Having an understanding of Webb’s four levels of Depth of Knowledge will help greatly as teachers adjust their planning to better meet the requirements of the Common Core State Standards. For many of us, I think, asking students to work at the deeper levels of understanding just makes sense, and fits what we know about how students learn best.
1. It’s About How Kids Are Being Asked to Think
To answer the question or solve the problem, at what level do students need to think? Are they giving back an answer they’ve heard or read (Level 1), or are they coming up with something new (Level 4)? Are they organizing information (Level 2) or are they critiquing it (Level 3)?
2. Levels Increase in COMPLEXITY, Not Necessarily Difficulty
Memorizing a long passage of text is difficult, but it’s still just memorizing.
3. Differentiation Does NOT Mean Some Students Work at Level 1 and Others at Level 4
Differentiate the text students read. Differentiate the materials they use. Differentiate the means of assessing. Every student should be working with high-quality materials and text that are appropriately challenging. With those, give EVERY student in your class chances to work at all four DOK levels.
4. Questions at Levels 1-2 Usually Have One Correct Answer
Much of what we do at school is at these levels. If you can use an answer key to assess their work, the students probably haven’t had to work past Level 1 or 2.
5. Levels 3 and 4 = New Possibilties
Look for opportunities to use open-ended questions and projects that require students to pull together information from multiple sources and that don’t necessarily have right or wrong answers.
- Which catering company should be used to provide food for the school fundraiser?
- Which Civil War battle had the most significant impact on American history?
- Create a one-day meal plan based on nutritional guidelines for the amount of calories, fat, protien, and fiber
- Write a Letter to the Editor arguing for or against a local issue
- Design an advertisement for a new product for young children
Typically, work at these levels happens over a period of time, during which students gather information, analyze results and discuss findings. The more this work connects to real life, the better.