As you consider making changes to your essay…

Remember that tomorrow, Thursday, November 21st, you should bring a revised copy of your essay, the initial draft, and your journal.  We will work on refining knowledge issues from there.

In addition, as you make your revisions tonight, consider these abbreviated comments from the IB Assessors – I’ve chosen the comments that seem most pertinent to the issues I’ve seen in both your drafts and your outlines this week.

Good Luck.

Degree and quality of apparent teacher guidance

While it must be recorded that some essays appeared to indicate the input of good guidance from teachers concerning the unpacking of essay titles, many examiners continue to worry about the schism between those candidates who seem to have received too much, or inappropriate, assistance:

 “There were so many essays which were obviously following a taught template, with standard examples.”

 “Quite a few candidates seem to have been guided to write an essay with a canned format: restate the title, define the terms using a dictionary, state a knowledge issue, at some point force in an example from some personal non-academic experience…”

 And a larger group of candidates who seem to have been afforded none at all:

 “It was very clear in many instances that candidates had been given no help whatsoever. In such instances, candidates were left to write meandering ramblings which, although personal, had no resemblance to an argument.”

 “Many had only a superficial understanding of the essay question and appeared to be submitting a first draft.”

 “It is a pity that a large number of essays could have scored better marks with some simple suggestions or advice from the teachers.”

A number of examiners noted a prevalence of essays this session that leaned heavily toward the minimum permitted word count, as if candidates simply wished to do only just what it takes to fulfill the Diploma requirement for TOK. This is not only disappointing, but exerts a downward pressure on results as it is quite difficult to construct a high-quality essay in only 1,200 words. It is hoped that the removal of the minimum word-count from the requirements in the new program will encourage future candidates to work towards the maximum figure – which will remain 1,600 words.

 Treatment of knowledge issues

Some examiners noted some improvements in this area:

 “In most cases, the candidates appropriately used the prescribed title as the central knowledge issue for the essay.”

 “This session there was quite a heavy shift away from overtly stating knowledge issues in the introduction, to embedding them in the body of the papers. To a large degree papers did actually address knowledge issues, though few papers did so consistently.”

 “I’m finding that more candidates are expressly mentioning knowledge issues. In such instances, the discussion is far more likely to be focused. Too many candidates however, simply restate the prompt in different words, posing this as their solitary knowledge issue.”

While others felt moved to indicate that:

 “Some candidates appeared to have been advised to rephrase the title as a knowledge issue and then focus the essay on that issue. This sometimes resulted in the whole essay being off topic. Candidates should be advised to stick to knowledge issues that are necessary to answer the essay question thoroughly.”

 “The passage from prescribed title to knowledge issues is a hazardous one. The prescribed titles (the prompts) are phrased in a way that is designed to suggest a cluster of immediate knowledge issues that are necessary to tackle as part of an answer to the question. Often candidates are producing knowledge issues that do not sit easily on the line from question to answer and in many cases produced ‘knowledge issues’ that are nothing of the sort. This is still an area that needs a lot of attention.”

knowledge issues, … are questions that could possibly arise within a candidate’s attempt to develop a line of analysis. They might be thought of as stepping stones along the route chosen by the candidate for exploring the prescribed title, but they should never appear to be the origin of the analysis itself – it should always be possible to re-trace the line of development back to the prescribed title.

Additionally: “Candidates are encouraged, wherever possible, to treat ways of knowing within a context of areas of knowledge (related in particular to criterion A) or supported by concrete examples, in order to avoid treatment in the abstract. Addressing them in isolation or without reference to established knowledge easily leads to anecdotal claims and unsophisticated and unrealistic hypothetical examples which add little to the understanding of learning and knowing.”

And teachers are urged:

 to emphasise that the term “sense perception”, or even merely “perception”, should be used in TOK only in connection to knowledge that is acquired in ways that involve the direct use of the senses. In TOK discourse, “perception” is not a synonym for “perspective” or “point of view”

 to encourage the view that emotion, as a way of knowing, has many positive qualities that can be discussed and is not some sort of “poor cousin” in this category – there are still a significant number of essays that assume that emotion is the antithesis of reason and that this position is self-evident and does not need further discussion or justification.

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