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Depth of Knowledge


27 March 2014

Depth of Knowledge


Depth of Knowledge is also referred to as DOK. Depth of Knowledge is the complexity or depth of understanding required to answer or explain an assessment related item. The concept of depth of knowledge was developed through research by Norman L. Webb in the late 1990’s. Webb was a senior research scientist for the Wisconsin Center of Education Research.

Webb originally developed depth of knowledge for mathematics and science standards. However, the model has been used in language arts, mathematics, science, and history/social studies. His model has been adopted by more than ten states.

Webb identified four distinct depth of knowledge levels.

  • Level 1 includes basic recall of facts, concepts, information, or procedures.
  • Level 2 includes skills and concepts such as the use of information (graphs) or requires two or more steps with decision points along the way.
  • Level 3 includes strategic thinking that requires reasoning and is abstract and complex.
  • Level 4 includes extended thinking such as an investigation or application to real work.

Depth of Knowledge Levels

The Depth of Knowledge is not determined by the verb, but the context in which the verb is used and the depth of thinking required.

Level 1: Recall and Reproduction

Requires recall of information, such as a fact, definition, term, or performance of a simple process or procedure. Answering a Level 1 item involves following a simple, well-known procedure or formula. Simple skills and abilities or recall characterize this level.

Level 2: Skills/Concepts

Includes the engagement of some mental processing beyond recalling or reproducing a response. Items require students to make some decisions as to how to approach the question or problem. These actions imply more than one mental or cognitive process/step.

Level 3: Strategic Thinking

Requires deep understanding as exhibited through planning, using evidence, and more demanding cognitive reasoning. The cognitive demands at this level are complex and abstract. An assessment item that has more than one possible answer and requires students to justify the response they give would most likely be a Level 3.

Level 4: Extended Thinking

Requires high cognitive demand and is very complex. Students are expected to make connections - relate ideas within the content or among content areas – and have to select or devise one approach among many alternatives on how the situation can be solved. Due to the complexity of cognitive demand, this level often requires an extended period of time.

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