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To Partner or Not to Partner? Lessons From a ToK Presentation

By Karim Dakmak and Wenlong Shao
To Partner or Not to Partner? Lessons From a ToK Presentation

Wenlong Shao alongside partner Karim Dakmak and a proud mother (photo: YIS). ________________________________________________________________________ Theory of Knowledge (ToK) is an IB course that, combined with an Extended Essay, accounts for three out of a total 45 IB points. The ToK presentation accounts for 33 percent of one’s overall IB ToK grade. Its significance is, however, much greater. It allows us ToK knowers to investigate the production knowledge in greater depth through a central knowledge question (CKQ). We examine, through this CKQ, what we know and how we know it. Now that we have shown you what the ToK presentation is in a nutshell, we will explain why we partnered up. We decided to partner up late into the process. We each already had two or three real life situations (RLSs). While looking over each other’s presentation planning, we realized that we both focused our research on how personal knowledge is shaped by shared bodies of knowledge at various stages of knowledge production. As we both wanted to delve into greater depth, we decided to collaborate. We thought that having 20 minutes for a partner presentation rather than 10 minutes for a solo would allow for deeper and greater RLS discussions. We also thought that a back-and-forth discussion would make for a more engaging presentation. Through this process, our differences in previously garnered knowledge also helped us explore each RLS from different perspectives. Since our decision to partner up was somewhat rash, we could not postulate all the potential advantages and pitfalls. Thus, we want to share with you a few of the benefits and hardships we experienced. Advantages To start with, we were able to better link the various RLSs together and the RLSs to the CKQ. For instance, we managed to identify the deontological and consequentialist schools of thought (SoT) in ethics as major paradigms affecting the analysis of ethical decision making by the AI AlphaGo, as opposed to humans, after discussing the ethical SoTs over phone. I (Wenlong) was also able to garner a much better grasp on the ideals behind each SoT. Also, as we were merging and combining our ideas, we identified the three strongest and most relevant RLSs to focus on out of the five we had already substantially explored. Last but not least, we found the extra time to be pivotal. We were able to take our time to plan out our presentation and delved into much more depth. We were also able to identify the impact of our knowers’ perspectives on the knowledge that was addressed and produced. Challenges The experience, however, was not flawless. There were quite a few challenges. First, we had difficulty, initially, in grasping the knowledge at stake for some of the RLSs. For instance, for the First RLS, I (Karim) had a limited understanding of the process of equating mathematical infinities and had to rely on my partner’s understanding. However, this made us identify the initial discussion as overzealously abstruse and, consequently, we detailed more comprehensive explanations. Throughout the process, we also realized the difficulty in managing time (especially for practicing). Since many IA deadlines were also cramped within that framework of time, we both had limited blocks in which to work on the presentation. We had to organize time slots when we were both free. This was, nonetheless, helpful in that we worked more efficiently and procured better teamwork. Conclusions Now that we have shared our experiences, we want to shed some advice. Choose your partner wisely! (We were lucky!) Make sure that you know your partner’s work ethics. The worst possible scenario is partnering up with someone who doesn’t work. You will both get the grade of the weaker presenter. Also, you want to partner up earlier in the process than we did. While we managed to lobby great ideas, we would have appreciated more time to collaborate on the presentation. Last but not least (and this is for both partner and solo undertakings), start early! The earlier you start, the earlier you can discuss your RLSs and knowledge questions with your teachers and peers. Well, that’s all we have. Hopefully we have made answering the question, “To partner or not to partner?” somewhat easier. In either case, best of luck on your marvelous journey. We now have to finish our TOK essay outlines. Wenlong Shao and Karim Dakmak are 12th-grade IB students at Lincoln Community School in Accra, Ghana.

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