IB Diploma Programme: TOK Course Outline

Course description


TOK is a course about critical thinking and inquiring into the process of knowing, rather than about learning a specific body of knowledge. It is a core element which all Diploma Programme students undertake and to which all schools are required to devote at least 100 hours of class time. TOK and the Diploma Programme subjects should support each other in the sense that they reference each other and share some common goals. The TOK course examines how we know what we claim to know. It does this by encouraging students to analyse knowledge claims and explore knowledge questions. A knowledge claim is the assertion that “I/we know X” or “I/we know how to Y”, or a statement about knowledge; a knowledge question is an open question about knowledge. A distinction between shared knowledge and personal knowledge is made in the TOK guide. This distinction is intended as a device to help teachers construct their TOK course and to help students explore the nature of knowledge.

While there are arguably many ways of knowing, the TOK course identifies eight specific ways of knowing (WOKs). The WOKs have two roles in TOK:

• they underlie the methodology of the areas of knowledge

• they provide a basis for personal knowledge.


Discussion of WOKs will naturally occur in a TOK course when exploring how areas of knowledge operate. Since they rarely function in isolation, the TOK course should explore how WOKs work, and how they work together, both in the context of different areas of knowledge and in relation to the individual knower. This might be reflected in the way the TOK course is constructed. Teachers should consider the possibility of teaching WOKs in combination or as a natural result of considering the methods of areas of knowledge, rather than as separate units.


Areas of knowledge are specific branches of knowledge, each of which can be seen to have a distinct nature and different methods of gaining knowledge. TOK distinguishes between eight areas of knowledge. They are mathematics, the natural sciences, the human sciences, the arts, history, ethics, religious knowledge systems, and indigenous knowledge systems. Students must explore a range of areas of knowledge, and it is suggested that studying six of these eight would be appropriate. The knowledge framework is a device for exploring the areas of knowledge. It identifies the key characteristics of each area of knowledge by depicting each area as a complex system of five interacting components. This enables students to effectively compare and contrast different areas of knowledge and allows the possibility of a deeper exploration of the relationship between areas of knowledge and ways of knowing.

Syllabus Outline






Topic 1: Knowers and Knowledge

  1. Introduction
  2. Knowledge Questions

Topic 2: Ways of Knowing (WoK)

  1. Sense Perception
  2. Reason
  3. Emotion
  4. Language

Topic 3: The Knowledge Framework

  1. Introduction to the Areas of Knowledge (AoK)
  2. The Knowledge Framework

Topic 4: Mathematics

  1. Mathematics as an AoK (Language, Reason)
  2. Mathematics in the knowledge framework
  3. WoKs and mathematics

2 wks

2 wks

2 wks

6 wks


Topic 5: The Arts

  1. The arts as an AoK (Sense Perception, Reason, language)
  2. The arts in the knowledge framework
  3. WoKs and the arts

Topic 6: Natural Sciences

  1. The natural sciences as an AoK (Sense Perception, Reason, language)
  2. The natural sciences in the knowledge framework
  3. WoKs and the natural sciences


6 wks

6 wks


Topic 7: Practicing the TOK Presentation

Students develop a TOK practice presentation (Individually or in Group)

 Topic 8: Practicing the TOK Presentation

 Preparation and administration of the TOK presentation

2 wks

4 wks



Practice the TOK essay





Topic 9: Practicing the TOK Presentation

Preparation and administration of the TOK presentation

Topic 10: History

  1. History as an AoK (Sense Perception, Reason, language)
  2. History in the knowledge framework
  3. WoKs and history

Topic 11: Human Sciences

  1. Human sciences as an AoK (Sense Perception, Reason, language)
  2. Human Sciences in the knowledge framework
  3. WoKs and human sciences

1 wk

6 wks

6 wks


Topic 11: Religious Knowledge

  1. Religious Knowledge as an AoK (Sense Perception, Reason, language)
  2. Religious Knowledge in the knowledge framework
  3. WoKs and religious knowledge 

Topic 12: TOK Essay

TOK essay with teacher involvement as permitted in the TOK guide

6 wks

3 wks








ATL Skills

Thinking: Developing critical thought, posing problems, asking questions, explaining, evaluating, analysing, considering different points of view, integrating approaches and exploring how areas of knowledge are related to ways of thinking.


CommunicationThe ability to evaluate, analyse and discuss both in written and oral form.


SocialCollaborative work through class discussions, presentations, teamwork and debates.


Self-managementSetting goals, keeping up, managing time and tasks effectively


Research: Through the essay and oral presentation, knowledge questions are explored and evaluated with the help of research material, as well as the knowers’ own knowledge and personal experiences. Personal knowledge is linked with shared knowledge through this process.

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