Knowledge Questions

Many first-time teachers struggle with understanding Knowledge Questions and introducing them to the students. In my lessons, I try to introduce them as soon as possible for the students to familiarise themselves with the complicated nature of questions about knowledge.

So what are Knowledge questions?

KQ is a question about the construction of knowledge or the nature of knowledge. Knowledge question must be open, general and about knowledge.

  • Knowledge questions are questions about knowledge. Instead of focusing on specific content, they focus on how knowledge is constructed and evaluated. They are considered second-order questions in TOK.
  • Knowledge questions are open in the sense that there are a number of plausible answers to them. The questions are contestable. Many students encountering TOK for the first time are struck by this lack of a single “right” answer.
  • Knowledge questions should be expressed in general terms, rather than using subject-specific terms. For example, instead of a question focusing on a specific model of memory in psychology, such as the Multi-store memory model, a knowledge question might focus on the reliability of modelling as a method of gaining knowledge in human sciences.

So how do I introduce the knowledge questions to the students?

  1. I introduce the term by showing them this presentation
  2. Puzzles activity – I cut the KQs into pieces (single words or short phrases) and ask the students (in small groups) to have a go and formulate as many knowledge questions that make sense as possible
  3. TOK concepts – in pairs, I ask the students to pick 2 concepts from a hat and create a KQ based on the 2 concepts picked
  4. RLS and KQ match we move then to matching real-life situations and KQ
  5. We take an article, example, and annotate it using concepts and formulating KQs that match with the text.
  6. We practice a little more distinguishing between 1st and 2nd order questions: KQ or not? Presentation 1 and KQ or not? Presentation 2
  7. Homework: pick one RLS, find an article/video/picture connected with it, choose appropriate concepts from the concept list and formulate a good KQ.

An alternative way to introduce it (I practiced it but it seemed to be more challenging to the students) is to use a ladder of abstraction based on the materials from the IBO:

Some additional resources:

Knowledge Questions and how to get the right? IB review materials

Linking questions

Mr Hoye website – go to Presentations -> Sample KQs and you will find the list of KQs compiled from TOK subject reports

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