By: Phil Ossofee, Individual Who Reflects, Citizen Who Acts
In an effort to make its students think more about how they generate knowledge, Toronto French School - Canada’s International School has begun to offer a novel Theory of Theory of Knowledge class, in which students consider the ways of knowing what the ways of knowing in the traditional Theory of Knowledge class are. Students consider the implications of implications, they question their research questions, and reflect upon their reflections, with some scholarly critics pointing out that a reflection of a reflection is just the original image.
One such student, Eric Stottle, has had a series of interesting experiences with the course that he was gracious enough to share with the staff at Limited Edition. After obtaining a mark of Q/0.9 on his final assessment, the Theory of Theory of Knowledge Further Assessment of Interdisciplinary Learning and Understanding in Recombinant Epistemology, or the FAILURE for short, he was confused as to how his mark compared to those of other students. The Theory of Theory of Knowledge rubric used to mark his FAILURE uses descriptive sentences that evaluators use to classify the student’s work in a number of quantitative bands for a number of criteria. The figures calculated from those bands are then divided by several irrational numbers, added over a non-common denominator, and then normalized by a randomly-generated constant to determine the student’s final grade.
The FAILURE’s rubric is known for its unusual shape. Just as the Theory of Theory of Knowledge course is known for its unconventional nature, the FAILURE’s rubric is actually a 4-dimensional manifold equivalent of the 3-dimensional hypersphere analogue. What this means in practice is that the rubric acts as a sphere; if a student obtains a mark even higher than the highest mark proposed by the curriculum, the mark actually loops around to a near-failing evaluation. This has generated controversy among IB coordinators due to the fact that it may encourage linear thinking to avoid looping through the rubric.
Other IB coordinators take issue not only with the shape of the rubric, but its contents. “It’s hard to tell exactly what the markers want from the students,” commented TFS’ IB coordinator Dr. Elliot Jennifer. Dr. Jenny, as she prefers to be called, has criticized some of the ambiguities in the way the project is marked. Some descriptors in the markscheme include terms such as “cogent*”, “lucid*”, “scintillating”, and “honorificabilitudinitatibus”. IB Theory of Theory of Knowledge markers are instructed to watch a student’s FAILURE, close their eyes and imagine what word most closely describes the colour they see once they close their eyes. They then count the number of letters in that word, and match it up with the markband that most closely resembles how the marker feels about the number they calculated.
Dr. Jenny and Eric both agree that it feels very arbitrary to mark students’ hard work and understanding of knowledge in such an algorithmic (and seemingly random) way. While they have petitioned with the IB to have it changed, the organization refuses to listen to it until they put it in the FAILURE format.
“The FAILURE is a strange project,” Eric commented in an interview. “It’s like an interpretive dance of knowledge, but you only get 15 seconds to do it. They play a song for you, and you have to move your body to demonstrate your understanding of the Inner Knowledge System-Framework Implication Mechanisms™ (International Baccalaureate, 2020). The song has lyrics, and you’re expected to lip-sync to the song they play for you. I even recorded mine with the front camera of my phone!” While Eric had nothing but positive reviews to give about the FAILURE, he also commented that it was a relatively stressful project. “I wish they could just have normal assignments. Why do they insist on only giving us 15 seconds to sing the lyrics? In all my other courses I get 20 seconds.”
The FAILURE’s interesting approach to assessing learning is prompting TFS to create a second, even newer course about the Theory of Theory of Knowledge class, called “Theories in Knowledge, Theory of Knowledge”, or TiKToK for short. Although Theory of Theory of Knowledge was not a popular course, TiKToK has been a smashing success for TFS’ academic advisors, especially among the younger grades. Level II students especially are so excited to take the course that they are practically dancing for TiKToK.
The future of Theory of Theory of Knowledge is, much like its content, confusing and unsure. It has inspired some and perplexed others, but it is a stain in TFS history that will surely be remembered.
*Actual words used to mark Theory of Knowledge assignments.