Typically, when we think of assessment item difficulty, we associate it with the actual question stem, the length of the questions, and other components coming from the item itself. Norman Webb’s Depth of Knowledge flips the focus to the cognitive aspects the students must exercise to move through an item and adequately address a question. As an educator, thinking about the assessment items in this manner can help distinguish exactly what student are expected to accomplish when approaching each item.
Why Care About Depth of Knowledge?
Depth of Knowledge or DOK is important for instructors and assessment creators to consider in order to fully understand student expectations in a given assessment. Some high-stakes assessments like SBAC consider DOK in their exams and even provide teachers with the information about which DoK levels are tested on their exam blueprints. Paying attention to depth of understanding through DOK can help instructors know what is exactly expected of students, and how to prepare students for these high-stakes or summative assessments.
Let’s take a quick step back for a moment to look at this a different way. When you give an assessment to students, the students work through each question from start to end and turn in the test. Naturally, some questions take longer and other questions are shorter to answer. Every question is not equal, and to dive deeper into assessment best practices it’s important to consider the cognitive rigor of the content students are working through. Depth of Knowledge helps us conceptualize cognitive rigor by breaking down and categorizing the different thought processes needed to correctly solve a problem.
By breaking down and distinguishing between the level of thought, or DoK required for each question, educators can further pinpoint student comprehension. With digital assessments, any shortcomings or areas of misconceptions are even more visible thanks to the immediate insights and reports. Breaking down question items by DoK can help instructors identify misconceptions and exactly where students need more help thinking through a problem.
An Overview of DOK Levels
DOK levels range from 1 to 4. Level 1 could include any question that asks students to recall or identify something. This type of question requires one mental step – to remember or identify the content. On the other end of the spectrum, level 4 questions could involve taking information, interpreting it, and forming a model or plan that applies the original information in an entirely new, yet logical and sometimes creative way. There may be levels of complexity in a DOK 4 question.
Here is the common way that each level is defined:
Level 1 – Recall and Reproduction
Level 2 – Working with Skills and Concepts
Level 3 – Short-term Strategic Thinking
Level 4 – Extended Strategic Thinking
The chart below outlines each DOK level and describes the basic identifying factors of each.
Again, what’s important to remember is the cognitive process that students must work through to solve the problem at hand. This can be tricky to wrap your head around, but with practice and understanding you’ll get the hang of it and will be able to leverage DOK in no time.
Applying Depth of Knowledge Across Different Subjects
Depth of Knowledge can look different across subjects. When it comes to applying DoK tactics with digital assessment items, there are already pre-built questions for each subject that you can start from. Tim Sitar, Edulastic Certified Content Author, has already outlined some examples of DOK for different subjects. Check them out to get an idea of what you might consider using for your classroom.
Navigating DoK in Edulastic
Whether you are creating new items or pulling from the assessment item bank, Edulastic provides ways to keep track of DoK levels. If you are creating your own items, select the DoK level of the question before publishing and assigning to students. If you are searching for items in the bank, you can use the search and filter tools to find questions of a specific level.
When creating new items for an assessment, you can indicate the DoK level of the question. Look to the grey menu on the right side of the screen and select the proper DoK level from the “Depth of Knowledge” drop-down options. Remember to hit “save” and your question will be tagged with the DoK level you have assigned it.
Use the filter and sort menu to search for assessment item bank questions by Depth of Knowledge level. You’ll find the option to filter near the bottom of the left-side menu. You can filter your search by one DoK level or more. Any questions whose DoK level has been tagged will show up when you use this helpful feature.
We’ve compiled some useful resources that will help you dive deeper into understanding DOK levels.
Ultimate Guide for Developers
MDE.k12.ms.us and redesign.rcu.msstate.edu
SBAC – Test Blueprints (includes DOK for items)
What Exactly is Depth of Knowledge
By Erik M. Francis via ASCD
Using Webb’s Depth of Knowledge to Increase Rigor
By Gerald Aungst via Edutopia
This article was published on April 5, 2018 and last updated on October 29, 2018.