Depth of Knowledge

In RG Channel Future School, we believe that curriculum should be practical and systematic.

What do we mean by being practical? Being practical means using strategies and tools that are designed to be effective and efficient in real life. Seeing a student’s English results improve gives us both joy and pride. Being systematic means that we believe that there is a framework that guides us to progressively scaffold our children so that they develop. And that is where our CAL2 system comes in.

In a previous blog, we already mentioned one of the underpinnings of our CAL2 curriculum – Bloom’s Taxonomy. In this article, we are going to talk about another major influence in our curriculum – Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. Depth of Knowledge, also commonly abbreviated as DOK is the complexity or depth of understanding required to answer or explain an assessment related item. This concept was developed through Norman Webb’s research by in the late 1990’s when he a senior research scientist for the Wisconsin Center of Education Research.

Originally developed for mathematics and science standards, his model adapted successfully in many different subjects like language arts, mathematics, science, and humanities. His model has been adopted widely by many states in America. 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. This is a handy chart I found on the web that gives a good summary of how to place an activity or question on the DOK chart:

Flow Chart for deciding what level of DOK an activity or a question is. Credits:

We basically use DOK to ensure that our students are exposed to increasingly difficult tasks. At primary level, students are given more DOK Level 1 and 2 activities and at secondary level, they are moved up to DOK 3 and 4. Why do we do this? The critical thinking and rigor that occurs in DOK Levels 3 and 4 are our goal to help our students learn future skills so that they can become 21st century thinkers. This will help them in preparing them for further education and future careers. DOK Level 3 and 4 are key to this because in DOK Level 3, students must justify and defend their reasoning (thus more rigorous and requires more critical thinking); while at DOK Level 4, there is continued analysis over longer periods of time.

With DOK, we believe that they will be challenged and developed cognitively. DOK is just one of the tools we use. As we mentioned, we also incorporate Bloom’s Taxonomy, and we do have other strategies. Nevertheless, DOK is a big part of our curriculum. And to conclude, a table explaining the different levels of DOK is attached below:

DOK Chart. Credits: