Big Question framework

The Big Question framework

The BQ framework is our conceptual way of structuring TOK and delivering a highly integrated, engaging course. It is similar to the ‘official’ knowledge framework, but offers several advantages, which we outline below.

The 72 classroom-ready lessons that form the BQ framework, as well as 60 further 10 minute TOK sessions, and a host of other resources, are available to our Full Access members.

What are the Big Questions?

The BQs ask broad questions about knowledge, enabling us to consider the most essential aspects of how we understand the world. They give us a lens through which we can explore the world, and a way of teaching the course.

  • BQ1 (Foundations) What is theory of knowledge, and why do we study it?
  • BQ2 (Values) How does our knowledge about the world inform the way we construct our values?
  • BQ3 (Spin) How is our understanding of the world influenced by the way knowledge is communicated?
  • BQ4 (Perspectives) How do our perspectives and biases shape our knowledge of the world?
  • BQ5 (Creativity) How is new knowledge about the world created?
  • BQ6 (Experts) How do we become discerning knowers?

How is the BQ framework applied?

We apply the BQs to all of the different aspects of the course (ie the core theme, the optional themes, and the areas of knowledge, and for each of these, adapt the BQs so they allow us to apply this lens in a specific way to what is being studied. For example, when we look at the optional theme of politics, BQ2 becomes, ‘How does our knowledge about politics inform the way we construct our values?’, for history, BQ4 becomes, ‘How do our perspectives and biases shape our knowledge of history?’, and for the natural sciences, BQ5 becomes, ‘How is new knowledge about the natural science created?’

Ordinary DP teachers can also apply the questions to their own subjects, allowing them to play a role in the TOK course at any point. So a DP psychology teacher might ask, ‘How does our understanding of psychology depend on the way knowledge is communicated?’ for BQ3, and a music teacher might ask, ‘How do we become a discerning knower of music?’ for BQ6.

What advantage does the BQ framework offer?

The BQ framework is similar to the knowledge framework, but it has distinct advantages over the traditional ‘shopping list’ approach to TOK, in which themes and AOKs are taught separately.

It provides a coherent structure to the TOK course

Each BQ asks a question about knowledge which provides us with a focus and direction, and encourages us to approach each element of the TOK course in an analytical, rather than descriptive, way. The BQs can be applied to all aspects of the course, and shift to suit the context of the theme or area of knowledge. All this means that students have a much clearer idea about content and purpose of TOK.

It enables us to approach the course in an integrated way

Each BQ requires an exploration via a combination of themes and areas of knowledge, rather than dealing with the different parts of the course in isolation (which gives us an artificial and contrived perception of knowledge). This gives students a more complete picture of both knowledge, and TOK, and interlink ideas and concepts more effectively.

It brings everyone onboard TOK

In addition to creating an integrated TOK course in itself, it also helps to create an integrated Diploma Programme. Every DP teacher can apply the BQs to their own subject, and play a role in TOK at any point during the course, not just when their subject is being covered. It also enables parents to get involved with TOK more easily, and support the intellectual development of their children.

It prepares students more effectively for the essay

The BQs were backward planned from many years of prescribed titles, so they provide the perfect preparation for writing the TOK essay. Rather than dreading the moment when you provide your students with the list of PTs, you’ll watch them instinctively relate the different PTs with the BQs, and make links with the lessons they’ve learned, rather than dwell on their dissonance from the titles.

It prepares students more effectively for the essay

You’ll also see a lot of overlap between the BQs and the IA prompts for the exhibition. Concepts such as values, perspectives, and spin, which we study explicitly during the BQ framework appear repeatedly throughout the 35 IA prompts, meaning that any student who has followed the BQ approach will feel very comfortable choosing the focus point for their exhibition.

We explore knowledge via real-life situations – events and issues going on in the world today, that may be local, regional, or global. Structuring a course via questions enable links to be made much more easily to those situations, and enables us to draw them into TOK in order to understand concepts and ideas that are central to the course.

How do the BQs work in practice?

The best way to see how the BQ units work in practice is to see our beautifully designed lessons for yourself. Download a sample selection of lessons and support material from the BQ framework on this page. If you have any questions about the resources, you can get in touch with us easily, and as a member, we are always on hand to provide support.

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