segundo orden, estas son afirmaciones de conocimiento que se examinan en TdC y analizan la esencia y el estado de diferentes áreas y formas de conocimiento.

Knowledge Questions

To scrutinize a knowledge claim, students are tasked with asking knowledge probing questions. These questions are at the core of the TOK course. Identifying and proposing knowledge questions is essential for success. There are many ingredients to a good knowledge question, but fundamentally there are no ingredients to question something in particular that people “know”.

Shared knowledge and personal knowledge


Shared knowledge

This refers to the accumulation of many bodies of knowledge, each of which is shared by many people at the same time. These are constantly challenged and contributed by individuals, but are not dependent on the actions of any one individual. There is already a core of knowledge around a topic; it can be checked and modified or remain the same. The contributions of individuals add new knowledge, but without them, that body of knowledge would still exist.

Personal knowledge

Personal knowledge, which is gained through experience, practice, and a variety of circumstances, is the fabric of any individual’s perspective. This could include academic work such as individual research or information learned through formal education, but personal knowledge is also infused with what someone has learned beyond academia. This includes skills, like playing the piano, or things you have learned about life through everyday experiences. Contributing to your personal knowledge means everything from your interests and values to your location and age.

Aspects to consider to carry out a Survey

Ways of knowing in TOK

Ways of knowing explore the different methods we use to acquire knowledge and then process it. TOK divides our ways of knowing into eight aspects: sense of perception, emotion, language, reason, imagination, faith, intuition and memory TOK challenges students to explore the ways of knowing, both individually and as a network to acquire knowledge. Sometimes they can work together to generate positive insights. In other cases, the forms of knowledge will be in direct conflict with each other, reason and faith being an example.

Assessment in TOK

With the ToC, the following objectives are expected to be achieved:

  • Formulate, analyze and search to answer knowledge questions.
  • Understand how knowledge areas generate knowledge.
  • Consider how ways of knowing contribute to shared and personal knowledge.
  • Identify and analyze how knowledge claims are justified.
  • Show awareness and understanding of the existence of different perspectives and how they relate to yours.
  • Study the connections between knowledge statements and knowledge questions, forms of knowledge and areas of knowledge.
  • Show understanding of how the TOK framework can be applied to a real-world example

Knowledge areas in TOK

When imagining a tree where knowledge forms the trunk, the knowledge areas represent eight different branches. Each branch contains a unique knowledge topic. The eight knowledge areas are: Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Human Sciences, Art, History, Ethics, Religious Knowledge Systems and other Knowledge Systems. The key is to critically question the way in which knowledge is acquired, asking the same questions posed earlier: “How do we know?”, “What counts as evidence?” and so. An example could apply to the natural sciences. Reason is recognized as the way of knowing in this field, but are there other ways of knowing in the natural sciences?

You may also be interested in: Philosophy of Science

Theory of Knowledge or TOK

Theory of Knowledge or TOK

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