ACT comparative concepts

The comparative concepts are 8 ideas that are particularly significant to authentic critical thinking, and will provide students with a cognitive framework to understand and express ideas, and create an effective final product.

Understanding and using these concepts will help to clarify the way knowledge is produced and used across the curriculum, and facilitate a comparison of the nature of knowledge in different subject areas.

The 8 comparative concepts

Use the concepts as as a cognitive framework to understand the world, a tool to compare and contrast different subject knowledge, and as focus points to generate research tasks and debates. Here are some of the questions they can prompt – can you think of others?

In which subject area are we able to make the most certain claims about knowledge and understanding? Why does this variance exist? Does language allow us to be more certain about knowledge? Can certainty bring disadvantages in terms of our understanding of the world?

How does the nature of the subject areas differ in different cultures? Do mathematics and science transcend cultural differences? Do the arts deal with culturally universal concepts? Does the way we understand the world depend on the language we speak?

What role does evidence play in the different subject areas? How has technology changed the way we gather and use evidence? How does the selection of evidence shape our understanding? Does evidence support or challenge our assumptions about the world?

Which subject deals with the most and least objective knowledge? Is mathematical knowledge completely objective? Can we be objective about art? Does technology increase objectivity? Do our political affiliations undermine our objectivity?

Which subject is most and least affected by different perspectives? How do our religious and political perspectives shape our worldview? Do our perspectives determine our language use? What forms our perspectives, and should we seek to escape them?

How does power affect the way knowledge is produced within the subject areas? In what ways can language be used to consolidate power as ideas are communicated? How does political and religious power influence the way we understand the world?

In which of the subject areas is it easiest to access the truth? Is mathematics the only subject area that deals with truth? Has the development of technology allowed us to access the truth more easily? Does language help or hinder us from accessing the truth about the world?

What is the relationship between the development of our values and the subject areas? Which of the subject areas deals most intimately with values? Does the way we use language have ethical implications? Does the possession of knowledge bring with it certain responsibilities?

Using the comparative concepts as a learning scaffold

The infographic below shows our cognitive aims for primary, middle, and senior learners, and the outcomes to aspire to by the end of each stage of their academic journey. We use the 8 comparative concepts as a scaffold to develop ACT skills, which you can find out more about here.

Students culminating ACT with TOK (rather than senior ACT learners), the comparative concepts become the 12 key concepts. The infographic also indicates resources that members have access to in order to achieve these learning aims. Click here to download a PDF of the infographic.

Join us to access the ACT resources

Members have access to a huge range of ACT & TOK resources, including classroom-ready courses, TOK and ACT newsletters, TOK and ACT mini-lessons, Investigating Issues, TOK Padlets, 12 Key Concepts, and many more engaging, innovative resources!

Join in seconds via this page, and set up your whole school with a resource that will help you to become a hub of authentic critical thinking.