In my own school TOK tends fizzle by the very beginning of April of the Senior Year—by consensus of the teaching team, and a nod from the Principal—as soon as the IA oral presentations are done. To a large degree the orals themselves are a worthy culmination of the TOK experience. The students delivering orals on the day are de facto responsible for content, the facilitation of emergent questions and some whole class discussions. Individual creativity, originality and largesse are very much encouraged in the presentations, so there is no sense of anti-climax. That said, I do not just stop the course abruptly.
Ending a TOK course with ritual aplomb is just as important as a good beginning. Here is what I usually do:
- View a nostalgic slideshow: evoking our "Greatest Hits" over the two years.
- Revisit some of the bold objectives declared at the beginning of the course
- Students complete a college-style, anonymous teacher/course evaluation feedback instrument.
- Declare: “This is where the story stops this time…”
TOK GREATEST HITS SLIDE SHOW
COMPLETING THE CIRCLE: Revisiting
TOK objectives FROM THE STAR OF THE COURSE
Here are some of the ideas and claims made during the introductory weeks of the TOK course. Without reiterating everything doggedly, it is worth revisiting some of the key ideas as they arise naturally during the Nostalgia Slideshow or the very last TOK session.
- Understanding is deep learning that is built over time.
- Strange as it seems, a good deal of understanding seems to be reconstructed in the moment, on the fly, based on fragmentary cues and half remembered contexts. A lot of everyday experience feels like this.
- The learning quest requires a kind of safe stress. Nobody ever “changed their mind” without some discomfort.
- TOK is all about asking questions and daring to know. It is subversive in the sense that it discourages swallowing piecemeal conventional ideas of the day or the prepackaged opinions of peers or authority figures.
- The TOK spirit is the opposite of feeling intimidated or bewildered by knowledge and ideas that always seem to be owned by somebody else. No work of art, literature or music, scientific announcement, historic controversy, mathematical argument, esoteric vocabulary, ethical conundrum or political complexity is forever off limits.
- It doesn’t matter how smart you thought you might have been compared to others in the room What mattered was your own participation in the questioning and the discussions and the gradual deepening your own understandings.
- The students are far bigger than any program―even a great one like the IB Diploma!
- When the dust clears on the particularities of TOK, what will count are a deeply rooted capacity for critical thought and the confidence to act―to be a player in the real world and actually make some kind of difference.
- Awareness of oneself entails better understanding of the differing perspectives of others. We are each of us unique. This uniqueness arises from a common human predicament. We are embodied knowers, contingent in time and space, embedded in specific linguistic, cultural and historic contexts. It remains as urgent as ever to adopt a pluralistic attitude which recognizes the richness of differing, sometimes parallel perspectives and assumptions.