Theory of knowledge (TOK): Exploring learning outcomes, benefits and perceptions (2014)

Associate Professor David R Cole, Associate Professor Susanne Gannon, Dr Jacqueline Ullman and Mr Paul Rooney, University of Western Sydney

This mixed-methods study examined one of the central elements of the IB Diploma Programme (DP), the theory of knowledge (TOK) course, within the Australian context. Researchers from the University of Western Sydney investigated IB alumni and current DP student ratings of their critical-thinking abilities. The study also explored student perceptions of the role of TOK in supporting critical thinking, as well as TOK teacher ratings of their capacity to teach the TOK course. Quantitative findings revealed apparent gains in the use of critical-thinking skills between the two successive years of the DP. Further, second-year DP students reported a higher likelihood of using an array of critical-thinking skills. Overall, teachers reported high self-beliefs with regard to teaching TOK, with self-beliefs linked to their overall years of study as well as the number of years they had taught the course. Challenges identified by the study included student ambivalence about the value of TOK for real-world application and a lack of integration of TOK at the school level.

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