4 ways Webb’s Depth of Knowledge changes academic rigor

Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) increases learning rigor. DOK goes beyond identifying the type of thinking required for a learning activity.

Previous attempts to identify and apply the steps required for higher order thinking fell short. Students engaged in isolated activities that did not consistently require advanced thinking. DOK, however, increases academic rigor by focusing on context. Developed by Dr. Norman Webb, DOK scaffolds learning experiences to give students footholds in increasing academic rigor.

DOK builds a path to real-world competency.

Teachers seeking ways to help students think critically in complex situations turn to Webb’s Depth of Knowledge.

Webb’s Depth of Knowledge explained

The difference between Webb’s Depth of Knowledge and Bloom’s Taxonomy or Marzano’s Essentials for Rigor is the student’s frame of reference. As the context changes, so do the levels of understanding and rigor. Students must activate knowledge and experience at teach level to be successful learners. Teachers who incorporate Webb’s Depth of Knowledge  increase the levels of academic rigor in their classrooms.

Implementing DOK requires that teachers plan their lessons carefully. Knowing which verb best describes a particular learning activity is no longer enough to address rigor.  Teachers must consider context as they scaffold lessons according to each level in Webb’s Depth of Knowledge.

These four DOK levels change academic rigor.

DOK Level 1: What do we know?

At the lowest DOK level, students gather information and directions. They work with indisputable facts. This initial work establishes a foundation for all other related learning.

For example, imagine that students are studying the Leatherback Sea Turtle. Their first task begins with knowledge. They would gather all the facts about the turtles they could find. Then they would present their findings to classmates.

By asking low-level questions, the teacher gets students to recall information. Knowledge and recall are critical for Level 1.

DOK Level 2: Why is this important, and how can we use it?

In the second level, students determine how they can use the information. Then they look for ways to solve multi-step problems requiring inference and interpretation. This level help students identify relationships between topics and details.

In the case of the sea turtle, students already have the facts. Now they must figure out what’s important and how they can use their findings.

DOK Level 3: Why do we need it?

The third level of DOK requires complex thinking involving analysis and evaluation. They consider not only their findings, but also the perceptions or prejudices of others.

In this level, the teacher might ask students to write a persuasive essay convincing others to save the Leatherback Sea Turtle.

DOK Level 4: How else can it be used?

By the time students get to the fourth level, they are ready to apply what they’ve learned to real-world problems that are both authentic and challenging. Level 4 happens when students can synthesize the aggregation of all four steps.

The final step would be to come up with a solution that will save the turtles and remove them from the endangered species list.

In each level of Webb’s Depth of Knowledge, students place learning in context. Ultimately, Webb’s Depth of Knowledge alludes to the depth of understanding necessary for completing learning tasks and answering complex questions.

More than that, though, DOK changes academic rigor and better prepares students for real-world experiences in ways that other critical thinking systems haven’t done.

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