Why ToK ?

Why do IB Dip students have to do ToK ?

This lesson is designed to be taught at the beginning of a ToK course. It assumes v.little formal ToK content knowledge.


  • Students understand the role of ToK in examining knowledge itself.
  • Students arrive at a set of commitments to ToK.


1. Asking questions.

Devise a process which works for your class which asks the following 2 questions:

a) What questions do you most want answers to ? (this could be divided into personal, and Areas of Knowledge)

b) If answered, which questions would most improve the world ?

This exercise could be done as an anonymous wall Padlet, or a whole class brainstorm etc – couture as appropriate for your context. The aim of this exercise is to demonstrate that knowledge production is essential for amelioration, and that the very nature of answers means that the most important things remain unanswered.

2. Students work in groups, give them a range of questions to investigate / formulate answers for. The questions should range from those which are apparently serious / academic to those which are apparently superficial / irrelevant. The aim here is to show that it is the prism of investigation and interpretation which accords the relevance, not the question itself.

Questions such as:

What is the radius of a black hole ? How do proteins synthesise on the membranes of cancerous cells ? How can we increase the efficiency of the desalination of seawater ? Have we reached peak oil ? Should language extinction concern us ? Why did more people vote in UK X Factor than in UK General Election ? Does the world need Ice Cream ? Why do people like Taylor Swift ? etc

As the groups feedback try to identify the WoKs & AoKs that they have used.

After feedback ask the students to rank the importance of the questions, and ask them to explain the reasons for their ranking.

Show them that ‘the importance’ of the questions depends upon the definition of importance, and the links made from the question through WoKs into AoKs. As such ToK is less about the content (knowledge), and more about the process of knowledge construction. Importance / relevance depends upon the process of knowledge construction rather than the knowledge itself.

3. Teacher presentation – at this point, I shortcut to an overview of why ToK is important. I show them a presentation which illustrates the following: (you could use this presentation)

Why do I ‘love ToK ?’

  • ToK is everything.
  • ToK binds together the elements of your IB Diploma, & help you to get a higher score.
  • Tok will help us to improve the world.
  • Tok will make you happier.

4. Pledges to ToK.

Ask students to list what they hope to gain from ToK.

Explain that ToK will only be a positive experience if students commit to put time and thought into it.

Ask students to write a personal pledge to ToK, based on their personal hopes. Store these pledges away somewhere which is easily accessible to both you and the student.


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