Superintendent Tim Mains Introduces Depth Of Knowledge, An Important Tool For Educators

The Common Core Learning Standards are often described as more rigorous. Educators and parents are working to understand what rigorous looks like in the classroom. JPS Superintendent Tim Mains has introduced Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DoK) to administrators and staff as one way to measure if the tasks being taught in the classroom are demanding enough to meet the new standards.

“Webb’s Depth of Knowledge is an important tool as schools begin to increase the rigor of their curriculum to align with the Common Core Standards. Depth of Knowledge is more attuned to the complexity of thinking rather than the difficulty,” said Mains. “DoK is a key tool that educators can use to determine the level of complexity of a classroom task and ensure that it is sufficiently rigorous to meet the CCLS.”

Webb’s Depth of Knowledge has four levels that build in complexity:

DoK 1 – Recall and Reproduction involves basic tasks where there is little or no transformation of the target knowledge or skill. The student either knows the answer or doesn’t. Activities might include: labeling a location on a map or basic/routine calculations like addition or subtraction.

DoK 2 – Skill/Concept includes recalling, reproducing or locating an answer. Students might have to classify or sort items into meaningful categories. They need to transform or process knowledge before responding, but DoK 2 activities almost always have a right or wrong answer. Activities might include: writing a summary/informational report or conducting measurements that involve organizing the data into a graph or table.

DoK 3 – Strategic Thinking & Reasoning is where students must use planning, reasoning and higher-order thinking, like analysis and evaluation, to solve real-world problems. There can be multiple possible outcomes. Students must state their reasoning and provide supporting evidence in DoK 3. Activities might include: analyzing the results of a questionnaire or survey or proposing an alternate solution to a problem studied.

DoK 4 – Extended Thinking has students conducting multi-faceted investigations to solve real-world problems with unpredictable solutions. These are usually long-term projects like an in-depth research report or tasks that require collaboration and coordination like creating a film.

Educators should ideally use a mix of all Depth of Knowledge levels in their classrooms. DoK levels can be assigned to anything from an instructional question, to course objective to assessment items but they need to reflect the complexity of the student’s thinking process, rather than its difficulty.

“I will be in district classrooms talking to teachers in terms of DoK levels,” said Mains. “I may tell a teacher that the task he or she is teaching is a DoK 2 and give suggestions on how to move to a DoK 3, thereby increasing its complexity. By using Webb’s Depth of Knowledge, we are giving all JPS educators a universal language when discussing our quest to increase rigor in the classroom. It should help keep us all on the same page in terms of meeting the Common Core Learning Standards.”