Using Depth of Knowledge to Improve Learning

A growing number of educators are using depth of knowledge (DOK) to improve rigor in their classes. Depth of knowledge is a framework that measures the degree to which students must think to answer questions and complete assessments.

DOK is a framework developed by Norman Webb that increases rigor in learning and assessment. It is an effective way to scaffold learning experiences and build a path to real-world competency.

Level 1: Recall

Recalling information is often an automatic response and a way for students to demonstrate their mastery of subject matter. This level may require them to recall facts, definitions or simple procedures like planting seeds or baking a cake.

This does not mean that students have not made mental decisions to complete these tasks. They may have had to classify, organize, estimate, make observations, collect, display and compare data.

In addition to recalling information, DOK level 1 questions may also ask students to apply their knowledge to answer a question, solve a problem, or analyze a text or topic. This is the lowest DOK level and can be used for introducing content or checking student understanding of foundational skills needed for more advanced work.

The highest DOK level is Level 4, which requires a more complex cognitive effort. Students can be asked to design a survey, read multiple texts to identify themes or write an original myth in a different style.

Level 2: Skills and Concepts

Conceptual skills are the ability to analyze, evaluate and understand high-level theories and ideas. They involve addressing challenging situations with a creative, innovative approach and are essential for professionals who work in fields that require a depth of knowledge.

Managers and leaders who possess conceptual skills are able to look at the bigger picture and see how their decisions affect the company as a whole. This allows them to formulate strategies that will maximize their company’s growth and ensure that they are moving in the right direction.

Problem-solving skills are also important for conceptual thinkers, as they help them to break down complex problems and find the best solution. It is also important to be able to listen to others when deciding on a course of action. This helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the project will be completed in a timely manner.

Level 3: Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking is a critical skill for business success. Without it, businesses may miss opportunities or waste resources and fall behind their competitors.

Strategic thinkers are those who plan ahead and take advantage of changing market trends to develop strategies to capitalize on new opportunities. They also identify threats and risks and work to avoid them.

Developing strategic thinking skills requires constant learning and self-improvement. This can include reading, presentations, junior colleagues and networks, but the most effective way to master strategic thinking is through experience.

Level 3 DOK involves a question or prompt that is routine but requires students to apply knowledge and skills in multiple ways. This might involve comparing and contrasting, linking ideas or using information to solve a problem.

Level 4: Extended Thinking

Norman Webb’s Depth of Knowledge model is a helpful framework for evaluating the level of complexity required to complete tasks. It helps teachers create learning opportunities that hit a variety of complexity levels.

Level 1 is a low cognitive level that requires recall of facts or rote application of simple procedures. Tasks like copying, computing, defining, and recognizing are typical at this level.

Extended thinking is a higher cognitive level that involves reasoning, planning, and using evidence. It typically takes place over an extended period of time.

Level 4 is the most advanced of the four and requires complex reasoning, planning, developing, and thinking. Students at this level are likely to design and conduct experiments, make connections between findings, and relate information within a content area or among other content areas.

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