Supervising the TOK presentation

Supervising the TOK presentation

Whereas it’s valid to stress the serious nature of the TOK essay so that students don’t underestimate the scale of the task and skimp on their research and writing, the TOK presentation should be billed from the off as an assignment that’s meant to be fun and engaging. It’s their chance to really play with the ideas of TOK, and focus on a real life situation that they find personally interesting. The rules regarding the role of the teacher are also more forgiving, with more help expected from those overseeing the presentation writing process. Your objective should be to help groups come up with engaging topics and knowledge question, and ‘advance the aims of the TOK course for the class as a whole.’

The big question

The way the presentation is marked has been simplified for the 2015 curriculum, with the 4 different criteria distilled down to just 1. This measures the extent to which students’ presentations answer the following question:

Does the presentation succeed in showing how TOK concepts can have practical applications?

This is both positive and negative development. On the one hand, the IB have done away with a series of criteria that were often hard for students to fathom (though this was more the case with the TOK essay). On the other, there’s less description of what actually needs to be done in the presentation. The descriptors in the top band are now more subjective, with teachers expected to assess whether students have managed to make their presentations:


Exactly what is required to qualify for these words is not specified, but perhaps we should welcome the IB devolving assessment power onto individual teachers.

Practice makes perfect (or, at least, less nervous students)

TOK is a course that demands that students express themselves. This should occur in virtually every class on an informal level (get them to read out their journal entries; this can either be assessed, or lead on to general discussion), and in the shape of more formal, assessed assignments on a regular basis. This serves not only to share ideas, but also to get the students used to airing their opinions and thoughts in public. You’re even able to do more than one full length presentations, allowing students to have two (or even three) chances of getting it exactly right, and scoring in the top mark band.

The two approaches

Students can approach the presentations from two directions: either start with a real life situation, and applying a knowledge question to it, or vice versa, and begin with a knowledge question that particularly interests them. Having done quite a few presentations now, my experience is that presentations done following the first of these two methods generally end up being more effective. They just seem to be carried out with more gusto and enthusiasm, which means they are more ‘compelling’ – one of the key terms in the top mark band.
Use the facebook page and the newsletter. The Facebook page now has around 2000 links to stories, articles, theories, and situations, and is therefore the perfect resource for presentation planning.

Regular meetings

Just as with the essay, it’s necessary to meet with students personally, and check their real life examples and knowledge questions. This should be done as quickly as possible in order to allow groups as long as possible to develop their ideas. If you have approved (or even supplied) the topic, and have talked through the associated knowledge question, then they should by extension have begun to successfully apply the principles of TOK to the real life world – which is what the presentation is now all about.

Value originality

Set the bar high in terms of originality. PowerPoint presentations should not be the only way in which students deliver their information; they should think about how to interact with their audience, use of role-plays, film clips, interesting props, questionnaires, costumes, etc., etc.

Support for TOK educators


Email and Skype consultation support

Our email consultation support offers instant peace of mind to educators who are teaching the course for the first time, and are still not 100% confident about TOK. From queries on how to mark an individual essay, to strategies to engage an entire cohort of students, we can provide you with expert advice, whenever and wherever you like. Find out more here.

The TOK Presentation Guide for teachers

Our successful TOK Presentation Guide comes in a teacher version, with more help on interpreting the new assessment criterion, help on overseeing your students, and a license to share the content of the guide with your students.$7.99, electronic publication.


Cite this page as: Dunn, Michael. Supervising the TOK presentation (30th May 2013). Last accessed: 20th March 2018


Leave a Comment