A query on Twitter caught my eye this morning:
#MYP DP Theory of Knowledge … where is it in the MYP? Is it missing? Is it necessary? [from @krea_frobro747]
I replied, “ATL should be taught as a weekly or biweekly pre-TOK class.”
TOK is a great course, and the concept behind it is compelling, but its implementation in most schools falls far short. Typically, only a handful of teachers teach TOK or know anything about it. Its weighting in the IBDP grading system contributes to this marginalization, which belies the original vision of TOK at the heart of the program, the hub of the wheel connected by spokes to all the subject areas. I’ve long argued that the course should be taught by pairs of teachers, one more experienced, and that every teacher should rotate through a TOK teaching assignment. Then TOK would truly permeate the program, as it was intended to do.
But this morning’s tweet points to another issue for TOK: before the first day of Grade 11, students have little or no experience thinking about the sort of issues that arise in TOK. The first half-year of TOK is spent dealing with that deer-in-headlights shock and confusion.
Why, indeed, is there no analogous course in the Middle Years’ Programme? I can’t think of a good reason.
However, as my response above suggests, there is a solution at hand. Of all the ‘Areas of Interaction’ in the MYP, ‘Approaches to Learning’ receives the least attention. Not surprisingly. Schools have always done a lousy job of teaching students how to learn. It’s not just study skills: it’s work habits, study habits, personal habits . . . it is, in fact, ‘approaches to learning’. What could be more important? And yet, most teachers are far too busy teaching content to teach ‘approaches to learning’, except incidentally and by osmosis. Which is why I ended up writing my book, Good Habits, Good Students.
So let’s solve two problems at once. A weekly or biweekly ATL course in the Middle Years program would provide an opportunity to address learning habits and skills explicitly, and to engage in the kind of age-appropriate discourse that would give students invaluable practice thinking about how they think, so that when they arrived for their first TOK class in Grade 11 they would resemble fish in water, instead of deer in headlights.