Michael Dunn's Guide to Theory of Knowledge: Real Life Situations and Knowledge Questions



you my name is Michael Dunn I'm the creator of theory of knowledge net which is the world's most used online resource for theory of knowledge I've been an international teacher since 2001 I teach history and film and of course theory of knowledge and when asked I do geography and politics as well knowledge questions are the fundamental element of talk they're the thing that underpin everything that you do but they are also unfortunately something that students really tie themselves up in knots over mainly I think because they think they are something which they are not knowledge questions are simply that there are questions about knowledge talk is built on one big question which is how do we know what we know and you can see knowledge questions really as scaled-down versions of that big question applied to real-life situations that their simplest they could be something like how do we know that there's a war going on in Iraq at the moment how do we know that there is a general election in the UK today how do we know that you're ventus beat barcelona on tuesday night so knowledge questions underpin the assessment as well as your understanding of theory of knowledge in general the way talk is assessed has changed there are now just two assessment criteria in the essay the first one is understanding knowledge questions the second one is analysis of knowledge questions the first means how relevant are they to your prescribed title and the essay to what extent have you looked at them through the lens of the areas of knowledge and the ways of knowing and have you considered other perspectives your analysis of knowledge questions is the way in which you have supported your arguments with evidence with real-life situations have you considered counterclaims and have you looked at the implications of your knowledge questions so for the presentation the criteria has become the criteria have become the criteria and there is only one criteria for the marking of the presentation and this is all about coming up with what they say is a well formulated knowledge question which you have effectively explored so you need to do those two things and you will be given your mark based on that so as we can see the knowledge questions really are fundamental to your eventual mark and talk okay so a knowledge question should have certain characteristics first of all it should be about something which matters it should have significant implications it should be something that engages all of us now that doesn't necessarily mean that it has to be a worldwide phenomenon it doesn't have to be an enormous event that's going on in the world it can be something local it could even be something personal but it's got to be something that we will care about something that we can recognize something that we can sympathize with so it should engage your readers or your audience when you're writing your essay presentation secondly it has to be an open question it's has to lead on to something which is defined by debate it can't just be a yes/no answer a good rule of thumb is that if it causes a fight in your classroom is probably a good knowledge question thirdly and this is a tricky bit it has to be a second-order knowledge question we're not interested in first-order knowledge questions now what's the difference between these a first-order knowledge question is about the phenomenon itself it's about something going on in the world a second-order knowledge question is about how we know about that phenomenon how we know about that event to put this into context if we were looking at human sciences we're not interested in theories about the mind we are interested in how we know about those theories of the mind so can we trust what these psychologists are telling us has the scientific method been used is it reliable information is it strong knowledge if we are looking at ethics we're not really interested in the answer of is the death penalty right or wrong we want to know about how you come up with a position how you how you base your knowledge on this question so we might think about the way in which we use faith to come up with an answer to this question we might look at how we come up with an answer based on reason do we use religion do we use the law etc etc if we're looking at the Natural Sciences we're not interested in Einstein's theory of relative per say we're interested in how Einstein came up with the theory of relativity did he use imagination did he use reason D to use intuition etc etc okay so how do we how do we get our knowledge questions how do we extract them from a real-life situation the first thing to say is that virtually everything every event every problem every issue has a knowledge question attached to it in its most basic form we could simply ask how do we know how do we know about this how do we know that there's an election going on in the UK today how do we know that the sky is blue how do we know that Washington DC exists etc etc but we need to be a little more sophisticated than that we need to link our knowledge question to an area of knowledge or a way of knowing or more than one of those and we need to frame it in a way in which we can explore it through those areas of knowledge so to give an example I read a story the other day from the BBC about pop music the headline was pop music had three revolutions apparently scientists in London universities have looked at around 17,000 songs from the US Billboard Hot 100 and they have said that there were three revolutions in music in 1964 in 1983 and in 1991 now as a music lover I was drawn to this article it seemed to me extraordinary that scientists could pinpoint with exact precision and accuracy this was when the revolutions occurred and I got thinking about this story and I thought this would be a very good story to look at in a classroom or even in an essay or a presentation but what knowledge question can we use for this well first of all which areas of knowledge are we looking at clearly we're looking at music so we're looking at the Arts we are also looking at science the article doesn't specify what sort of scientists these people were so it could be Natural Sciences it could be human sciences so what's our knowledge question well you could come up with something along the lines of to what extent can we use the scientific method in order to and the arts and that would work okay so including a knowledge question in your essay is obviously fundamental to your eventual mark and talk it's can be a tricky thing to do but it doesn't have to be a tricky thing to do first of all your knowledge question has to be relevant to your prescribed title so whatever you have chosen to write about you must make sure that your knowledge questions are related to that an easy way to do that is actually to use the wording of the prescribed title to formulate your knowledge question however we don't need to frame our knowledge questions as a question in fact it's better not to do that what you need to do is break your knowledge question in to present a knowledge claim which proposes the idea that you're talking about and then come up with a with a counterclaim which looks at the other point of view so if we are we can put that in cut into context if we are looking at the real-life situation that we were just talking about our knowledge claim would be along the lines of the scientific method helps us to understand the arts ok it's it's no longer a question it becomes a claim you would put that in your topic sentence in the first part of your paragraph to make it really clear for the for the examiner or the reader you would then present some general discussion looking at the nature of the arts looking at the nature of this of the sciences perhaps thinking in terms of the arts being very technical looking at music looking at the structure of a novel looking at the way in which a piece of visual art is constructed you don't yet jump in with your example give general discussion first of all talk about the areas of knowledge after you've done that you then move on to your example you look at your real life situation and that acts as justification for what you've just been saying so you have three different elements your claim in your topic sentence your explanation and then your example a real-life example or your real-life situation to support what you've just said you would then do the same for your counterclaim again phrase it as a statement rather than a question so in this case possibly the scientific method has limitations in helping us to understand the or we need subjective methods in order to understand the arts you would then explain that perhaps thinking about more in terms of the emotional side of the arts more in terms of the way in which we use imagination subjective methodology rather than strict scientific clinical ideas finally you'd come up with your real-life situation again perhaps in this case you might talk in terms of your own experiences with the arts reading a book looking at a piece of visual art listening to music and describe the way in which you use emotion to understand the arts and you then have your two elements of your knowledge questioned your claim and your counterclaim okay so the way you use knowledge questions in the presentation is quite different from the essay first of all the big thing is you choose your main knowledge question you choose your main real life situation and unlike the essay it's more advisable to start with your real life situation and move to your knowledge question with the essay as we've just seen we start with our knowledge question we discuss it and then we move to our real life situation you have to turn that on its head for the presentation at least for your main real life situation you should then provide some secondary knowledge questions that are related to your main knowledge question and each one of those and there should be three or four of those each one of those should be supported with another real-life situation either taken from outside reading or from your own experiences so in the case of our example that we've just looked at first of all you would describe that real-life situation that case of the scientists looking at pop music you would then explain your knowledge question so how did you come up with your knowledge question how does it relate to your real life situation make sure those two things are very related very closely linked and then you would move on to your secondary knowledge questions and go through them discussing them and presenting your real life situations it's also worth saying that the presentation is less formal than the essay you don't have to rigidly divide it into claims and counterclaims you can take a more discursive approach if there are there will be more than one of you in your team so you might all have a different opinion that's a great thing to bring to a presentation you don't have to all agree it doesn't have to all be very very rigidly scripted so you can be a little more formal and you can enjoy yourself a little more ah

8 thoughts on “Michael Dunn's Guide to Theory of Knowledge: Real Life Situations and Knowledge Questions”

  1. Firstly i am pretty impressed by Micheal Dunn's fluent and explanatory answers. He knows what he is doing in an excellent level. Secondly dear fellas, if you really want to understand mr. dunn's points more clearly, i suggest you to look at the tok guide first. The context are same, you can think of it as a teacher who explains the texts in the coursebook.

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