The Middle Years critical thinking newsletter
Our Middle Years Newsletter is designed for students aged 12 – 15, inviting them to apply a critical thinking approach to the very latest news events and issues.
Alongside our Primary Years and TOK Newsletters, it enables schools to create a continuum of authentic critical thinking that will take students on a life-changing epistemological journey, and help them to become nuanced and courageous thinkers.
Access the MY newsletter archive
The Middle Years Newsletter is available to Faculty members of the site. Either purchase a new membership here, or, if you have a membership with fewer privileges, upgrade via this link. You will then receive the newsletter every month, as well as having access to all our other resources for TOK.
Click on the image to access the first edition of the newsletter, to see how it supports critical thinking for the pre-IB Diploma students across all subjects.
The 8 comparative concepts
One of the central aspects of the TOK course is the 12 key concepts. These are ideas that have been identified as having a particular significant relationship to knowledge. Understanding, exploring, and using these concepts will help students to understand the way knowledge is produced and used, within all the different elements of the TOK course – the core and optional themes, and the areas of knowledge.
In order to prepare students to tackle this central aspect of the TOK course, we have selected 8 of the 12 key concepts, linking them to the stories we feature in the primary and middle years newsletter. We call them the comparative concepts, and you can use them to generate questions, discussion points, and research tasks, and enable students to explore ideas across the curriculum. Examples of these questions are below – but feel free to come up with your own ones!
In which subjects are we able to make the most and least certain claims about knowledge ? 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 of the subject areas deal with the most/least objective evidence? Is mathematical knowledge completely objective? Can we be objective about the arts? Has technology allowed us to produce knowledge more objectively? Do our political and religious affiliations always undermine our ability to be objective?
Which of the subject areas are most and least affected by different perspectives? How do our religious and political perspectives shape the way we view the world? Do our perspectives determine our language use? What forms our perspectives, and should we seek to escape them?
Power & agendas
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?
Accessing the truth
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?
Knowledge & values
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?
Are you a GCSE school? Use the MY newsletter to kick-start your HPQ!
If your school offers the GCSE, and your students do the Project Qualification, you can use the newsletter as a ‘kickstarter’ to help them find a topic, and get it off the ground.
Any newsletter story could form the basis of a great project, and our questions and suggested activities will help students approach it in an analytical way. So, if it’s an exploration of how we make public health decisions, whether we should follow a relativist or absolutist approach to morality, how global disparities contribute to the climate crisis, or how to tackle the problem of online disinformation – you’ll find help here!
Set up a TOK & critical thinking workshop!
We have delivered workshops to schools all over the world, and educators have praised us for how clear, practical, and engaging they are. They will benefit any educator, regardless of the level they teach, or the programme they deliver.
Find out more about our in-person or online sessions here, and read about the schools we have already helped. All of our workshops are designed on a bespoke basis, and will link TOK and critical thinking to the very latest real-world events and issues.