the course: theory of knowledge
the instructor: vanessa hughes
Theory of knowledge is unlike other Diploma courses, and probably unlike anything you’ve done before in school. If you’re coming to it for the first time, you’ll be wondering what it deals with, why you have to do it, and whether it’s a good thing or not there’s no TOK exam.
Confusion is good :If you’re a little confused, then you’re off to a good start, because you’re going to confused a lot during the TOK course. TOK is all about wondering, and often your wondering won’t result in you figuring out a clear answer, and you’ll discover that the wondering is often the end product.
In terms of what it deals with, it’s essentially a critical thinking course, which focuses on eight areas of knowledge that are connected (but not limited) to your IB Diploma subjects. It deals with the nature of knowledge – epistemology – so it has a ‘philosophical’ angle, and draws on the ideas of many famous thinkers from the present and the past history. It’s probably best understood by looking at its aims, the fundamental one of which is simple: to help you think in a clearer and more structured way.
How does TOK try to achieve its aims? By looking at both the subjects we study (the areas of knowledge) and how we perceive them (the ways of knowing), and then trying to work out the connections between them and ourselves as knowers. Already that sounds complicated. It means in practice that we try to apply what we are learning to the world of ideas, pondering such questions as: Can art be fundamentally good or bad? How complete is the picture of the world that science provides us with? How much do ethical decisions depend on society and individual? Does our view of history change over time? … and so on.
It’s a mandatory course because the IB considers the skills and topics that you’ll be learning during the course very important. TOK, alongside the extended essay and CAS, is one of the three things that sets the diploma apart from other programmes of its type, such as A-Levels, and, makes the Diploma, dare we say it, a superior and more demanding course. [from theoryofknowledge.net]
"At its core, teaching is about a love of learning and the strong desire for our students to achieve their goals. It is a trite expression, but we plant seeds. The results of our work are rarely immediate, and we may never know if the lessons we provide hit home, but we trust that the curiosity and imagination sparked in the classroom catch fire."
[with apologies to W.B.Yeats].
"After ten years working in film and visual media production, I became an educator. The route to the classroom was circuitous with an almost embarrassingly clichéd goal: I want to help kids change the world. I have the fortune and privilege of spending my days with teenagers who – unlike most grownups - are enthusiastic about the future and believe that most things are possible.
"I am a passionate and dedicated teacher of writing, media production, media literacy, reading, language, and literature. I believe my professional obligation is to develop critical thinkers and global citizens who understand that their education comes with a responsibility to be a discerning and engaged citizen of the world."
In addition to teaching Theory of Knowledge, Ms. Hughes teaches the digital media program at Cleveland High School in Portland, Oregon.
Hughes: media production site
Hughes: English site (currently on sabbatical from English)
You can find me at:
Cleveland High School, Portland Public Schools
3400 SE 26th Avenue, Portland, OR 97202
503-916-5120 x 75042
Qualifications and Certifications
Master of Arts in Teaching
Lewis and Clark Graduate School of Ed, 2005
Bachelor of Arts:
Film and Communications
Columbia College Chicago, 1995
Highly Qualified Teacher: Oregon
Certified: International Baccalaureate Organization, English Literature; Language and Literature; Theory of Knowledge
Certified: Career and Technical Education state of Oregon: Media Arts
Certified: Professional Learning Communities