Saturday, October 23, 2010

Responses 009 (2011-2012)

Almost there. This is the penultimate post in the main analysis line of my responses to the most recent list. Question 9 states: "As an IB student, how has your learning of literature and science contributed to your understanding of individuals and societies?"

Without the first clause, this would be a rather stodgy question, in which two conveniently different-looking lenses from C P Snow's The Two Cultures are trained on what we might think of as their thematic synthesis, modern society. However, in the light of those four words, a different context presents itself.

IB students are of course exposed to a curriculum schematically represented as a hexagon of areas of knowledge around a set of core activities. The six broad areas are literature, language, individuals and societies, experimental sciences, mathematics and aesthetics.

To an IB student, therefore, the question takes on the nuanced meaning of 'having studied a Group 1 subject and a Group 4 subject, how have they helped you study a Group 3 subject?' That might be putting it too simplistically, but it's an obvious conclusion to be drawn, given the context-framing first four words of the question.

Like others in the present list, this appears to be a very IB-centred question. A non-IB student might answer it with a slightly different approach because to a non-IB student, literature is a humanities subject, and it comments on human nature and human society through the lens of human creative interpretation and description. Similarly, the sciences allow for analysis of individual human beings as well as human society through biology and materials science and suchlike.

However, that kind of reasoning (IB/non-IB) might be a trap. Perhaps candidates are really required to interpret the main question literally, but drawing on their experiences as IB students. IB students, perhaps you aren't supposed to be thinking about Group 1, Group 4 and their impact on your learning of Group 3? Or are you?

I like this question. It requires a fine balance. It is also slightly unfair.

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Blogger Chyeaa said...

Hello! I'm a actually a junior taking Theory of Knowledge this year, and (maybe short-sightedly) decided to tackle this question. I really feel as if HL English and the treatment of science from a ToK perspective have shaped my view of individuals in societies :O Alas, I have a question: As far as literature is concerned, would that be categorized as Art under the Areas of Knowledge?

Sunday, February 20, 2011 12:09:00 pm  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

Hmmm. Literature is certainly an art. In terms of being an 'area of knowledge', you can think of it as knowledge about a) written texts, b) the techniques of their construction, and c) how these techniques lead to effects on human thoughts and emotions (especially as these relate to other human beings and human perceptions of their environments). However, when people think of Art (capitalised) rather than the arts (in general), most of them are thinking about non-text aesthetics. Hope this helps!

Monday, February 21, 2011 5:37:00 am  
Blogger meowkitty101 said...

I have chosen this topic for my TOK essay, and I am very confused. Am I supposed to interpret the question as: being specifically an IB student, how have literature and science helped me learn about individuals and societies? Or do I interpret the question in this manner: as an individual, what have I learned regarding this question? I think the latter is much easier, as my counterclaims for the former would have to refute why being in IB helps me learn about this topic. Furthermore, does the word science in this question refer only to experimental sciences or does it also apply to human sciences?

Thursday, May 05, 2011 6:56:00 pm  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

meowkitty101: actually, it should be interpreted as something like, "In your experience as an IB student, how has your learning in Groups 1 and 4 contributed to your understanding of Group 3 subjects?" Your claims can be along the lines of, 1) "My learning in Group 1 has contributed X1 to my understanding of my Group 3 subject Y" and 2) "My learning in Group 4 has contributed X2 to my understanding of my Group 3 subject Y".

Your 'counterclaim' (so to speak) might be, "However, my friend B has had a different experience and hence it might be that my case is not a typical or expected outcome," or, "However, my friend C has taken a different Group 1 or Group 4 subject and has experienced something different from what I have experienced."

Friday, May 06, 2011 4:02:00 am  
Blogger Meyi's Chef D'œuvre said...

Hi there. I have chosen to go for this topic, but I get quite confused as I write. Do I take "individuals and society" literary? Or do I take them, as you said, the "Group 3 subjects?". Currently, I am taking it to be literary, the individuals and societies. Lastly, what kind of Knowledge Issue would you recommend? Do you think a KI, which compares this 2 AOK will be good?
Thank you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 11:51:00 pm  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

MCD: I think that since the topic starts with 'As an IB student', it is easier to treat 'individuals and societies' roughly as your Group 3 subject. This is because your personal understanding of your Group 3 subject is probably the best example of your understanding of individuals and societies.

However, the Group 3 subjects in general (e.g. anthropology, world religions, ITGS, history, geography) handle different aspects of knowledge about individuals and societies. You might find it easier to talk about 'individuals and societies' from another viewpoint besides the one represented by your Group 3 subject. For example, you might do Economics, but your understanding of individuals and societies might be historical or sociological instead.

When you ask about taking 'individuals and societies' literally, you have a good point. You can do that. But it might be a bit more difficult because then you'll be looking at the situation not as an IB student so much; you'll be looking at it more generally. Do you have enough words to spare? :)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 2:28:00 pm  
Blogger i'mgonnabesomeone said...

hello there!
I've been researching a lot to get information for this TOK essay question.
Reading your blog and comments, I now realize that your idea about taking the question as group 1, 4 and 3, is somehow make more sense.

However, it is harder for me to gather ideas to write since I've been taking the question as literal.

I convert the question as group 1,2,3 and it turned out like this, How has my learning of literature and Ess contributed to my understanding of History/Philosophy.

I have trouble relating this now, so can you please help me with ideas and your thoughts?

Thank You!

Thursday, May 12, 2011 5:05:00 am  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

i'mgonnabesomeone: Literature is something that comes out of culture, and all cultures have a history and a philosophy — if you do Shakespeare, it teaches you about how people thought in the past, and since they seem to think in a way we can understand, this implies that we can also make sense of the past. Sometimes, as with plays like Hamlet and King Lear, we ask ourselves questions about what life is about, what existence and madness and power are all about — this is philosophy.

With ESS, you're looking at environments and ecologies — these also have a history, but here we are thinking about how we can understand them in terms of that 'natural history' and what our philosophy and ethics should be towards our natural resources and habitats. And don't forget, geography is a Group 3 subject too!

Thursday, May 12, 2011 7:35:00 pm  
Blogger rswpl said...

considering what you mentionned in your reply on may 06.11 "In your experience as an IB student, how has your learning in Groups 1 and 4 contributed to your understanding of Group 3 subjects?". I was actually going to consider both three group subjects (litterature, natural science and human science). what do you think about considering those three aok instead? :/

so i've been trying to read as much as i could about what is being asked in the TOK ESSAY. etc. but i'm still not sure how to structure it..
should i have three main paragraphs:
1. natural science
2. human science
3. litterature ? and then write claims and counter claims for each one of them?
thank you in advance for your help (:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011 2:50:00 am  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

rswpl: You can take your examples from any AOK you like, but you have to show four things (roughly): as an IB student, how has your learning of 1) literature contributed to your understanding of individuals, 2) literature contributed to your understanding of societies, 3) science contributed to your understanding of individuals, 4) science contributed to your understanding of societies? At the same time, remember that individuals-societies is a spectrum which just happens to be linked to Group 3 in the IB hexagon...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011 3:53:00 pm  
Blogger Julian Walter said...

My angle for this essay was slightly broader in that Indivs and and socs refers to the MYP. SO students can give a broader account of their whole time in Secondary. Would you agree?

Saturday, June 18, 2011 11:57:00 pm  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

Julian: Certainly! Whatever it is, tracing your argument with the aid of your personal experience is normally a good thing.

Sunday, June 19, 2011 8:28:00 pm  
Blogger Vincent Tanutama said...

Hi, I'm currently doing my plan on this topic. I found this topic very interesting because of the nature of the question itself, which is a blend of different knowledge and how they contribute to our understanding of another one. However the vagueness of the question really confuses me. I have discussed my arguments with my TOK supervisor and he seemed to direct me that the "science" in the question should be interpreted as human science because only then can it give a more coherent explanation on the question. Therefore, would the question be really about literature and natural science or human science?

Saturday, June 25, 2011 4:44:00 am  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

Vincent Tanutama: Try defining 'science' first. Your supervisor is unnecessarily narrowing the topic. The first rule of a TOK essay is to treat the topic without changing its sense. In this case, we can learn about people through neurobiology (a hard science) or through psychology (a softer science) or economics (a human science).

Saturday, June 25, 2011 12:59:00 pm  
Blogger darice.smiles said...

hello, i am also considering of doing this topic as well.
however, this question seems a little ambiguous when it comes to really constructing the essay; i mean, how are we suppose to make the essay convincing and reliable by just inserting our personal experiences or others'.

and another question :P even if we understand the title as group 1 subjects. are still allowed to view the science category as humanity science and viewing hte society and individuals as two things instead of a group?

Monday, August 08, 2011 1:25:00 am  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

darice.smiles: 1) It's quite clear that the topic calls for a subjective appraisal of how learning literature and science leads to an improved understanding of individuals and societies; you are not asked to give an account that is reliable in a broad and quantitative sense, but one that is reliable in a personal and qualitative sense. After all, reliability simply means that if the question is repeated, the answer remains the same. Presumably, if you give as complete a personal answer as you can, it will be reliable in terms of your subjective experience. 2) As for science, you may think of it as the broad group of all disciplines that use the inductive-deductive method to derive information from both empirical data and logical reasoning, and then put it together to construct knowledge. 3) You can think of individuals and societies as two ends of a spectrum that begins with single humans and their personal, subjective experiences — and ends with huge groups of humans with collective, multiple-subjective-approximating-objective experiences. But it seems interesting that you are asked to respond as an IB student, and that 'individuals and societies' just happens to be the way Group 3 is described.

Monday, August 08, 2011 5:01:00 pm  
Blogger f.natasha said...

Hello there. What a beneficial reading I had here :)
Mind if I ask; can we specify literature into only one aspect (eg written text) and science (eg human science) and how each one of it affect individual as well as society?

And, can we use "I" in our essay? Or do we have to go by general?

Friday, September 09, 2011 4:14:00 am  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

f.natasha: I think that analysis of written literature alone is fine; however, when using 'human sciences', you should keep in mind the scientific approach — generally, empirical observation plus formation of a testable hypothesis and experimental confirmation. You can certainly use 'I' — the knower's personal perspective is always valued. However, take care not to make the analysis too subjective.

Friday, September 09, 2011 6:03:00 am  
Blogger Consia said...

I have chosen this essay title and your posts have helped me a lot.
But I'm confused about the question itself. My TOK teacher said "your essay title is a knowledge issue, you are suppose to discuss the knowledge issue (title)."
So can we or can we not bring in other knowledge issues?

I'm not sure if you are in IB student. But how would YOU approach a question like this? (another perspective :) )

Sunday, November 13, 2011 2:16:00 am  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

Consia: The essay topic contains the idea from which you develop knowledge issues. Knowledge issues are 'open' questions concerning the nature of knowledge; they cannot be answered yes/no, and they tend to be of the form, "How do we know... ?"

In this case, possible knowledge issues are questions such as: "How do we evaluate our learning of literature and science?", "How do we determine how much they contribute to our understanding?" and "How do we know whether we understand individuals and societies?"

There are many other questions that would be valid and would help you discuss the topic and answer the overall question. But normally we answer these issues by a) breaking them down into simpler claims which can be answered by yes/no or true/false answers, then b) deciding what the answers are based on the evidence of reason, example, experience, and so on.

So the short answer is that you can use as many knowledge issues as you can safely handle. Indeed, criteria A and C of the TOK rubric expressly deal with your understanding and analysis of the knowledge issues related to the overall topic.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 5:29:00 am  
Blogger victorialeung said...

I have a question there.
should I focus on how learning in Group 1 (literature) and Group 4 (Biology) contribute to my understanding of Group 3 (History)? or should I be focusing on it literally? how literature (a novel for instance), and may be natural selection in Biology contribute to my understanding of how individuals think themselves are and how societies are structured?

Sunday, December 11, 2011 11:37:00 pm  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

victorialeung: don't forget that the topic addresses how your LEARNING of literature and science has contributed to your understanding... it's not only what you've learnt, but how you've learnt it — the process involved, the experience of learning, and so on.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 2:33:00 pm  
Blogger victorialeung said...

May I ask a question about science...
for instance Biology, does "natural selection" count for an understanding of individuals and societies? like the RICH and the POOR (people living in the third world)..may be it reflects the society that the poor will struggle for survival due to the lack of food, while the rich will not struggle for survival because they have lots of money and resources?

Tuesday, January 03, 2012 11:09:00 pm  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

Hello, Victoria. The idea of natural selection would actually lead in some contexts to a misunderstanding of individuals and societies. That's because societies are not natural environments as we define them. In fact, by looking after the sick and the handicapped, or by allowing people with sub-optimal genes to reproduce, we are being anti-Darwinian. It's a good counterargument for the sciences, that they're not always helping you to understand areas outside their immediate domain.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012 5:24:00 pm  
Blogger tilly said...

heya i do HL bio, chem and english- and thats why i thought i could do this question. but my group 3 is geography so i am a lil' confused about how i could realate that back to the question. i mean i understand how pholosphy and history do- the above has been halpeful so far but i was wondering if you had any other advice?

Thursday, February 16, 2012 4:15:00 am  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

tilly: Geography can be divided into physical geography and human geography— what the earth is, and how humans interact with it. The first part is actually about natural sciences: geology, meteorology, etc. The second part is about what humans do, and in some kinds of literature (the poetry of nature, the narratives of migration or agricultural life or plantation slavery or disaster), we see humans interacting to control nature or to survive nature. So yes, sciences can teach you about the physical aspects of geography and literature can teach you about the emotional relationship between humankind and the earth.

Sunday, February 19, 2012 2:19:00 am  
Blogger ibgoincrazy34 said...

First of all, thank you for doing all of this, it has really helped! I am writing my TOK essay on this topic and I have a few questions that my teacher did not answer very clearly for me. I want to take a more literal approach to the question rather than stick strictly to Group 3,4, and 1, but I do not know if that would acceptable. I was going to talk about how studying literature and human science (psychology SL) because of the requirements for the IB programme has helped me to understand society and individuals role in society. Do you think this is an acceptable interpretation and analysis of the question? My hesitation with this approach is that human science is technically categorized under 'individuals and societies' so I'd be making it a group 6... Thank you so much for helping!

Thursday, March 01, 2012 1:11:00 pm  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

ibgoincrazy34: That's perfectly acceptable. Just bear in mind the underlying idea. But why is it Group 6? :)

Thursday, March 01, 2012 1:41:00 pm  
Blogger ibgoincrazy34 said...

If we did not want to study IB Music we could make Psychology a Group 6 and replace the fine arts credit. So we studied history from group 3 and psychology for group 6. Atleast that's what our IB coordinator told us. Another thing I'm struggling with is developing a good knowledge issue, would you suggest pulling in the concept of perception as it relates to our understanding of individuals and societies?

Thursday, March 01, 2012 1:49:00 pm  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

ibgoincrazy: Well, you can take a subject from any other group and use it as a Group 6 subject, but that doesn't make it an aesthetics subject. :)

Your knowledge issue should have something to do with how we know a) what learning is, in literature and science; b) what understanding of individuals and societies entails; and c) what contribution a) can make to b).

Tuesday, March 06, 2012 1:50:00 am  
Blogger Jacqueline said...

I am taking business and management as my group 3 subject. Could you tell me in what way they are related? And should I really mention like "group 1, group 2, group 3 subjects?"

Thursday, March 08, 2012 4:16:00 am  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

Jacqueline: No, you shouldn't mention Group 1, 2, 3. That's just one concept you should bear in mind while thinking about how to construct your essay. How does learning literature teach you about the way individuals and societies do business and management? How about science? And in particular, the study of lit and science in your own personal experience? Do they make you think of more HR-oriented or quantitatively-oriented approaches to B&M?

Friday, March 09, 2012 2:38:00 pm  

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