Skills, knowledge claims and knowledge questions

My dog is slipping, being tired after an hour of wandering around with me. It was snowing all day yesterday and I thought it would be nice to go out for a walk with the dog. But instead of seeing a picture of beautiful whiteness so often presented on postcards I saw only dirty streets, colored with dark shade of melted snow.  In few occasions I said “Hello” to my neighbors. In few occasions my wardrobe was splashed by cars passing by on streets. Here I claim that I had no skills to escape that. I`m struggling to write the best as I can my view to skills, knowledge claims and knowledge questions in TOK manner of understanding. (And here I asked myself did I just make a mistake when wrote “TOK manner of understanding”? Should I write “critical and open – minded manner in order not to be misunderstood?)

Class time: 90 minutes

Goals and objectives:

Students are able to develop  the ability to think more critically, solve problems, communicate effectively.

Opening: 15 minutes

Questioning and research:

Questions for reflection at the beginning of this class might be.. What do we usually consider as skill(s)? Is it something familiar with scenes in TV shows when Barry Grills succeeds to survive in every situation in every possible part of the world?  Were our ancient ancestors skillful when they found fire? Do we say for us, when prepare a beautiful lunch, that we are skillful in cooking or just talented? Do we need to be experienced in something in order to be skillful too?  Can we count how many skills do we have?

Development: 60 minutes

As an introduction to this part of the class students are introduced with an explanation of a term “skill”.

According to few different definitions (the Cambridge dictionary, the Oxford dictionary, Merriam – Webster) skill is your ability to do something on a basis of previously adopted knowledge. So, here is again knowledge in game! But if you don`t think how to transform knowledge about something in a concrete skill, it might be useless?  So, we have to search for a link between knowledge and skill in use (Let`s just say “skill in use”!). And that link is reflection. Reflection, how we perceive it in TOK,  might be described as the process that happens in your brain and transforms every sensory information you receive in a day through participation in numerous situations, in a cognitive process.  Of course, it is possible to talk about different meanings of reflection such as reflection of light, reflection in mirror, reflection of sound, waves etc. But explanations of skill and reflection are useless until students don`t reach a conclusion how they know to do something.

Students analyze different sources to identify motivations, values and attitudes that are in connection with the topic of a lecture.


Students critically evaluate information and ideas from a range of sources in relation to skill and knowledge topics and issues.

The emphasis in discussion is on explanation how we have to pass certain steps in process of skill mastering.  When you master your skill, you will become able to demonstrate it independently of anyone.

The next step in lesson development:

  • identifying what is know how knowledge
  • identifying dimensions of knowledge
  • explain to students meaning of terms such as “episteme” and “techne”, used in philosophy of Plato but Aristotle too.
  • offer different examples of know how knowledge so as those that can be applied to dimensions of knowledge

Again I have to say that is not my intention to go to too deep into philosophy when I explain difference between episteme and techne in understanding of Plato and Aristotle.  But the discussion on said might open the door for provocative questions. If Plato considers episteme as only true and valid knowledge, knowledge of ideas (beauty, goodness, justice..), and that to know means to know how to be a moral person, how can we apply that to modern era? It was Plato`s opinion that only philosophers could reach true knowledge, not farmers or guardians in his ideal society, as it was described so in Republic. So, one very small group of people was predestined for becoming owners of ultimate degree of knowledge. Does it mean that today, if we apply ideas in his philosophy literately , only super educated people or super genius might be in possession of true knowledge? What about the rest of humanity? Is an information the only true knowledge today then?

On the other hand, Aristotle stood on different position when appreciated values of different craft skills and thinking that every skill when used with purpose had to be appreciated. And the purpose of skills used was to improve functioning of a society (polis, in this case). No matter are we talk about a skill of a carpenter or a skill of a politician. Students might be asked what is more valuable today, to get into possession of right information or to know to work something in an excellent manner?

We can go further in exploration of skills, knowledge claims and knowledge question.

Every time when we claim something, no matter what, we say knowledge claim. It is a sunny day today. I know that is a sunny day today. I claim something being sure in truth of my words. I pass my knowledge further, to my colleague or a group of people.  In words of E. Dombrowski, knowledge claims are “zone of exchange between people and groups.” (Theory of knowledge Course Companion, 2013)

She, also, proposes a distinction of knowledge claims to claims of:

  • statements of personal observation
  • statements of values or value judgments
  • statements of observation
  • metaphysical statements
  • statements of prediction
  • hypothetical statement

Students can “play” with all of these statements in a game of quiz. One of students may go in a front part of a classroom and write a statement on a smart board. Other students then should guess which type of statement he wrote on a board.

The last part od development part of a class is dedicated to knowledge questions.  What would be knowledge questions? Is it something to metaphysical to understand? Or we can try to figure out knowledge questions in a blink of an eye? From my own experience, students find as troublesome to define knowledge question very fast after being introduced with this issue.  At the very opening of this chapter I use to say to them that these questions are questions about knowledge, that they have open and general form. But what does it mean to them when they hear it for the first time? Nothing. So I give an example of an open question to them. Here I find as useful to use examples of titles of TOK essays from exams in previous years.

For instance, “Knowledge takes the form of a combination of stories and facts.” How accurate is this claim in two areas of knowledge?” (exams November 2014,

Students are not familiar with areas of knowledge yet so I explain to them that they can extract an example from any science they prefer to investigate. I emphasize how open and general form of question offers a possibility of doing research in a multiple – perspective analysis.

For instance, it we take as a truth the title given, we can take in consideration for research stories described in holly scriptures in different religions. However, TOK learns students to think critically. So, we have to investigate one more area of knowledge. For instance, natural sciences. Can stories be taken as a truth in sciences? Without any method of justification applied before taken as a truth? No.

But here we are almost at the end of a story. We have to go back to its beginning. And the beginning lies in an explanation of steps that must be taken in order to understanding  beauty and varieties of possibilities for exploration of knowledge questions when given in open and general form.

Closure: 15 minutes

Time for reflection and evaluation of the lecture.

  • Drawing conclusions about issues taught  and its connections with many different issues which are important in the context of time
  • Assessing the usefulness of sources to an understanding of a significance of knowledge itself so as knowledge questions
  • identifying  steps where methods could be improved




Eileen Dombrowski, Lena Rotenberg, and Mimi Bick. Theory of Knowledge Course Companion (in cooperation with the IB). Oxford University Press, 2013.

Australian Curriculum

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Knowledge  How

Theory of knowledge, TOK essay, session November 2014


Oxford dictionaries

The Cambridge dictionary

Merriam – Webster dictionary

You Tube:

Nikola Tesla vs Thomas Edison: How The Course Of History Was Changed
Henry Ford
Cristiano Ronaldo – Talent and Skill




You are a wanderer. And you are beautiful.

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