Depth of Knowledge

Depth of Knowledge (DOK) refers to one criterion of the alignment tool created by Dr. Norman Webb at the University of Wisconsin Center for Educational Research  to determine the alignment of standards and assessment items for those standards. This tool provides educators with a common vocabulary and frame of reference for designing increasingly complex and engaging instruction that aligns with content area standards.

Dr. Webb also provided Depth of Knowledge Levels for four content areas: English Language Arts (Reading and Writing), Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies which are reflected in the individual content areas along with other DOK resources.

Depth of Knowledge Levels (Downloadable Document)

Level 1:  (Recall of Information) asks students to recall facts, terms, concepts, and trends or to recognize or identify specific information contained in graphics.  This level generally requires student to identify, list, or define.  The items at this level usually ask the student to recall who, what, when, and where.  Items that require students to “describe” and/or “explain” could be classified at Level 1 or Level 2, depending on what is to be described and/or explained.  A Level 1 “describe and/or explain” would require students to recall, recite, or reproduce information.  Items that require students to recognize or identify specific information contained in documents, excerpts, quotations, maps, charts, tables, graphs, or illustrations are generally Level 1.

Level 2:  (Basic Reasoning) includes the engagement of some mental processing beyond recalling or reproducing a response.  This Level generally requires students to:  contrast or compare people, places, events, and concepts; convert information from one form to another; give an example; classify or sort items into meaningful categories; draw simple conclusions; or describe, interpret, or explain issues and problems patterns, reasons, cause and effect, significance or impact, relationships, points of view, or processes.  A Level 2 “describe and/or explain” would require students to go beyond a description or explanation of recalled information to describe and/or explain a result or “how” or “why.”

Level 3:  (Complex Reasoning) requires reasoning, using evidence and a higher level of thinking than Level 1 or Level 2.  Students will go beyond explaining or describing “how and why” to justifying the “how and why” through application and evidence.  The cognitive demands at Level 3 are more complex and more abstract then Level 1 or Level 2.  Items at Level 3 can include:  drawing conclusions from multiple or complex stimuli; citing evidence; applying concepts to new situations; using concepts to solve problems; analyzing similarities and differences in issues and problems; proposing and evaluating solutions to problems; recognizing and explaining misconceptions; or making connections across time and place to explain a concept or “big idea.”

Level 4:  (Extended Reasoning) requires the complex reasoning of Level 3 with the addition of planning, investigating, or developing that will most likely require an extended period of time.  The extended time period is not a distinguishing factor if the required work is only repetitive and does not require applying significant conceptual understanding and higher-order thinking.  At this level the cognitive demands should be high and the work should be complex.  Students should be required to connect and relate ideas and concepts within the content area or among content areas in order to be at this highest level.  The distinguishing factor for Level 4 would be evidence through a task or product that the cognitive demands have been met.  A Level 4 performance will require students to analyze and synthesize information from multiple sources, examine and explain alternative perspectives across a variety of sources and/or describe and illustrate how common themes and concepts are found across time and place.  In some Level 4 performances students will make predictions with evidence as support, develop a logical argument, or plan and develop solutions to problems.

NOTE: Many on-demand assessment instruments will not include assessments activities that could be classified as Level 4.  However, standards, goals, and objectives can be stated so as to expect students to perform thinking at this level.  On-demand assessments that do include tasks, products, or extended responses would be classified as Level 4 when the task or response requires evidence that the cognitive demands have been met.



General Resources