What a TOK presentation looks like?

Check out this video to get an idea of TOK presentation.

This is what the examiners said about it.
  • The “talk show” format works well
  • It is engaging and allows the presentation of opposing points of view
  • The topic is relevant to the student
  • The argument–counter-argument pairing shows some critical thinking
  • Ways of knowing and areas of knowledge, for example, language, perception, history and ethics, are mentioned
  • It is difficult for the knowledge issues to be addressed explicitly, since this might mean stepping out of the role-play
  • There is no evaluation of relative strengths of the arguments on either side.
  • There is no consideration of any implications in related areas
  • Freedom of choice of the individual is given priority without any justification
  • Ethical judgments are not linked to underlying principleor
  • Some ideas are not developed
Comments by criterion
A: Identification of knowledge issue
  • A number of knowledge issues touched upon but not highlighted. How do we know the connection between a stimulus (in this case playing video games) and behaviour? How do we know where to draw the line between individual freedoms and the interests of the community? (3–4 points)
B: Treatment of knowledge issues
  • There is no real treatment of these issues once they have been identified.
  • There is no evaluation of claims and counter-claims (1–2 points)
C: Knower’s perspective
  • The topic is motivated at the beginning and there is a clear personal involvement in the method of presenting the arguments and the examples chosen.
  • The links with the local situation (for example, the school) demonstrate the significance of the knowledge issues discussed. (3–4 points)
D: Connections
  • There are tenuous links to history and ethics.
  • There is an interesting link to language and its role in ethics that is not fully explored.
  • There is a good connection to reason and the direction of causality, acknowledging that “all killers played video games” is not the same as “all video gamers killed”. (3–4 points)
Total 10–14 points
Hints for future presentations
  • There must be more treatment of knowledge issues
  • The presenters should take the time to fully develop the claims and arguments
  • Some thought could also be given to focusing on a more limited number of knowledge issues, treated in more depth.
  • There should be a clear evaluation of the arguments presented.
  • The students need not come to a definitive conclusion but there should be a sense that the presentation has helped the investigation to progress.
  • Encourage more audience participation

How to do a TOK presentation?

A TOK presentation is another important component of this course. One third of your final grade is based on the presentation, so you should really try your best.

This year we have to film all our presentations and send the films to the IB for assessment, so it is particularly important that we have high quality presentations. What would a really good presentation be like?

To get an idea of this we will firstly look at the assessment criteria. In my next post I will show you some video samples produced by IBO and comment them. But now let's look at the assessment criteria of presentations.

Your presentation will be assessed using four different criteria:

  1. Identification of knowledge issues

    An excellent presentation identifies a knowledge issue that is clearly relevant to the real life situation/contemporary problem

    Lets imagine you would want to a presentation on Is globalisation ethical? How could you link such a 'big' topic to a real life situation?

    You could start by researching the idea of globalisation and ethical debate around it. In about 2 minutes I was able to find an interesting New York Times article through news.google.com regarding rights and wrongs of globalisation. This contains real life information about globalisation, such as what people in different countries think about it.

  2. Treatment of knowledge issues.

    An excellent presentation shows a good understanding of knowledge issues in the context of real life situation/contemporary problem

    Does globalisation have anything to do with your life or is it just a big concept?

    Let's think about it.

    Did you buy ice coffee today in Flintstones? If you did you supported a multinational coffee company which most likely pays peanuts to coffee farmers in Colombia. That was an ethical decision on your part with global impact although you were just wanted to have a cup of ice coffee. Same logic applies to many other products you consume.

    Tell me what globalisation and ethics mean for your life. Tell me what they mean to those farmers in Colombia. Tell me what they mean to that big multinational company? Give me your interpretations. Get it?

  3. Knower's perspective

    To get an excellent grade you should provide arguments and examples, show an individual approach and demonstrate why your presentation topic is significant.

    Again your personal voice is being emphasised. You should actually try to argue something. A presentation that just lists pros and cons of globalisation is unlikely to get a very high grade. What do you think? Are some examples of globalisation you have covered in your presentation, in you mind, right or wrong. Tell me why you think they are right or wrong?

    Select examples that are interesting, topical, relevant to you. Talk about a Julio who is a 14 year old boy working on coffee plantation, not only sales figures of Nestle and some fair trade companies. Give a story a face.

    So what? What is the significance of me knowing all this about coffee trade? So what if child labour is used in China to produce Nike shoes I am wearing? Can you make a connection? Your purchase may be supporting a company that is expoiting someone somewhere. Does this make you think twice about consuming these products ... how about buying fair trade coffee instead?

  4. Connections

    An excellent presentation shows how the question (and I do want your presentation titles to be questions!) could be approached from different perspectives and considered their implications in related area.

    The ethics of globalisation topic could, for example, be approached from perspectives of the individual farmer, the consumer, the economic development.

    An important part of the connections section is that you link your presentation to knowledge issues i.e. ask yourself: how can we know? is this knowledge reliable? In this case of coffee trade issue ... am I just believing fair trade propaganda, or is there really something to argument that big coffee multinationals are exploiting farmers? Should I instead believe the multinationals when they claim they are providing job opportunities and creating wealth by their investments?

    Be critical about the sources of information you use. Tell where you got the information and if in your mind this information is trustworthy.

    When you draw your conclusions try to justify your claims as well as you can. Try to make your arugment such that it mostly appeals to reason, i.e. it makes sense to believe what you are saying.

How to write a TOK essay?

As you know 2/3 of your final TOK grade is based on writing an essay on one of the prescribed topics. You want to get the best possible grade obviously, and therefore it is important to write a killer essay. How do you go about doing that?

The most important thing about TOK essay is personal voice; it really should be your essay, a piece of evidence of your thinking. You should really try to answer the question as honestly as you can. Don't just try to sound smart with complicated words.

IB gives us a lot of hints about what the essay should be like. We will firstly look at the examiners' report. In 2007 report they give us following advice.

  • An introduction should not reiterate the prescribed title in detail; nor should it spell out in great detail the exact course of an essay. Introductions should, instead, show a sense of what the question is about and provide an indication of the direction chosen.

    Some of the more sophisticated essays used a specific example in the introduction to highlight an issue/topic and then returned to the example in the conclusion to show what progress had been made.

  • The strongest conclusions do not simply reiterate the main points of the essay, but instead put the findings into context and take a broader perspective on the significance of the issue.

  • Some students had good TOK points in individual paragraphs, but did not manage to make them cohere. Attention to the narrative flow through an essay was often lacking, and further guidance from teachers in this area is advised.

  • Over-reliance on rhetorical questions is to be avoided.
So now we know it. I have sometimes in the past given advice what the introduction, body and the conclusion should be like, by way of saying that this is what they could look like. Please do not take my examples so seriously that it starts to interfere with you personal voice.

Another important thing about TOK essays is that when you think of examples, taken from different Areas of Knowledge and your own experience; try to think of something that is original and topical. Check out the BBC website for recent scientific discoveries or debates one in a while. Ask your teachers.

The examiners' report made a specific comment that tired old examples of “1+1=2 ”, the flat earth and Guernica and others taken from TOK textbooks may not show the most original thinking. Do some research to find out better, more interesting perspectives, ideas and examples.

I will give you more ideas in class. For now try to see how you could take this advice and improve your essay. There are also sites that offer help with editing. Good luck!

What is TOK?

What is theory of knowledge programme about?

Well, I told you it would be a combination of critical and creative thinking, but what does that mean?
Critical thinking means you don't take for granted what people tell you, but you ask yourself: Can I believe this idea? Is this a good argument? Should I change my mind?
Creative thinking means that you don't accept the obvious first idea that comes to your mind as a solution to a problem but you brainstorm and look for alternatives.

How will this blog help you to develop this type of thinking?

Time to time I will ask you post your ideas on this blog and sometimes we will post some of your homework too. Maybe you come up with an interesting link or picture ... post them here.

Let's make this blog come alive with your brilliant ideas!