Simplifying the knowledge framework, entry level

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IB Theory of Knowledge soars over knowledge, dipping to see knowledge claims close-up and lifting into the sky for overviews of whole bodies of knowledge claims and the contours of different areas of study. Experienced teachers of TOK become comfortable with framing particular examples with general concepts at differing levels of generality, or grounding large concepts with particular examples, across all areas of knowledge. But do we risk leaving our students behind? What is a comfortable level of generality, and a comfortable level of language, for students as they enter discussions on areas of knowledge?

Although the usefulness of any approach depends on your own group of students, I suggest NOT using the TOK Guide’s knowledge framework at an entry level for student discussions. That framework is very useful for debriefing discussions and drawing comparisons at a later stage. However, for entering areas of knowledge with students, I think it’s a killer to open exploration: it looks too finished, definitive, and prescriptive. A sequence of headings, especially when diagrammed, appears closed rather than open – even when those headings do lead to questions.

I’d start discussion with students, instead, with questions – with questions that are ordinary and basic: what? why? how?  Throughout the TOK course, this simplified version of the Guide’s framework can be used to return, repeatedly, to fundamental knowledge questions we ask about each area of knowledge.  It is pitched at a very high level of generality, but the simplicity of the questions might make a TOK overview seem accessible.

Here’s a downloadable pdf of my simplified knowledge framework, in case you find it useful:  Dombrowski knowledge framework Whether it’s useful or not will depend — as ever — on your own sequence of ideas and your own group of students.


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