On Monday #tokrew11 (our hashtag for our Grade 11 Theory of Knowledge class) went into a Grade 10 Physics class to observe how knowledge was stored, moved and processed during a lab. As knowledge ethnographers, we were looking for the following:
Later, as shown In the picture above, we dumped our observations onto a white board, worked them over to be sure we had good data, and grouped them under four headings:
When we were done, we pulled out our map of knowledge. This is an original visual metaphor the students created to model the structure of knowledge. Our map was built on hypothetical examples, but this was the first time we would test whether we could model what we observed in the physics class–a real world example of knowledge in motion.
On the map, continents represent the Areas of Knowledge (Arts, Ethics, History, Human Sciences, Indigenous systems, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Religious Systems) sailboats represent the Ways of Knowing (Emotion, Faith, Imagination, Intuition, Language, Memory, Reason, Sense Perception) and ocean currents linking ideas such as the concepts of belief and proof.
The map metaphor held up reasonably well. We were able to model observed and inferred behaviours in the physics class: we had, for example, Memory (sailboat) bring a cargo of formula (factual recall) and Reason (another sailboat) carry a cargo of skills (mathematical problem solving) from the land of Math to the land of Natural Science. The boat, Sense Perception (we suggest), carries graphing skills from Art to Natural Science.
We have some refining to do, but we think our first real world test of our model does helps us appreciate the complex relationship between the elements of Theory of Knowledge and avoid the trap of thinking we can really talk about areas of knowledge and ways of knowing in isolation. Our next test will be to observe and map a different kind of class, a history or literature class, for example, to see if knowledge works differently in the humanities and to further test our map.
My own hunch is that our map will help also TOK students find powerful illustrations of the structure of knowledge in everyday activities instead of having to move to contentious and controversial issues which too frequently draw people away from the essence of the course.