Theory of Knowldege

What is ToK?

Theory of Knowledge is a pivotal point of the IBDP model that encourages students to think critically and curiously.

In TOK class students examine how we know things, if we are sure we know them, and to try to make sense of what they encounter. Throughout the course they will consider viewpoints and knowledge perspectives from across a wide spectrum of subject areas. Hopefully they may begin to recognize some of their own assumptions and gain a richer more nuanced understanding of themselves and their own previously unquestioned belief systems.

El arte es una mentira que nos acerca a la verdad.
[Art is a lie that brings us nearer to the truth.]
Pablo Picasso

What is the relationship of TOK to Visual Art?

Art itself offers many deeply provocative questions that an inquiring mind will find stimulating and mind expanding. I have met students who say that it is their TOK class that got them interested in the concepts that underpin art making, and art students make avid TOK learners. Vice versa, art provides TOK classes, teachers and students with a wealth of topics for debate, discussion and disagreement. The pages in this section offer some tasty morsels for the questioning mind and gentle enticement for the less curious. 

Is there a required TOK project in Art? The answer is no, but TOK permeates all of art making as part of the process of inquiry and discovery.

How do I incorporate TOK in my teaching? There are many opportunities for TOK style discussions and written reflections but here are a few practical examples of ways you can encourage TOK inquiry:

  • Showing films and documentaries on contemporary controversial or thought provoking artists and generating in class discussions is another way of encouraging critical thinking and reflection.
  •  Exhibition visits can be extremely effective in raising awareness, curiosity, discussion and reflection. Try the new resource 4 Ways of Looking at Art
  • You might consider teaching or joining with a session or two of the TOK course when they are addressing The Arts perspective and trying out some of the approaches outlined here.

Areas of TOK and Art explored in this section of the site, with teaching ideas: slideshows, articles, videos clips, or guided reflections for students.

Art and Knowledge

Art and Meaning

Art and Originality

Art and Values

Critical Thinking

Questions that encourage in depth critical thinking around art

Any one of these questions can be developed as a topic for discussion or used as a starting point for a journal reflection. You can focus on any question for a single lesson, or use it as an umbrella topic over a longer period of time. Often an exhibition that you visit as a class will raise the question very clearly and you can seize that opportunity to make the link with TOK. Individual students can also pursue their own line of inquiry regarding a specific topic.

Art and TOK Questions

These challenging questions make excellent starting points for a thought provoking reflection and discussion.

Handout Art and Tok Questions

Art and Ethics

• What moral responsibilities does the artist have or not have? Are they different from any other knower?

• To what extent does the artist have a moral obligation to avoid or confront issues that might shock or be contrary to most people?

• Do you think controversy is important for an artwork to have a strong impact? Why do artists often rely on the shock factor?

• What do we expect from art? Truth? Seduction? Provocation? Beauty

Art and Meaning

  • Does art have to have meaning?
  • Conversely, if something is meaningless, can it be art?
  • Who decides what is art? Are there limits to what we can call art?
  • Is there a distinction between high art and low art? Between Art and Craft? What might this be?
  • Is there a common ground for what constitutes art?
  • When does performance become art?
  • Is there a line between the different art forms?
  • Is life art?

Art and Originality

  • Can ideas be owned?
  • Does a signature make a work of art?
  • Is the idea or the thing the original?
  • Does a work of art become less valuable when it is infinitely reproducable?
  • Is it important for artworks to be original? Why?

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