BQ1 Foundations

BQ2 Values

BQ3 Spin

BQ4 Perspectives

BQ5 Creativity

BQ6 Experts

Lesson Outlines


 

 

BQ1 Foundations

BQ1 asks What is theory of knowledge, and why do we study it? We think about the key aims of TOK, the structure and assessment of the course, the nature of knowledge and how we acquire it, key ways we navigate the world as knowers, and why TOK is worth all the effort!

Below you’ll see an outline of the 12 lessons that make up the unit, with the key components of each one. Note that ideas and thinkers may appear repeatedly; we have listed here in which lesson they first appear.


Lesson

Title

Learning objective

Key terms, concepts, and thinkers

1.1 The 4 aims of TOK I can explain the 4 aims of TOK, and evaluate their importance
  • Critical thinking and social media stories
  • Creativity
  • Donald Hoffman on how to communicate ideas
  • Thomas Edison vs. Nikola Tesla on collaboration in science
1.2 The TOK world I can explain the different elements of TOK, and how we will explore the course
  • Areas of knowledge
  • The core and optional themes
  • The 6 Big Questions
  • 12 key TOK concepts
1.3 How we know vs. what we know I can distinguish between first and second-order knowledge
  • First- and second-order knowledge
  • Knowledge questions
  • Real-life situations
1.4 Minds and souls I can give an opinion on whether TOK is assessed in a meaningful way 
  • Ken Robinson on the effects of ‘factory-line’ learning
  • The TOK essay and exhibition
1.5 Escaping the madness I can explain how and why we write a TOK journal
  • The TOK journal
  • Graham Greene on writing as therapy
1.6 Testing for truth I can explain which of the four truth tests I like the best
  • The coherence truth test
  • The correspondence truth test
  • The consensus truth test
  • The pragmatic truth test
1.7 Justified true belief? I can critically analyse the ‘JTB’ definition of knowledge
  • Plato’s ‘Justified true belief’ definition of knowledge
  • Edmund Gettier’s problem with JTB
  • Jennifer Nagel’s analysis of JTB
1.8 Descartes vs. Locke I can say whether I follow a rational or empirical approach to knowledge
  • Rene Descartes and rationalism
  • John Locke and empiricism
1.9 Context is everything I can explain the implications of Beau Lotto’s statement that ‘context is everything’
  • David Eagleman on the brain’s indirect relationship with the outside world
  • Beau Lotto on visual illusions, a priori knowledge, and how we base everything on context and prior experiences
1.10 A relative to truth I can explain the implications of memory working in a reconstructive way

  • Barbara Kingsolver on memory and truth
  • Elizabeth Loftus and Julia Shaw on false memories
  • The constructive/ reconstructive memory
1.11 The human desktop I can explain why it is an advantage NOT to see the world as it actually is
  • Donald Hoffman on constructed vs. actual realities
  • The metaphor of the desktop
1.12 Wrapping up BQ1 I can answer BQ1, referring to the key terms, ideas, and thinkers from the unit
  • All the terms, ideas, and thinkers
1.13a Foundations & Politics What is politics, and how essential is an understanding of it?
1.13b Foundations & Technology What is technology, and how essential is an understanding of it?

 

 

 

BQ2 Values

BQ2 asks How does our knowledge about the world inform the way we construct our values? We think about the ways in which we develop our ethical awareness of the world, and the role that different areas of knowledge (particularly the arts and the natural sciences) play in this. 

We also consider different contexts that might affect our moral outlooks, such as whether you come from an indigenous, or a large-scale, industrialized society. 

BQ2 also introduces the TOK exhibition, outlines a 6-step approach to creating one, and sets you up with a practice exhibition task to get you used to the assessment instrument. 

Below you’ll see an outline of the 12 lessons that make up the unit, with the key components of each one. Note that ideas and thinkers may appear repeatedly; we have listed here in which lesson they first appear.


Lesson Title Learning objective Key terms, concepts, and thinkers
2.1 Introduction to BQ2 I can compare and contrast BQ2 within the context of different areas of knowledge
  • Differences between the AOKs in terms of objectiveness/ subjectiveness
  • The impact of ethical considerations on the production of knowledge
  • Real-life situations vs. hypothetical situations
2.2 The epistemic community I can explain what relativism is, and link it to being part of an ‘epistemic community’
  • Moral rules
  • Nigel Warburton on moral relativism
  • Damon Horovitz on the way we use our knowledge
  • Daniel DeNicola on our right (or not) to believe anything
2.3 Creating a BQ2 exhibition I can relate BQ2 to a real-world context, via an exhibition object linked to an IA prompt
  • The TOK exhibition - objects, prompts, and commentaries
  • The TOK exhibition rubric 
2.4 Helping the chickens I can compare and contrast different ways way in which we build our moral frameworks
  • The arts as a way of helping us understand ethical decision-making
  • Empathy, and its role in helping us make ethical decisions
  • Barack Obama - the empathy deficit
  • Paul Bloom & Peter Singer - ‘warm-glow altruism’ vs. ‘effective altruism’
2.5 Bypass surgery I can explain the role of the arts in helping us to understand ethical issues
  • Examples of art dealing with a moral issue (racism) - To Kill a Mockingbird, Strange Fruit (Billy Holliday), Barca Nostra (Christoph B├╝chel), Dave Chappell, Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice 
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda on art being like ‘bypass surgery’
2.6 Ends vs. Means I can evaluate whether the arts help us to understand ethical principles
  • Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia as a way of understanding deontology vs. consequentialism
  • Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill
  • DH Lawrence on the function of art being moral
2.7 Art vs. artist I can assess how our ethical principles affect the way we interpret art
  • Shahidha Bari on separating the art from the artist
  • Examples of art created by artists with morally questionable artists - Wagner, Galliano, Polanski, Mailer, Gill, Allen
2.8 An artist’s responsibility? I can offer an opinion on whether it is an artist’s duty to confront moral issues in their work
  • Ai Weiwei on how artists should be activists
  • Rachel Cooke on how art should be separated from morality
2.9 Value-free or value-laden? I can assess whether scientific and mathematical knowledge can (and should) be produced in a ‘value-free’ way 
  • The definition of science 
  • The scientific method - and how it’s designed to produce objective knowledge
  • Kevin Elliot on how science is ‘value-laden’
  • Cathy O’Neil on how algorithms have a human origin - and are therefore subjective
2.10 Fences I can explain how a society’s values can determine the purpose of its knowledge about the natural world 
  • Defining indigenous societies
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson on the purpose of scientific knowledge vs. Rebecca Adamson on how indigenous societies use their knowledge
  • Biopiracy vs. bioprospecting
2.11 Exhibition feedback I know how to select better exhibition objects, link them more effectively to a IA prompt & TOK themes
  • Using the rubric to attain a level 5 for the TOK exhibition
2.12 Wrapping up BQ2 I can answer BQ2, referring to the key terms, ideas, and thinkers from the unit
  • All the terms, ideas, and thinkers

 

 

BQ3 - Spin

BQ3 asks How is our understanding of the world influenced by the way knowledge is communicated? During this unit, we think about how our ability to objectively understand and interact with the world depends on the way in which ideas and concepts are represented. 

We pay particular attention to the human sciences, and look at how both technology (for example, social media) and language can shift the meaning of concepts within this area of knowledge. We also consider how to write the TOK essay - one of the two ways in which TOK is assessed (alongside the exhibition).

Below you’ll see an outline of the 12 lessons that make up the unit, with the key components of each one. Note that ideas and thinkers may appear repeatedly; we have listed here in which lesson they first appear.


Lesson

Title

Learning objective

Key terms, concepts, and thinkers

3.1 Introduction to BQ3 I can compare and contrast BQ3 within the context of different areas of knowledge
  • William Blake on how truth can mislead more than lies 
  • Spin as a form of communicating ideas
  • Firehosing our ideas to wash away’ the opinions of other
  • Cherry-picking evidence to support our beliefs
3.2 Falsehood flies I can explain why unreliable knowledge spreads more quickly than reliable knowledge 

  • Jonathan Swift on how ‘falsehood flies’
  • How social media is used to (mis)represent ideas
  • Factors that lead to us believing in online rumours
  • Deep-fake videos
3.3 Introducing the TOK essay I understand how to structure a TOK essay, and can list some characteristics of a good essay
  • The TOK essay - structure
  • Characteristics of a good essay plan
3.4 Writing the TOK essay plan I understand how to write my TOK essay plan, and how it will be assessed
  • The five elements of the TOK essay rubric
3.5 Newspeak I can evaluate the extent to which the language we use represents the knowledge we possess
  • George Orwell’s ‘Newspeak’ as a way of controlling thought
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein and Linguistic determinism 
  • Benjamin Whorf and linguistic relativism
3.6 A global conspiracy I can explain how different representations of the globe change our understanding of it

  • Johnny Harris on map projections
  • ‘Alternative’ maps
  • Comparative approaches to finding out about the world
  • ‘Real time’ information about the world
3.7 Ice cream consumption vs. shark attacks I can explain how confusing causation and correlation can affect the way we represent and understand the world

  • The human sciences and their purpose
  • Distinguishing correlation and causation
  • Trevor Noah and the causes of US gun violence
  • Donald Hoffman’s rule about defining terms rule applied
3.8 An interrelation of vibrations I can evaluate the trustworthiness of a field via the way in which it represents ideas and concepts
  • The definition of science reconsidered
  • The nature and aim of numerology 
  • Richard Feynman’s jargon test
  • Pseudoscience
3.9 Seeing what we want to see I can explain how confirmation bias can cause us to misinterpret  and misunderstand representations of the world us


  • Hannah Critchlow on how it’s cognitively costly to change your mind
  • Confirmation bias
  • Derren Brown and ‘cold readings’
  • The Barnum or Forer Effect
  • Confirmation bias within science
3.10 Neuro-bunk I can explain how and why organisations try to ‘spin’ scientific knowledge

  • Olivia Gordon on ‘clinically-proven’
  • Molly Crockett on how the media misrepresents science, and ‘neuro-bunk’
  • Julia Belluz vs. Gwyneth Paltrow - ‘Goop’ and companies making pseudo-scientific claims
  • Carl Sagan’s ‘ECREE’ maxim
3.11 Essay plan feedback I understand how to organize and express my ideas better within a TOK essay
  • Using the rubric to attain a level 5 for the TOK essay
3.12 Wrapping up BQ3 I can answer BQ3, referring to the key terms, ideas, and thinkers from the unit
  • All the terms, ideas, and thinkers

 

 

BQ4-Perspective

BQ4 asks How do our perspectives and biases shape our knowledge of the world? During this unit, we think about how our personal and societal perspectives and biases affect the way we produce knowledge of the world, leading us to often confirm what we (think we) know, rather than allowing us to be open-minded to the possibility that other ideas are more valid than our own. 


We pay particular attention to history, but we also think about the natural sciences and the arts, as well as considering the way religion, technology, and politics can shape our worldviews. During the unit, students carry out another practice TOK exhibition, this time choosing an IA prompt linked to perspectives, and selecting their own object.  


Below you’ll see an outline of the 12 lessons that make up the unit, with the key components of each one. Note that ideas and thinkers may appear repeatedly; we have listed here in which lesson they first appear.


Lesson

Title

Learning objective

Key terms, concepts, and thinkers

4.1

Introduction to BQ4 I can compare and contrast BQ4 within the context of different areas of knowledge
  • How perspectives can shape our view of US gun violence
  • Importance of perspectives for the IB
  • How perspectives can affect the different AOKs
  • Friedrich Nietzsche on facts

4.2

Bandwagons and blind spots I can discuss a range of different biases, how they can be used to exploit us, and strategies to prevent this
  • Recapping confirmation bias
  • 20 key biases, and how they can be used against us
  • Ignoring antagonistic perspectives: Andrew Keen on ‘echo chambers’
  • Julia Galef on “looking at a problem as an outsider”
  • Linus Pauling on science helping us to reject bias, dogma, and revelation

4.3

Creating the BQ4 exhibition I can apply my improved understanding of the exhibition to create a more effective 
  • Recapping the exhibition rubric
  • Thinking about sourcing an object that links to the prompt/optional themes

4.4

Punching holes in mental walls I can identify two problems associated with antagonistic  perspectives, and suggest a solution to overcome these 
  • Ignoring antagonistic perspectives - ‘echo chambers’
  • Trying to convert antagonistic perspectives - evangelicalism
  • Elif Shafak on how we can use the arts (literature) to “get a glimpse of the other”

4.5

Navigating the post-truth landscape I can discuss ‘anti-establishment’ perspectives in a nuanced way 


  • What it means to be a ‘nuanced’ thinker - and linking this to TOK essay targets
  • Richard Sprenger on what motivates flat-earthers 
  • Jennifer Reich on the reasons for anti-vax beliefs
  • Nuanced thinking as a way of helping “address the broader polarisation of society” 

4.6

The dangers of multiple historical perspectives I can explain why historical knowledge is particularly vulnerable to interpretation via different perspectives


  • The scientific method as a means of ‘insulating’ science from bias
  • Katherine Heyhoe on how thermometers are neither liberal or conservative
  • How multiple perspectives can lead to different historical interpretations
  • ‘Misuses’ of history

4.7

The dangers of a single historical perspectives I can explain how our knowledge of the past is often based on a ‘single story’, and what the implications of this are 
  • Karl Popper on confirmation bias
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on ‘single stories’ and ‘Nkali’
  • Linking single stories to confirmation bias

4.8

The battle over history I can explain why the statement ‘history is written by the victors’ is flawed

  • Winston Churchill and the victors writing history
  • ‘The Lost Cause’ as an example of rewriting history
  • Kevin M. Levin on winning the war via writing history
  • EH Carr on studying the historian before you study the facts

4.9

Bj 581 I can explain how our present-day assumptions and biases can determine how we understand the past 
  • How our judgements about the past can be coloured by our assumptions and biases
  • Extending this beyond this case (and history)

4.10

Marxists and modernists I can discuss how academic traditions can help and hinder the way we understand the world


  • Academic/intellectual traditions
  • Examples of academic traditions - Evolutionary psychology, Modernism, Marxism, Analytical philosophy, Relativism
  • Steven Pinker vs. John Gray over whether society is ‘progressing’

4.11

BQ4 exhibition feedback I know how to create an amazing TOK exhibition
  • Reflecting on the feedback for the two practice exhibitions to formulate a plan to create an amazing final version

4.12

Wrapping up BQ4 I can answer BQ4, referring to the key terms, ideas, and thinkers from the unit
  • All the terms, ideas, and thinkers

 

 

BQ5-Creativity

BQ4 asks How is new knowledge about the world created? During this unit, we think about the way new ideas and theories about the world appear, and how and why knowledge develops over time. 

We focus primarily on the natural sciences and language, looking at the ‘provisional nature’ of scientific knowledge, and whether we should take a prescriptivist or descriptivist approach to changes in language. But we also think about the other aspects of the course, considering all the areas of knowledge in the context of different real-life situations within the first lesson of the unit.

Below you’ll see an outline of the 12 lessons that make up the unit, with the key components of each one. Note that ideas and thinkers may appear repeatedly; we have listed here in which lesson they first appear.


Lesson Title Learning objective Key terms, concepts, and thinkers
5.1 Introduction to BQ5 I can compare and contrast BQ5 within the context of different areas of knowledge
  • Students’ own development of ideas and knowledge over time
  • Linking the BQ to the different areas of knowledge via real-life situations
  • Pablo Picasso on the ‘enemy of creativity’
5.2 Bending, breaking, blending I can explain how new ideas are created, and support my discussion with examples from different AOKs

  • Steve Jobs on creativity
  • David Eagleman on how we ‘bend, break, and blend’ to create new ideas
  • Derivation and extrapolation as ways of creating new knowledge
  • Reboot culture, and movie sequels
5.3 Final touches to the final exhibition I have understood and applied the feedback from my teacher to my final exhibition
  • Thoughts on how to improve your exhibition, and hit the highest mark band
5.4 Reconceiving art I can explain why the way we interpret and understand art changes over time
  • Situations within society determining our taste in art
  • Kellyanne Conway’s ‘alternative facts’ sparking a re-interest in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four
  • Dorian Lynskey on the way works of art can have ‘multiple meanings’ at different points in time
  • Madeleine L'Engle on great art ‘transcending’ its culture
5.5 The holy palmers’ kiss I can explain how language changes over time, and provide examples to support my points


  • How language changes over time: Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
  • Words of the year
  • Denotations, connotations, and context
  • Changing meanings and linguistic integrity
5.6 Prescription vs. description I can evaluate the extent to which language is ‘living’

  • Taylor Swift, Steven Pinker, and linguistic pedants
  • The ‘protection of language’
  • The role of dictionaries in language-use
  • Kory Stamper on prescriptive and descriptive approaches to language
  • Erin McKean on making up new words
  • Gilbert Highet on language being a ‘living thing’
5.7 Txt tlk I can assess whether social media is ‘dumbing down’ our ability to communicate

  • The ‘dumbing down’ of language over time
  • John McWhorter on how texting is ‘miraculous’
  • The use of emojis in communicating feelings - linked to the Covid-19 pandemic
5.8 False starts and wrong turns I can offer a more sophisticated statement than “new scientific knowledge is created via the scientific method”


  • The scientific methods revisited
  • Sara Seager and other scientists on how science proceeds
  • Tom McLeish on ‘scientific inspiration’
  • Science and serendipity
  • James Clerk Maxwell on ‘conscious ignorance’, and Stuart Firestein on ‘farting around in the dark’
  • Isaac Asimov on the most exciting phrase in science
  • Louis Pasteur on having a ‘prepared mind’
5.9 Standing on the shoulders of giants? I can describe the way scientific and mathematical knowledge develops over time 
  • Einstein on solving problems
  • Eureka moments
  • Newton’s ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ idea
  • Thomas Kuhn’s ‘paradigm shift’ model
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson on how scientific development is linked to socio-political events
5.10 Communicating science I can explain how new forms of communication are affecting the integrity of science

  • Social media and the communication of scientific ideas
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson and B.o.B. on the ‘flat earth’ theory
  • Challenges for science in the social media age
5.11 Wrapping up BQ5 I can answer BQ4, referring to the key terms, ideas, and thinkers from the unit
  • All the terms, ideas, and thinkers
  • The BQ5 Kahoot quiz
5.12 Completing your TOK exhibition I know how to deliver my TOK exhibition, and submit my exhibition file
  • Amy Wolff’s 5 tips for speaking in public
  • Completing and uploading your TOK exhibition file 

 

 

BQ6 - Experts

BQ6 asks How do we become discerning knowers? It looks at what it takes to become a sophisticated knower about the world, and how this sets you apart from ‘ordinary’ knowers. It revisits quite a few of the lessons from earlier in the framework, and tries to extend students' understanding of them.

Below you’ll see an outline of the 12 lessons that make up the unit, with the key components of each one. Note that ideas and thinkers may appear repeatedly; we have listed here in which lesson they first appear.

Lesson Title Learning objective Key terms, concepts, and thinkers
6.1 Introduction to BQ6 I can compare and contrast BQ6 within the context of different areas of knowledge
  • Students own thoughts on expertise
  • Discerning
  • Real world contexts of expertise for each AOK
  • Socrates on wisdom
6.2 Bigots, fools, and slaves I can identify different ways of applying reason, and explain why reason is integral to being a ‘discerning knower’


  • Defining reason
  • Induction and deduction
  • Syllogisms
  • Logical fallacies
  • Lord Byron on the use of reason
6.3 Choosing your PT I understand what the prescribed titles are asking
  • How to unpack the prescribed essay titles
6.4 Answering your PT I know how I’m going to write my essay on my choice of PT


  • Structuring a TOK essay
  • The three interactions, and their end products
  • Key tips for writing the essay
6.5 Emotion vs. reason? I can discuss the ‘true’ relationship between emotion and reason
  • Dictionary definitions of ‘reason’ and ‘emotion’
  • Antonio Damasio on emotion vs. feelings, and the purpose of emotion
  • Michael Mosley on this relationship
  • David Hume on how reason should be a slave to the passions
6.6 Generalizations or paralysis by analysis I can weigh up the pros and cons of producing knowledge via intuition



  • Gut reactions
  • Definitions of intuition
  • Daniel Kahneman on thinking fast & slow
  • The Monty Hall problem
  • Brian Cox on gravity
  • Hans Rosling’s statistics about the world
6.7 Falsification and flat-tummy shakes I can explain how we can draw on the idea of ‘falsification’ to help us manage our scepticism of knowledge claims


  • Scepticism - and applying it properly
  • Karl Popper’s falsification test
6.8 Embracing doubt


I can explain why doubt is an essential element of being an expert knower


  • Brian Cox on why it is impossible to “follow the science”
  • Jim Al-Khalil on doubt and certainty
  • Lesley Hazelton on why doubt is essential to faith 
6.9 Being multi-local I can explain why our identity is based on far more factors that our nation state 
  • Taiye Selasi on the myth of national identities
  • Coming from experiences
  • The ‘3 Rs’ of identity
  • Power games we play
  • Being a ‘multi-local’
6.10 The necessity of humility I can explain why humility is a prerequisite of finding out about the world



  • Hannah Critchlow (again) on changing our minds
  • John Oliver on fitting the facts into pre-prepared narratives
  • Keith Whittington on John Stuart Mill
  • Humility as a prerequisite for learning
6.11 The TOK factor I understand how to use TOK to improve the quality of my DP examination responses
  • Using TOK concepts, thinkers, and real-life situations to enrich and enhance our understanding of the DP subjects
6.12 Wrapping up BQ6 I can answer BQ6, referring to the key terms, ideas, and thinkers from the unit
  • David Foster Wallace on awareness
  • All the terms, ideas, and thinkers