The TOK journal
The TOK journal should be an integral part of all your students’ learning experience in theory of knowledge. Far from being an onerous task, the benefits of getting them to write down their ideas and reflections on a regular basis will help them to master the course, set them up well for the essay and presentation, and may even get them into a habit that lasts a lifetime.
Aims of the journal
The TOK journal has the following aims:
Encourage students to connect with what’s going on in the world Asking your students to write about ‘significant’ events means that they will follow the news, and keep their eyes open for interesting and important stories. They can then bring this into the classroom, and discuss it with their peers.
Assist them in understanding what makes an event, issue, or problem ‘significant’ They’ll soon be aware of what other people are following in the news, giving them an idea of what shapes society; but they’ll also connect with other stories that they might otherwise have missed.
Help them to identify and explore knowledge questions associated with real life situations If you ask them to identify and attempt to discuss the ‘knowledge questions’ behind the events, they’ll be well set up for when it comes to writing their essay and presentation.
Improve the way in which they structure their ideas and opinions Writing down their ideas and opinions in an informal way will allow them to play with those ideas, and figure out the most effective way in which to express them. Encouraging them to read them out in class could then lead onto discussion and debate, which will help them to hone their skills in self-expression.
Demonstrate the importance of using evidence to support their arguments Connected to above, they’ll soon learn that an opinion is nothing without evidence – and the best form of evidence is real life examples. You can use this to drill home the importance of using evidence based on actual fact, rather than of a hypothetical or anecdotal nature.
Get them into the practice of reflecting on knowledge (and learn to enjoy it) Not only can personal experiences be developed and better understood by writing them down, it can be immensely therapeutic to write down your feelings. Your students may well find that they continue their TOK journal long after they finish the course, and carry with it wherever in the world they end up.
Suggestions on TOK journal writing
Students may need a little pushing when it comes to journal writing, so you could use it as a written or oral assessment task. You can easily make them write too much; one contemporary news event, one personal experience, and one cultural highlight is about right per half term or bimester, meaning they write 9 or 10 entries per year. For each one, they should provide a brief description, an identification of the key knowledge question (linking it to elements of the course), and a discussion of that question, trying to view it through different perspectives, and include an assessment of the possible implications. You can then have them either write down their ideas, or present them in class. Either way, they should be able to refer back to their journal, and draw on the real life situations to help them with their essay or presentation.
The TOK Essay Guide for teachers
The THIRD edition of our hugely popular gives advice on helping your students to structure and write their TOK essay, deal with knowledge questions, and draw on perspectives and implications. It also assesses the challenges of each prescribed title, talks about how the assessment criteria have changed, and gives tips on supporting your students. $34.99, electronic publication.