Knowers Perspective Tok Essay Sample

How to do a TOK presentation?

Saturday, October 13, 2007    

A TOK presentation is another important component of this course. One third of your final grade is based on the presentation, so you should really try your best.

This year we have to film all our presentations and send the films to the IB for assessment, so it is particularly important that we have high quality presentations. What would a really good presentation be like?

To get an idea of this we will firstly look at the assessment criteria. In my next post I will show you some video samples produced by IBO and comment them. But now let's look at the assessment criteria of presentations.

Your presentation will be assessed using four different criteria:

  1. Identification of knowledge issues

    An excellent presentation identifies a knowledge issue that is clearly relevant to the real life situation/contemporary problem

    Lets imagine you would want to a presentation on Is globalisation ethical? How could you link such a 'big' topic to a real life situation?

    You could start by researching the idea of globalisation and ethical debate around it. In about 2 minutes I was able to find an interesting New York Times article through regarding rights and wrongs of globalisation. This contains real life information about globalisation, such as what people in different countries think about it.

  2. Treatment of knowledge issues.

    An excellent presentation shows a good understanding of knowledge issues in the context of real life situation/contemporary problem

    Does globalisation have anything to do with your life or is it just a big concept?

    Let's think about it.

    Did you buy ice coffee today in Flintstones? If you did you supported a multinational coffee company which most likely pays peanuts to coffee farmers in Colombia. That was an ethical decision on your part with global impact although you were just wanted to have a cup of ice coffee. Same logic applies to many other products you consume.

    Tell me what globalisation and ethics mean for your life. Tell me what they mean to those farmers in Colombia. Tell me what they mean to that big multinational company? Give me your interpretations. Get it?

  3. Knower's perspective

    To get an excellent grade you should provide arguments and examples, show an individual approach and demonstrate why your presentation topic is significant.

    Again your personal voice is being emphasised. You should actually try to argue something. A presentation that just lists pros and cons of globalisation is unlikely to get a very high grade. What do you think? Are some examples of globalisation you have covered in your presentation, in you mind, right or wrong. Tell me why you think they are right or wrong?

    Select examples that are interesting, topical, relevant to you. Talk about a Julio who is a 14 year old boy working on coffee plantation, not only sales figures of Nestle and some fair trade companies. Give a story a face.

    So what? What is the significance of me knowing all this about coffee trade? So what if child labour is used in China to produce Nike shoes I am wearing? Can you make a connection? Your purchase may be supporting a company that is expoiting someone somewhere. Does this make you think twice about consuming these products ... how about buying fair trade coffee instead?

  4. Connections

    An excellent presentation shows how the question (and I do want your presentation titles to be questions!) could be approached from different perspectives and considered their implications in related area.

    The ethics of globalisation topic could, for example, be approached from perspectives of the individual farmer, the consumer, the economic development.

    An important part of the connections section is that you link your presentation to knowledge issues i.e. ask yourself: how can we know? is this knowledge reliable? In this case of coffee trade issue ... am I just believing fair trade propaganda, or is there really something to argument that big coffee multinationals are exploiting farmers? Should I instead believe the multinationals when they claim they are providing job opportunities and creating wealth by their investments?

    Be critical about the sources of information you use. Tell where you got the information and if in your mind this information is trustworthy.

    When you draw your conclusions try to justify your claims as well as you can. Try to make your arugment such that it mostly appeals to reason, i.e. it makes sense to believe what you are saying.

The above title is not the exact title of this essay, students should ensure that they get the exact title of the essay from their teacher. (I can’t write the exact title here as IB may issue me with a DRM Takedown Notice if I do).

Here’s a link to a brief Prezi giving my main thoughts / overview of the essay.

My first thought on looking at this title is “what does knowledge look like without a knower’s perspective ?”. I mean, is that even possible ? surely knowledge is ‘something that is known’, and therfore it must be known by someone, that someone must hold a knower’s perspective. It seems that the very concept of knowledge without a knower’s perspective is an oxymoron. However, I guess that if we dig a little deeper we could engage in a debate about knowledge being external reality to be discovered vs knowledge being a constructed internal reality. This could be linked to a rationalist vs empiricist type of debate.

My second thought about this essay concerns the word ‘pursuit’ in the title. If it seems obvious that all knowledge must have a knower’s perspective then maybe the actual debate in this essay is in exploring the idea of ‘pursuing’ knowledge. This debate could centre around the idea that knowledge can be ‘discovered’ as serendipity (a sort of intuitive process) or knowledge can be purposefully constructed – this will vary in nature according to the WoK and AoKs being explored. It is, approximately this approach that I will take in this explanation. However, I must put a very strong cautionary warning on this post – my approach is not necessarily the ‘correct’ approach, other approaches may be ‘more correct’ than mine.

The Knower’s Perspective:

A starting point for understanding the knower’s perspective is Personal Knowledge. Students could look at the detailed definition of Personal Knowledge from the 2015 IB ToK Guide, to get a detailed understanding of what constitutes the knower’s perspective, and how the knower’s perspective constitutes part of this aspect of knowledge. This definition could then be applied to a real life situation.

However, it may then be interesting to argue that the knower’s perspective (as part of personal knowledge) is very much shaped by shared knowledge – the very concept of the perspective is, in part, defined by a shared knowledge / shared set of understandings.

Real Life Example of the interaction of shared and personal knowledge in the knower’s perspective:

If this is a Man by Primo Levi (1947) is Primo Levi’s account of surviving the Auschwitz concentration camp during the holocaust of the second world war (I strongly recommend that all DP students read this book). In the text Levi gives us his personal experience of being arrested in Turin, being transported to Auschwitz, and then surviving in Auschwitz – this is very much personal knowledge and the knower’s perspective. However, Levi’s personal knowledge and perspective is informed by a range of aspects of shared knowledge. For example: he partly understands his experience in political terms – the Nazis have a political agenda etc. He manages to survive in Auschwitz partly because of his (personal) specialist knowledge of shared knowledge (you will have to read the book to further understand this).

To further develop the discussion around PK & SK students could look at the term ‘pursuit’ through this lens. Pursuing knowledge in a SK context could be using the methodology of experimental (natural and human) sciences, or through a disciplined process of study joining creativity with reason in the Arts, or through accountability of moral institutions in Ethics. It could be argued that it is in the discussion of how these shared knowledge areas meet with personal knowledge that we find the an understanding of the process of pursuit of knowledge. This could be seen through the prism of WoKs.

A real life example of looking at ‘pursuit of knowledge’ in terms of PK & SK:

Artist Joan Miro studied at both Business School and Art School, developing an understanding of Human Sciences and The Arts using reason, creativity, perception, imagination etc in a Shared Knowledge context. In the 1920’s he used this understanding, and his own emotions and imagination to develop a Surrealist style which became archetypal of the genre in later years – this is an example of Personal Knowledge interacting with Shared Knowledge. At the beginning of the second world war he interpreted the macro-political themes of Europe (Shared Knowledge) in terms of astral constellations (shared knowledge) to create his own works of Celestial Constellations – he used his own interpretation (personal knowledge) to pursue the creation of shared knowledge forms.

Returning to the original question, I find it rather difficult to argue the counterclaim (ie that knowledge can be created without a knower’s perspective). As such I think that another possible way through this essay may be to look at the possibility of a value free or neutral theory of knowledge. This is premised on the idea that we can develop knowledge which is unbiased, or we can minimise the influence of the knower’s perspective. As such the question is being interpreted through the lens of Objectivity. A knowledge question which would arise from such an approach may be:

  • Is it possible to have a value-free Theory of Knowledge ?, or
  • can Ways of Knowing interact to form an objective Way of Knowing ?

Philosophers, and others, have been considering this possibility for ‘a very long time’. I have written a fairly brief precis of some of the key ideas in this post linked here for students who may be interested in taking this approach to the essay. Suffice to say here, that if we approach essay #3 through the prism of ‘objectivity’ then  students could be engaging in a discussion around empiricism vs rationalism. Both ‘isms’ have quite specific understandings of what constitutes objective knowledge. These understandings are closely linked to the Knowledge Framework’s of each AoK – again I would recommend a close look at the Knowledge Frameworks in the ToK Guide, particularly at the methodology and underlying assumptions sections.

Finally, if students do choose this essay it has great opportunities for links with their IB subjects, and their personal knowledge development in their lives.

Enjoy your ToK Writing !


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