“Bookends” is the ongoing conversation between Alex Bogel, “Theory of Knowledge” and standard-level IB English teacher and Bill Ivey, Humanities 7 teacher. It is an exploration of metacognition and their students’ developing skills in critical thinking, reflective learning and more.
During orientation they took a few moments to interview each other.
Bill: Alex, what is the “Theory of Knowledge” (TOK) class?
Alex: TOK is such a dangerous course to sum up, in some ways. It invites us to examine the nature of knowledge and all the different ways in which we know, the inadvertent and determined ways with which we as knowers shape and define our knowledge and that of others. It’s an opportunity to understand not what we know, but how and why we believe that we know.
If I’m getting to work with these girls in the final two years of their time at Stoneleigh-Burnham, how does that tie in to their middle school formation as learners?
B: Since Humanities 7 does not have standard content but rather is created by the students out of their questions and passions each year, what unifies it from year to year is precisely how you go about learning and expressing what you’ve learned, on your own and in the community. In that sense, it mirrors TOK although we get so immersed in learning sometimes we don’t even notice it happening. That might be a difference.
A: It’s certainly true that TOK is determinedly reflective. That said, these courses mirror one another in their student-driven approach to content. As quickly as possible, TOK students will be providing the course’s texts: moments of knowledge drawn from their other courses, their lives, their cultures, and their questions. In this way the content of the course is largely irrelevant; it is the approach to the knowledge issues that arise that is vital. As I’ve seen in your class, this approach leads students to a natural and profound investment in their learning.
B: Thank you. And I do think, when my students look back on their work, they generally have internalized a clear (and growingly sophisticated) sense of what they have accomplished. I also think my own metacognition, whether or not it is always visible to them, plays a role in that process, if only by role modeling. That’s one of my hopes and expectations here (and it’s already happening!), that as I learn directly from you and indirectly from your students, my own metacognitive skills will rise as will, in turn, those of my students.
A: Absolutely–I realized as soon as you proposed this project that my not taking this opportunity to reflect (determinedly) would be disingenuous. As you say, so much of what we teach, we model: process, results, and joy and investment in both. Just think how much we’ll have to say once we start teaching.
B: I am! So, until next time…
-Bill Ivey, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School Dean & Alex Bogel, TOK and IB English Teacher