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History knowledge questions

History knowledge questions

Knowledge questions (KQs) form the heart of the TOK course, and provide us with the opportunity to discuss, explore, and sometimes argue about the way in which we acquire, use, and evaluate our knowledge about the world.

Although the history knowledge questions that you see here link primarily to this area of knowledge, many of them link to other AOKs, and themes, so one of the first things to consider is how they relate to, and impact on, other aspects of the course.

Knowledge questions on the nature and scope of history

  • These KQs on history relate to Big Question 1, our first BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to the nature and scope of history, part of the IB’s knowledge framework for TOK
  • Good KQs ask how we know about the world (second-order knowledge), rather than what we know about the world (first-order knowledge)
  • Being able to tell the difference between first and second-order knowledge can be difficult, but it is the most important attribute of successful TOK thinking

Can we access the truth about the past?

Is everything we know historical?

Does the production of historical knowledge require more or less collaboration than other areas of knowledge?

Is there an accepted ‘historical method’ of producing knowledge about the past?

Can we rely on eyewitness testimony?

How can ‘ordinary’ objects provide us with insights into the past?

Can (and should) history be approached in a ‘scientific’ way?

Is induction a valid methodology in the history?

How can historical knowledge claims be evaluated?

Knowledge questions on the relationship between history and values

  • These KQs on history relate to Big Question 2, our second BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to history and ethics, part of the IB’s knowledge framework for TOK
  • Good KQs ask how we know about the world (second-order knowledge), rather than what we know about the world (first-order knowledge)
  • Being able to tell the difference between first and second-order knowledge can be difficult, but it is the most important attribute of successful TOK thinking

Should normative judgements be made by historians?

Is the possession of basic historical knowledge necessary to navigate the moral world effectively?

How and why do values in and about history change over time?

Can we use today’s moral paradigms to judge actions in the past?

Who should take responsibility when historical knowledge is misused?

Does forgetting history prevent us from holding those in power to account?

Knowledge questions on the communication of ideas in history

  • These KQs on history relate to Big Question 3, our third BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to methods, tools, and practices of history, part of the IB’s knowledge framework for exploring TOK
  • Good KQs ask how we know about the world (second-order knowledge), rather than what we know about the world (first-order knowledge)
  • Being able to tell the difference between first and second-order knowledge can be difficult, but it is the most important attribute of successful TOK thinking

How aware do we need to be of language-use as we explore the past?

How important are metaphors and analogies in the communication of historical ideas and concepts?

Is the most important obligation of a historian to be able to communicate ideas clearly?

What are the implications of political ‘spin’ being applied to history

How do visual sources change our understanding of the past?

Does social media help or hinder us from understanding the past?

Knowledge questions on history, perspectives, and context

  • These KQs on history relate to Big Question 4, our fourth BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to perspectives & context related to history, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Good KQs ask how we know about the world (second-order knowledge), rather than what we know about the world (first-order knowledge)
  • Being able to tell the difference between first and second-order knowledge can be difficult, but it is the most important attribute of successful TOK thinking

How does nationalism affect the way we approach history?

What determines the way in which we construct our visions of the past?

Is an understanding of the past a prerequisite of understanding our identity?

Do different perspectives help or hinder us from understanding the past?

Can historians escape their own cultural, national, and societal contexts?

What are the implications of viewing past societies through the lens of today’s society?

Is new knowledge discovered via paradigm-shifts in society?

Can we ‘choose’ to remember history in a certain way?

To what extent do traditional stereotypes affect the way we understand the past?

Knowledge questions on the creation of new ideas in history

  • These KQs on history relate to Big Question 5, our fifth BQ units for TOK
  • They also link to methods, tools, and practices of history, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Good KQs ask how we know about the world (second-order knowledge), rather than what we know about the world (first-order knowledge)
  • Being able to tell the difference between first and second-order knowledge can be difficult, but it is the most important attribute of successful TOK thinking

What is (and should be) the role of imagination in creating new historical knowledge?

Does technology allow us to access the past more accurately?

Is ‘the simplest explanation is always the best explanation’ (in history)?

Why does history get rewritten?

Should everyone have access to historical archives?

How can historical inaccuracies be helpful to us in understanding individuals and events from the past?

How has ‘big data’ affected the creation of knowledge about history?

Can we draw on the ‘historical method’ to fact check modern media claims?

Knowledge questions on becoming a discerning knower about history

  • These KQs on history relate to Big Question 6, our final BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to methods, tools, and practices of history, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Good KQs ask how we know about the world (second-order knowledge), rather than what we know about the world (first-order knowledge)
  • Being able to tell the difference between first and second-order knowledge can be difficult, but it is the most important attribute of successful TOK thinking

Should you always “study the historian before you study the facts”?

Is the key characteristic of expert historians objectivity?

What problems are associated with being detached and objective about history?

How important is empathy in the study of history?

Can the selection of evidence in history be done objectively?

Why do people prefer conspiracy theories to rational theories?

What is the relationship between certainty and historical research?

Is ‘living history’ the best way of exploring the past?

Make the most of this content in the classroom!

Our sixty-six Exploration Point documents (which we update every month) help you delve deeper into TOK via media sources, unpacking suggestions, guidance on the key concepts, and other ideas. HERE is an example of a EP document (for history & perspectives) – join us to gain access to the other sixty-five!

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