Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) is currently one of the most utilized terms in Adult Basic Education. Why? It is the framework that supports the recent changes in High School Equivalency Assessment (GED® 2014, HiSET®, and TASC®.)
While there are minor variations between the HSE assessments, all three focus on an increase in higher-order thinking and cognitive processing skills, featuring around 80% of assessment targets grounded in DOK levels 2 and 3.
A DOK Refresher
DOK Level 2: Skills and Concepts
- Includes mental processing beyond recalling or reproducing a response. Items require learners to make decisions as to how to approach the question or problem.
- These actions imply more than one mental or cognitive process or step.
- Identify and summarize information from a text
- Compare and Contrast
- Explain cause and effect
- Predict a logical outcome
- Classify geometric figures
- Retrieve information from a graphic and use it to solve a problem requiring multiple steps
DOK Level 3: Strategic Thinking
- Requires deep understanding as exhibited though planning, using evidence, and more demanding cognitive reasoning. Complex cognitive demand is placed on the learner.
- Assessment items have more than one possible answer and require learners to justify their responses.
- Analyze or evaluate the effectiveness of literary samples
- Solve a multi-step problem and provide rationale and support
- Compare actions and analyze their impact
- Develop a model for a complex idea
- Propose and evaluate solutions
- Explain, generalize, or connect ideas, using supporting evidence
DOK tasks can be cumulative, meaning that learners often need to employ lower DOK levels of thinking to arrive at and support assessment targets that are higher in DOK level. For example, if a learner is assessed on predicting trends on a graphical representation (DOK 3), they need to use the following thinking skills to arrive at their final response: DOK 1(determine how many), DOK 2 (compare), and finally DOK 3 (Make decisions.)
Unlike Bloom’s Taxonomy, DOK is not based on the activity of the learner, but rather on the complexity of thinking and cognitive processing required to answer the assessment target. In the following examples, learners are required to engage in the same activity (Describe), but note the differences in cognitive processing: A) Describe three matter states of water. (Requires simple recall, DOK 1.) B) Describe the differences between water in a solid state and water in a gas state. (Requires cognitive processing to determine the differences in the two states, DOK 2.) C) Describe a model you might use to represent the relationships that exist between the three matter states of water. (Requires deep understanding of the water cycle and a determination of how to best represent the concept graphically, DOK 3.)
What about Blended Learning?
How do these shifts in cognitive processing demands impact blended learning programs? How do we blend differentiated, asynchronous review and rehearsal of procedural skills with opportunities to engage in the critical reflection and discourse required to rehearse conceptual and strategic thinking skills? It begins with establishing a cognitive processing presence in our blended learning environments. This presence relies on technology-based activities being well-integrated with face-to-face activities, and vice versa. “Face-to-face time must be valued and not wasted by only delivering content. This time is best used for engagement and higher-order learning” (Vaughn, et all 2013).
Five ways to establish a cognitive processing presence in blended learning environments:
- Make concepts explicit. Continually identify, present, and refer back to key concepts that apply all learners. (Test-taking strategies, problem-solving steps, goal setting strategies, meta-cognitive skills.) Utilize face-to-face time to revisit and explore these concepts as pairs, small-groups, and whole-group.
- Learner reflection of progress. Provide opportunity for learners to make explicit the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they have adopted as a result of course materials and experiences. Create space for learners to articulate exactly what they comprehend as a result of their investment in study, and encourage reflection of application of skills to their personal goals and objectives.
- Lifelong learning. Learning occurs through multiple modalities and experiences. Use triangulation to provide multiple representations and activities to reach stated objectives.
- Socratic Dialogue. Facilitate engagement in provocative, open-ended Socratic Dialogue that encourages experimentation and risk-taking that supports divergent thinking and many perspectives. Use DOK thinking tasks to frame and facilitate dialogue and discussion.
- Real world application. Promote active engagement in practical application of knowledge and shared summaries of discussion to the outside world.
Lipman, M. (1991). Thinking in education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Vaughan, N., Garrison, D., & Cleveland-Innes, M. (2013). Teaching in Blended Learning Environments: Creating and Sustaining Communities of Inquiry. Edmonton, AB: AU Press, Athabasca University.