Theory of Knowledge

TOK – An Introduction

What is TOK?  As one of the core elements of an IB student’s diploma programme, Theory of Knowledge is offered at Seaquam as required courses in both the Grades 11 and 12 years. 

What is the purpose of TOK?  The Theory of Knowledge curriculum is designed to immerse students into the study of the limits of our all-too-human understanding of ourselves and the world around us. 

In these courses, students will actively examine their subject areas and life experiences through the lens of critical analysis – how did we come to know what we know?  Why do we value this knowledge?  How can we justify our claims of knowledge?  In essence, students will develop a concept of themselves as ‘knowers,’ in which they will reflect upon and evaluate claims of knowledge using the tool of “knowledge issues.” 

What are Knowledge Issues?  Knowledge Issues are questions essential to inquiry of knowledge, challenging students to become open-minded, reflective and ultimately to develop an articulate stance that they can communicate to the world at large.  Knowledge Issues can be specific to a subject area or Area of Knowledge (AoK); for example:  “What influences the value of art?  Are there common characteristics that help distinguish ‘good’ or ‘valuable’ art from ‘bad’ or ‘worthless’ art?”  Knowledge issues can also allow students to unpack ideas about ourselves as knowers, or Ways of Knowing (WoK); for example:  “To what extent can the computer ‘Watson’ that competed against human contestants on the hit show Jeopardy be said to ‘know’ the responses? Can it be suggested that Watson can think or process information like a human?” 

What’s involved in the TOK courses?  The class will regularly engage in discussions and group projects regarding the WoK and AoK concepts through reflection on knowledge issues.  The courses requires completion of an Internal Assessment involving an individual or small-group presentation on real-life situation or contemporary problem that is examined analyzed using knowledge issues developed by the student(s).   The expected length of the presentation is 30 minutes with a class Q and A afterwards.  In addition, each student is responsible for crafting a TOK Essay as their External Assessment of approximately 1400 words (1600 maximum) on a prescribed topic or ‘title’ (from a list of options) issued by the IBO.  The essay, although not a formal research paper, requires students to demonstrate their understanding of knowledge issues, WoK and AoK through the subject area of the title selected. 

For further questions about TOK, contact your TOK teacher ( 

TOK Research Orientation: