American Journal of Educational Research
ISSN (Print): 2327-6126 ISSN (Online): 2327-6150 Website: Editor-in-chief: Ratko Pavlović
Open Access
Journal Browser
American Journal of Educational Research. 2019, 7(10), 731-736
DOI: 10.12691/education-7-10-9
Open AccessCritical Review

A Critical Review of Gardenian Disciplinary Thinking: Disciplinarity in the International Baccalaureate’s Theory of Knowledge Course

Damion Walker1,

1Department of Education, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom

Pub. Date: October 26, 2019

Cite this paper:
Damion Walker. A Critical Review of Gardenian Disciplinary Thinking: Disciplinarity in the International Baccalaureate’s Theory of Knowledge Course. American Journal of Educational Research. 2019; 7(10):731-736. doi: 10.12691/education-7-10-9


Students and teachers often have differing – and sometimes conflicting- perceptions of the aims of the International Baccalaureate’s Theory of Knowledge (ToK) course. In an attempt to demystify ToK, I explore the extent to which Gardenian Disciplinary Thinking (GDT) can be used as a lens through which to view and understand the intentions of the course. I suggest that, in general, ToK aims to encourage GDT. That aim is achieved by facilitating: 1) A domain-specific approach to critical thinking; and 2) A focus on second-order knowledge. Both of those practices are essential for performing GDT. Before looking at its applications in ToK, I critically review GDT via three themes: globalisation, domain-based critical thinking and meaningful learning. To position the principles that underly GDT, I compare GDT to trans-disciplinarity, a practice often placed in opposition to disciplinarity. Ultimately, I show that GDT can provide possibilities for achieving some of the aims of ToK despite the weaknesses of Gardenian Disciplinarity.

IB Theory of Knowledge disciplinarity critical thinking 21st-century skills

Creative CommonsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit


[1]  H. Gardner, Five Minds for the Future. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2009.
[2]  H. Gardner, Frames of mind: the theory of multiple intelligences. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2011.
[3]  K.-H. Mok, Education reform and education policy in East Asia. London ; New York: Routledge, 2006.
[4]  K. C. C. Tang, ‘Spontaneous Collaborative Learning: A New Dimension in Student Learning Experience?’, Higher Education Research & Development, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 115-130, Jan. 1993.
[5]  T. J. Moore, ‘Critical thinking and disciplinary thinking: a continuing debate’, Higher Education Research & Development, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 261-274, Jun. 2011.
[6]  P. Osborne, ‘Problematizing Disciplinarity, Transdisciplinary Problematics’, Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 32, no. 5-6, pp. 3-35, Sep. 2015.
[7]  B. Jessop and N.-L. Sum, ‘Pre-disciplinary and Post-disciplinary Perspectives’, New Political Economy, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 89-101, Mar. 2001.
[8]  T. Becher, ‘The significance of disciplinary differences’, Studies in Higher Education, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 151-161, Jan. 1994.
[9]  C. Fadel and B. Trilling, 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our times, 1st edition. Jossey-Bass, 2009.
[10]  R. Barnett *, ‘Learning for an unknown future’, Higher Education Research & Development, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 247-260, Aug. 2004.
[11]  T. Shinn, ‘Change or mutation? Reflections on the foundations of contemporary science’, Social Science Information, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 149-176, Mar. 1999.
[12]  R. H. Thaler and C. R. Sunstein, Nudge: improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.
[13]  J. Muller and M. Young, ‘Disciplines, skills and the university’, High Educ, vol. 67, no. 2, pp. 127-140, Feb. 2014.
[14]  C. Winch, ‘Curriculum Design and Epistemic Ascent’, Journal of Philosophy of Education, vol. 47, no. 1, pp. 128-146, 2013.
[15]  M. L. Pava, ‘‹Loving the Distance Between Them:’ Thinking Beyond Howard Gardner’s “Five Minds for the Future”’, J Bus Ethics, vol. 83, no. 2, pp. 285-296, Dec. 2008.
[16]  P. F. Drucker, ‘The New Society of Organizations’, Harvard Business Review, no. September–October 1992, 01-Sep-1992.
[17]  N.-L. Sum and B. Jessop, ‘Competitiveness, the Knowledge-Based Economy and Higher Education’, J Knowl Econ, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 24-44, Mar. 2013.
[18]  IBO, ‘Approaches to learning’, Approaches to teaching and learning, 2011. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 04-Jul-2019].
[19]  T. Nybom, ‘Power, Knowledge, Morals: Society in the Age of Hybrid Research’, in Transformations in Research, Higher Education and the Academic Market: The Breakdown of Scientific Thought, S. Rider, Y. Hasselberg, and A. Waluszewski, Eds. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, 2013, pp. 21–37.
[20]  R. H. Ennis, Critical thinking. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1996.
[21]  Bell hooks, Teaching critical thinking: practical wisdom. New York: Routledge, 2010.
[22]  C. Hughes, ‘Theory of Knowledge aims, objectives and assessment criteria: An analysis of critical thinking descriptors’, Jnl of Research in Internatl Education, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 30-45, Apr. 2014.
[23]  J. E. McPeck, ‘Critical Thinking and Subject Specificity: A Reply to Ennis’, Educational Researcher, vol. 19, no. 4, pp. 10-12, 1990.
[24]  D. P. Ausubel, The Acquisition and Retention of Knowledge: A Cognitive View. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, 2000.
[25]  A. W. Pell, H. M. Iqbal, and S. Sohail, ‘Introducing science experiments to rote-learning classes in Pakistani middle schools’, Evaluation & Research in Education, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 191-212, Sep. 2010.
[26]  P. L. Tan, ‘Towards a Culturally Sensitive and Deeper Understanding of “Rote Learning” and Memorisation of Adult Learners’, Journal of Studies in International Education, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 124-145, May 2011.
[27]  D. Watkins and J. B. Biggs, Eds., The Chinese learner: cultural, psychological, and contextual influences. Hong Kong: Camberwell, Melbourne, Vic: CERC; ACER, 1996.
[28]  IBO, ‘Theory of knowledge guide’, 2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 04-Oct-2019].