IB Diploma Essay Editing

At the meeting today, Thursday, February 16th, after school, Diploma Candidates will be learning the following:

  1. the requirements of the rubric for the ToK essay
  2. how to apply the rubric
  3. pitfalls that students often fall into (taken from IB evaluator feedback)
  4. must-have elements or items for their chosen prompt

In addition, we will be spending time during the session:

  • discussing elements of your prompt
  • peer editing other students’ essays
  • receiving feedback on your essay
  • editing your essay

The following is a sample source of feedback from the 2011 examiner’s report:

3 “Doubt is the key to knowledge” (Persian Proverb). To what extent is this true in two areas of knowledge?

Four examples of knowledge issues that could be addressed in this title:

  • To what extent do different areas of knowledge incorporate doubt as a part of their methods?
  • Under what circumstances might doubt undermine the construction or acquisition of knowledge?
  • Why is the possibility of doubt needed for knowledge?
  • Since doubt can be taken to be lack of convincing support for a claim, how can this lead to a situation in which the claim has convincing support?

 This was a very popular title, but it was widely misunderstood. When should you doubt and why; when should you stop doubting and start believing, were not treated by many. The feasible distinction between doubt as a state of mind and uncertainty as a description of the status of a knowledge claim was rarely made. Candidates often asserted that individuals such as Copernicus or Gödel experienced doubt, and that the presence of this doubt was instrumental to the advances in knowledge for which these individuals were responsible. The speculative nature of such assertions by the candidate was usually not recognized and thus the effectiveness of such historical examples was often somewhat undermined.

 Stronger candidates managed to compare the role of doubt in the acquisition of knowledge with other possible mechanisms, such as curiosity or serendipity. Furthermore, the way that doubt has been institutionalized in scientific methods received frequent treatment, with many accounts of the views of Popper and the idea of falsification in science. The radical skeptical methods of Descartes were often invoked but candidates seldom succeeded in explaining how his method could lead to the construction of what we commonly accept as knowledge today.