IB alumna Kristen Leer shares how the TOK course has helped her become a lifelong learner, and has inspired her future prospects
“Theory of knowledge (TOK) takes something like a simple box and teaches IB Diploma Programme (DP) students to open it up, break it apart, rebuild it, analyse and toss it around to find out everything about it outside of the presentation of the box itself”, explains Kristen Leer, who studied the DP at Ronald Wilson Reagan International Baccalaureate College Preparatory High School in, Wisconsin, USA.
“TOK and my teacher taught me to always question everything, which I still struggle with. But by questioning and analysing everything you do, you build your portfolio of knowledge, which can help you throughout life. It can also help you discover yourself a bit more too”.
What? When? How?
TOK provides an opportunity for DP students to reflect on the nature of knowledge, and on how we know what we claim to know. It is this critical thinking that makes the DP unique, says Kristen.
“It helps us reconstruct our thinking to questions that may not have crossed our mind, or might make us uncomfortable. However, by talking about these uncomfortable issues we learn to discuss and debate, and learn from others, which are skills that are highly needed. Allowing different ideas to be discussed can help us understand better and become more open-minded”.
For example, Kristen will always remember a lesson which featured a documentary on the impact of music on Alzheimer’s. Students were asked to take notes of anything that surprised them while they were watching. Afterwards the class discussed the problems and challenges raised from different sides and tried to understand the views of everyone involved.