Theory of knowledge essay
The question that has to be answered in the essay is:
With reference to two areas of knowledge discuss the way in which shared knowledge can shape personal knowledge.
a. What are the key words & terms that need pinning down?
This prescribed title focuses on the two main knowledge categories of ‘shared’ and ‘personal’ knowledge, about which the IB is quite helpful in the subject guide to
TOK (get your teacher to show you pages 16-19 – this should be considered essential reading for this question!).
The IB identifies two types of shared knowledge: first, the areas of knowledge themselves, produced by collaboration between many people, and subject to change over
time; second, the different groups (national, ethnic, gender, age, etc.) to which we belong.
Personal knowledge, in contrast, is gained by our own experiences, education, backgrounds, and so on. The big difference between the two is that personal knowledge is
harder to share, and because it is possessed by us alone, does not rely so heavily on linguistic forms of description.
b. What are the difficulties and challenges of the question?
Although this does specify two areas of knowledge, shared knowledge and personal knowledge means essentially all knowledge, so again, the boundaries of this essay are
wide-ranging. In addition, what it wants you to do with that knowledge (‘shape’) can mean many different things. So whilst there is undoubted potential to run with
this question and do something quite creative, there is also the danger that your essay will end up being very unfocused, and lacking in both depth and detail.
The wording of the title mean that you write a fairly descriptive essay, talking about how you personally have been influenced by different areas of knowledge, and you
should be careful not to fall into this trap. Connected to this, it may be hard to identify and develop clear counterclaims, given that its fairly clear that shared
knowledge does play a huge role in shaping our personal knowledge.
Lastly, TOK essays need a good balance of real life examples, so just drawing on your own experiences and personal knowledge won’t take you as far as you need to go to
properly answer the question.
c. What knowledge issues & associated WOKs/AOKs could be explored?
d. What sort of real life situations could be drawn on?
e. Which perspectives and implications could be considered?
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