Webb's Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Levels -- The Basics

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 -- Darin Rasmussen

I have always been a fan of simple models for gaining a deeper understanding of truths that are hard to comprehend through a narrative or hard to quantify mathematically. Education can be defined as the field of study focused on teaching and learning, which is a fairly broad categorization. As a result, multiple models have been developed that are useful in representing what knowledge is needed to solve problems and in describing what processes exist for understanding a specific domain of knowledge. You can check out this article from Educational Psychology Interactive for an overview of some of the most common models. Here, I would like to delve into one model that we frequently discuss at Edmentum and to attempt to give an overview of it. 

The DOK Levels

One of the critical models for understanding cognitive rigor is Norman Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) framework. The depth of knowledge corresponds to the content complexity of a particular educational material. It can be applied to learning expectations, instructional prompts, and assessment items alike. DOK is a language system, with definitions of each level of complexity for each subject area. For all subject areas, there are four DOK levels. A summary of the mathematics DOK definitions is below:

Level 1: Recall

This level involves basic tasks that require recall of facts or rote reproduction of simple procedures. These kinds of tasks do not require any cognitive effort beyond remembering the right response or formula.

Level 2: Skills and Concepts

This level requires a student to make some decisions about problem solving and procedures. DOK 2 tasks may involve applying a skill in a new context or explaining thinking in terms of concepts..

Level 3: Strategic Thinking

This level gets more complex and abstract. Students must use reasoning, planning, and evidence to explain their thought processes. Often, Level 3 tasks have more than one valid response, and students must justify their choices..

Level 4: Extended Thinking

Level 4 tasks are at least as complex as level 3 tasks but require an extended time period—several weeks, perhaps, or even longer—to complete.

For more information about DOK, visit www.WebbAlign.org

At Edmentum, we embed these levels in our assessment items in both Study Island and Edmentum Assessments . We are continuously exploring new ways to incorporate this model into our products and our analytics and reporting functionality in order to provide teachers with deeper insight into their students’ understanding.  

Why Do We Use DOK? 

Educators work hard to expand their students’ knowledge and get them to think across the various levels of rigor every day. Short of forcing longer school hours and more homework on students hoping to expand the levels, what are some ways to increase rigor? The best teachers I know incorporate classroom activities and teaching tools across the levels whether explicitly planned (using the DOK model) or, more often, incorporated intuitively to reinforce this approach and get students thinking and working at a deeper level.

Want to learn more about how Edmentum’s assessment products incorporate the DOK model to promote standards mastery? Check out this resource on our 21st Century Item Types that are built using DOK guidelines!