- High School
What do the periodic table, a teddy bear and an autobiography by Alexander Dubcek have in common? They are all examples of the everyday objects used by students in the ToK Exhibition to present a perspective on a “knowledge question.”
Who owns knowledge? What makes a good explanation? How can we distinguish between knowledge, belief, and opinion? These are few examples of the knowledge questions students explored in the recent ToK, i.e., the “Theory of Knowledge” exhibition.
Theory of Knowledge - Questioning Everything
The annual exhibition is part of the required course “Theory of Knowledge” that all students take in their first year of the IB Diploma Programme. “ToK is a course about critical thinking. It incorporates parts of philosophy, epistemology (the philosophical study of the nature, origin, and limits of human knowledge), rhetoric, and many other disciplines. It is about questioning everything - not to prove it "wrong,” but to understand why it might be accepted or considered "right,” says teacher Jeff Robidoux, one of two ToK teachers at SSIS.
“I think TOK is different from all my other courses. It is learning about learning, and you have to think for yourself and detach yourself from the very basic assumptions,” shares student Minh.
ToK Exhibition Moves Online
Ordinarily, the exhibition is held in person. However, last Spring, when first-year IB students would’ve held their exhibition it was postponed twice as a result of mandated online learning due to COVID. So, instead of postponing it again, the students, now in their second and final year of the IB Diploma Programme, presented their questions online.
To prepare their presentation for the exhibition, students selected one of 35 approved “knowledge questions” and three objects to help present an interpretation or perspective on the question they had chosen. The objects are used in ToK exhibitions to open a window into the nature of knowledge and the world around us.
Through individual Google Meets, attendees were able to explore the questions of their choosing. Despite being held virtually, or maybe thanks to the accessible format, the ToK exhibition drew many curious guests, some even as young as grade 3 who attended with their teacher.
Personalization of Knowledge
For ToK teacher Mr. Robidoux, one of the highlights of the ToK exhibition is the personalization of knowledge - “Seeing the students bring fresh perspectives to everyday objects and sharing those with an audience who might have their own interpretations is the most rewarding part.”
In examining the question “What is the relationship between personal experience and knowledge?” Minh compared how language and perspectives can vary between separate sources covering the same incident. For any event, she shares, there are a million tiny details. The stories we hear and the people we are with, contribute to how we see the world.
Another student, Youngbean, shared how ToK has made her a more well-rounded person. She’s found true value in learning how to see things from a different perspective, even if she doesn’t always agree.
And as these Seniors prepare to venture out into the world soon, the lessons they bring with them from their time in ToK are sure to serve them well.