Memory as a way of knowing: some resources

In TOK, we’re always on the lookout for fresh resources as we prepare topics and plan to stimulate class discussion.  Sometimes the best sources of ideas turn out to be….our colleagues.  This is no surprise for anyone teaching a subject that, in effect, talks about everyone else’s!  So it will also be no surprise if I draw your attention to posts on this site by my blogging colleague Laura Swash, writing about psychology.  Have a look at her January and February posts on memory, a topic in psychology that is also, in our new course, a TOK way of knowing.

Her January 5 post, “The Cognitive Level of Analysis”, lists resources that are immensely useful for TOK.  Particularly beneficial for a TOK class, where we’re not lecturing on subject matter but encouraging student engagement and discussion, are the resources from The Open University.  On its website are some very short videos (some just 5 minutes) including memory tests students can take themselves.  Many of these could launch a good discussion or give an outside voice on questions already raised in class.  Laura also links to a longer video that gives further background on memory.  Her February post, “Cognition and emotion – flashbulb memories” raises questions about the reliability of memory that we also treat in TOK class as we deal with how ways of knowing interact.  Thanks, Laura, for these resources.

I’ve certainly dealt with memory as a way of knowing in my own 2013 book, The IB Theory of Knowledge Course Companion (chapter 6), with class activities and background. However, much as the book supports the TOK course, it is best used in combination with other resources that complement what text can do, and discussion activities that increase the range of those given in the book.  What could be better than a short video memory test to get students engaged?

Memory as a way of knowing, in my opinion, is a particularly magnetic topic for students.  Memories are intertwined with their own sense of identity – both in their personal recall of experiences and in their acceptance of a “collective memory” within their cultural or social community.  Moreover, memory provides justification for so many knowledge claims that its reliability and persuasive power are valuable to consider in class.  It’s a topic actively researched within the cognitive sciences so that our understanding of how it works – and for TOK how it acts as a way of knowing – continues to shift and grow.

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