Skip to main content

By Michael Dunn, Founder of

I began uploading my own TOK notes to the Internet, on a homemade site which would become, and writing a monthly newsletter. I felt that although there was some helpful material within the textbooks, there was a complete lack of support for teachers looking to draw on up-to-date events, rather than rely on real-life situations that were either Copernicus’s heliocentric theory, or Darwin’s work on evolution. I felt that the success of TOK lessons was dependent on the extent to which I could drive them with engaging, interesting, relevant stories from the media. 

Fast forward to 2021, and we’ve just published and sent out our 100th ever edition of the TOK newsletter. The newsletter has come a long way in those years (you can compare one of our first ever editions here with the one we’ve just sent out), but our determination to help TOK and non-TOK teachers draw on the latest issues, debates, discoveries, and controversies, going on throughout the globe, has never diminished. 

Authentic learning 1
Authentic learning 2
October/November 2021 100th edition newsletter versus May 2013 edition newsletter.

Can TOK help students learn about the world around them?

The real test of TOK is whether it can be used to help students learn about and decipher what’s going on in the world around them. Can the areas of knowledge be used to categorise the headlines? Can we refer to the themes in order to identify our own perspectives, and how they shape the way we acquire knowledge? Can we apply the 12 key concepts of TOK in order to articulate our understanding, and provide us with a framework for communicating ideas? We believe that it can do all of this successfully, and the popularity of the newsletter indicates that many learners and teachers around the world agree wholeheartedly with us. 

This idea of ‘authentic learning’ is mirrored by the work of CAS Trips. As many of you might know, CAS is a course designed to place students within a real world environment, and develop as experiential learners. CAS is about engagement with the world, taking action, developing a worldview, seeing how ideas and concepts and principles can have an impact on communities beyond the school gates. When students experience cross-cultural experiences, they can leave a positive, long-lasting impact on both them and the communities they work with.

What does all this mean in practice? 

Authentic learning 3
London, UK. 6th November 2021. Thousands of people marched from the Bank of England to Trafalgar Square as part of the COP26 Coalition Global Day of Action For Climate Justice. Image from

A look at the latest edition of the TOK newsletter will give some insight. One of the key events that has happened over the last few weeks is COP26. This has direct links to CAS, as many projects carried out by students do will be closely related to the improvement of the environment, and increasing people’s awareness of the climate crisis. 

For TOK, there are various links to the course: we think about who the experts are when it comes to climate change – is it the scientists, the politicians, the ordinary people, or the indigenous societies living in the areas most affected by what’s going on, and often sidelined. Key concepts that might come into play here include culture, responsibility, evidence, and power. 

Alongside that story, we also thought about the role of imagery in helping us to grasp the nature of global warming, six different narratives of the nature and effect of globalization, and how being curious about the world is based on accepting there are gaps in your knowledge. All of these stories help us to place TOK in the real world, and could also be linked easily to the different components to CAS. 

This is the kind of learning that we’re dedicated to at, and appreciate that our vision is shared by CAS Trips. We are looking forward to publishing our next 100 editions of the newsletter, and helping students apply their knowledge to the real world. is the world’s biggest support site for TOK, and offers a huge range of resources to help you make the course brilliant. To join the site, visit this page. To subscribe to the free newsletter, click here.

Image Credit: Lightspring from Shutterstock.