The Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course comprises 5 Areas of Knowledge (AOKs). These areas categorize knowledge within society, and are taught as they involve different methods of thinking, biases and facts. The AOKs are used throughout the course, in class, in the TOK exhibition, but mostly applied in the TOK Essay. The Areas of Knowledge are;
Within the IB, Human Sciences are Group 3 subjects – Business, Psychology etc.
The human sciences study the behavior and knowledge acquisition techniques of humans. The methodology used in human sciences is the ‘scientific method’. In this technique there’s observation, collection of data, hypotheses and experiments – and this method does overlap with the natural sciences. However, the main difference is the nature of the observation of humans – which is harder to collect concrete knowledge around – and how we justify these observations as proofs.
Within the IB, The Arts sciences are Group 6 subjects – Theatre, Dance etc.
The Arts showcase the knowledge processes and biases around creativity and ‘creative thinking’. They highlight the difference in methods and communication within the different arts. This area of knowledge also displays how The Arts carry unique knowledge around self-expression, community and human emotions. Knowledge around The Arts also focuses on the interpretation of art. Mainly between the artist’s intention in their work, and society’s interpretation of the piece.
Within the IB, Natural Sciences are comprised of Group 4 subjects. These are Biology, Chemistry, Physics and even parts of Environmental Systems and Societies (to an extent).
The natural sciences study the world around us. They focus heavily on the use of the scientific method. With emphasis on justification and evidence to support and dispute claims. The Natural Sciences focus on the evolution of knowledge, and the disputing of pseudo-science. Scientific theories and experiments are taught within this AOK. These include how concrete proof is produced, via reliable sources, and also how contested theories can be disproved using proof.
Knowledge in Mathematics is focused around the assumption that there’s a concrete basis of knowledge in Maths. It also explores the universality of Mathematics and uses deductive reasoning to support Mathematical claims. The AOK of Mathematics is often contrasted with The Arts, as Mathematics is seen as tangible and universal knowledge, however The Arts are perceived as abstract, yet still a universal language – this also presents bias surrounding AOKs.
The area of knowledge of History focuses on the recorded past. It emphasizes how the validity of past facts can be determined, and raises questions about the knowledge processes and biases involved in obtaining them.
This AOK has contrasting viewpoints – it’s seen as concrete, as the knowledge learnt is past facts, yet also as biased, as it’s not determined who or under what circumstances this evidence was gathered. The AOK of History challenges the preconceived notions that history is fact, and to be able to think about situations outside the box.
As previously mentioned, the Areas of Knowledge are mainly employed when writing the TOK essay. After choosing a TOK title from your prescribed list, you employ examples within a couple of AOKs to make your claims and counterclaims, and provide a response to the title. Furthermore, these Areas of Knowledge can also be used to extend critical thinking within subjects, and explore how knowledge processes stretch beyond subject boundaries.
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- Christina’s tips on how to select effective objects for TOK exhibition
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