I have been a high school teacher for most of my teaching career. And I have taught DP History and DP Theory of Knowledge* for over 8 years. I have been that teacher who is worried about external exams and covering the content. I have been a stress-creator for my grade 11s and 12s. Chalk-and-talk was a regular (though not constant) teaching method. Many, many assessments were the dreaded past-papers. I believe many of my students enjoyed my class and learned a lot despite me playing sage-on-the-stage. But as the years went on, I grew bored** and convinced there were other ways to teach and I started using more projects and multiple assessment styles for my DP classes. I studied alternate teaching methods. And then I became a middle school teacher, which in many ways fit my philosophy of education much better than being a DP teacher.
For most of COETAIL, I have been thinking about how to transform teaching and learning in a middle school humanities class. Honestly, this is an easy place to try Project Based Learning and introduce global collaboration opportunities. My challenge now is to take these these teaching methods that I think best serve students and use them in my DP Theory of Knowledge class.
- I see these grade 11 kids ninety minutes a week, plus an annoying 30 minutes before school every other week. We do have stuff we need to cover and teacher directed learning is almost always quicker. I just need to be smart.
- I find DP kids often like to be spoon-fed information, whenever possible. They are busy and they are stressed. They want the information quick and easy, even if it is boring. Doing PBL-style learning isn’t easy and kids surprisingly don’t embrace it the way we think they will.
- TOK isn’t always valued, by students or staff. One of my goals as TOK coordinator is for this to change at YIS.
- TOK is taught around the world. Every Diploma student takes TOK. That means there are a lot of schools, teachers, and students we can work with. Let me know if you want to work together. I think this is something sadly missing from my TOK classes and I don’t think I’m the only one.
- The curriculum of TOK is a lot less content driven than all other DP classes. It is based around the concept of “how do we know what we know”. Concept based learning should be driven by student inquiry. In fact, one of the criterion is “Knower’s Perspective.” This is the right class for students to think freely, make connections, and develop their own voice.
So let’s see how this goes. The general goal of for the next month is for students to develop a presentation using strong design skills. They will make connections, with other TOK students, YIS teachers, and YIS students. They will pick what they are interested in, look at the criteria for a presentation and then challenge themselves to figure how their learning in school can affect the world. They will struggle to understand the terminology of this new and wonderful course. I will act as a guide and a resource, but hopefully I don’t have to talk too much. I’ll stop asking leading questions and let them ask open-ended questions. . Because good teaching and learning shouldn’t stop at grade 11.
* TOK is the center of the IB Diploma. It’s for students to practice critical thinking and make connections between their other classes and the real-world. I’ve taught this course in three schools on three different continents and I think high school students are so lucky to take this amazing course.
**It’s dull repeating a lecture for the fourth time and read the exact same essay 80 times. And I find it a little depressing/boring that I’ve taught TOK the same way in all three schools. We did do an awesome Fed-Ex day in Munich with our TOK kids and something I’m eager to bring to YIS.