Using Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) to Make Your Class Effective

13 min read
Using Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) to Make Your Class Effective

Using DOK to Make Your Class Effective



The concept of Depth of Knowledge was first introduced in the year 1997 by a Mathematician named Norman Webb. In essence, his theory was all about increasing a student’s depth of knowledge. It also indicates how each student must hold a deep awareness to attain and explain answers. Moreover, it also shows how well students can translate academic learning into the real world.

Although Norman started his research in 1997, the documentation did not publish till 2002, almost five years later. Ever since then, it is not uncommon to hear the phrase in teaching. One of the reasons for that is due to the shift from rote learning to career-oriented studies. Teachers are keen to implement this method since it helps in making a class effective.

Even though Norman’s depth of knowledge theory is popular, it is not without its shortcomings. Usually, teachers find it hard to understand fully since it’s quite complex and requires thorough knowledge before implementation. Without further ado, let’s find out more about the depth of knowledge and how it can help make a classroom more effective.

The concept of Depth of Knowledge


What is Webb’s Depth of Knowledge?

Webb’s depth of knowledge refers to a framework that categorizes knowledge into four levels of rigor. Each level represents different difficulties, working mechanisms, and methods. Usually, the first level is easier than the next and as the level increases, so does the complexity of the tasks. A common example includes learning a fact at level one and solving a complex real-life scenario in level four.

All of these levels are unique for different age groups and demographics. They largely depend on age and the nature of the subject. Don’t let the levels confuse you. They are in place to create a course or plan. Therefore, it is not necessary for a student to master one level to move on to another.

As a teacher, you can easily prepare students for each level of Webb’s depth of knowledge framework. You can use worksheets, assignments, activities, and tests for better efficiency. It offers the teacher a chance to categorize each with respect to their nature of complexity. It is one of the best ways a teacher can develop a thorough and deep working environment.

There are also underlying misconceptions and misunderstandings that hinder the technique from increasing efficacy. Most of it relates to a lack of understanding of the depth of the knowledge wheel. Another common misconception is that the rigor only indicates how much work the student has to do and how difficult the task is. These aspects can undermine the use of Webb’s depth of knowledge and may have certain consequences.

Altogether there are four key levels to the framework. These include:

  • Recall
  • Knowledge Application
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Extended Thinking

What is Webbs Depth of Knowledge

Explaining the Levels of Webb’s Depth of Knowledge

One question that’s always on a teacher’s mind is how they can create a nurturing environment for each student. The answer is simple; Webb’s depth of knowledge. Whenever a teacher refers to the DOK and benefits from it, they can enable a collaborative classroom. By categorizing each stage, teachers can develop tasks that comply with requirements.

Let’s take a look at all the levels of Depth of knowledge and how teachers can use them to engage students.

DOK Level 1: Recall

Level 1 of DOK is also known as recollection and reproduction. This level concerns basic information involved in studies such as facts, definitions, and different formulas. Some of the teachers also refer it as remembering a recipe for a delicious meal. These are rote applications and basic information that every student should know by heart.

This level is important since it offers students an opportunity to learn the knowledge that acts as a foundation for further development. After completing level 1, students are able to think more critically and base their solutions on firm concepts.

Students don’t need advanced cognitive skills to answer questions at level 1. Ultimately, it’s a good method for teachers to assess students’ basics before moving forward.

DOK Level 2: Knowledge Application

The second stage of
is about applying the knowledge that students learned at level 1. Teachers will ask them to develop their answers and make well-informed decisions. Problem-solving is the main judging element in this stage, which helps a teacher know how far they have come from the former level.

Students usually use their prior knowledge outside the academic context – things they experienced in real-life. Teachers can enable students to think collaboratively and outside the context of just academics.

For instance, teachers can make use of an engaging activity that offers a collaborative environment. It will not only help provide better understanding but also bring out new ideas and deepen understanding.

Unlike tasks at level 1, students will focus on more than just a single mental step. They may focus on thinking about different concepts such as comparing, organizing, and developing at the same time.

DOK Level 3: Strategic Thinking

At this level, things become more complex and need more attention. This is the stage where students start using reasoning, planning, and evidence to support their statements and propositions. This way, they are more able to explain what they are thinking and formulate thoughts in a coherent manner. Compared to previous levels, this level is more abstract and involves complexity. It demands that students use their skills and knowledge outside the academic context.

After mastering this level, a student develops and slowly masters the concepts they learned in earlier levels. Teachers can leverage testing methods that encourage students to solve non-routine problems and give reasons for their choice.

Essays on a topic can prove helpful since it leads students to follow their own thoughts and imagination. Ultimately, everyone’s piece is unique and has a different conclusion.

DOK Level 4: Extended Thinking

This is the most advanced stage of the depth of knowledge framework and involves students making a significant cognitive effort. It encourages students to gather information from multiple resources to solve a specific problem. It also motivates them to know the “How” and “Why” of things. Typically, a teacher should give students thought-provoking questions that require critical thinking. Often, these tasks take time since they require avid thinking.

Students will answer questions with help of their own thinking and abilities. And if we look at the creative side of things, it can help them make something entirely unique. For instance, an art work, poetry or a story.

DOK Level 4: Extended Thinking

Potential Activities of Each Level

There are numerous activities that a teacher can conduct with the help of a depth of knowledge framework. Below are a few potential activities that teachers can use:

Level 1 Activities

  • Developing a mind map and describing a topic to the students
  • Get students to learn interesting facts and figures
  • Preparing a flow chart to show and describe the events step by step
  • Writing a summary report
  • Outlining the summary for the students
  • Tasks involving one step at a time including addition, subtraction, and other basic practices
  • Tasks on punctuation, syntax, and, spellings. It will help in forming a student’s skills and prevent such errors
  • Basic measurements and using tools such as rulers and calculators.

Possible Products

  • Quizzes and short tests
  • Worksheets and lists
  • Labels and collections
  • Outlines
  • Browsing and searching the internet
  • Social networking

All these ideas help a teacher implement level 1 inside a classroom. But more importantly, it also enables to make it more effective and rewarding.

Possible Products

Level 2 Activities

In level 2, a few activities ensure a more collaborative classroom. These include:

  • Classifying a series of steps
  • Practice the play and drama inside the classroom
  • Play games with the students about the related topic
  • Crafting a map or a model
  • Routine application tasks on a daily basis
  • More complex calculations such as divisions and divisions
  • Diary and blog entries

These activities can help the student stay updated with level 2 of the depth of knowledge framework. Moreover, it also helps the teachers in making the classroom more effective.

Possible Products

  • Diary and journals
  • Photography and illustrations
  • Presentations
  • Sculptures and Demonstrations
  • Blog commenting
  • Relationships and mind gaps

A teacher should ensure that students fully focus on these tasks and start developing critical thinking. With the help of collaborative techniques and interesting tasks, a teacher can help students master this level easily.

Level 2 Activities

Level 3 Activities

At this level, a student begins to develop critical thinking. Potential activities for students include:

  • Using a Venn diagram to determine the differences and similarities between a given topic
  • Making a questionnaire to conduct a survey
  • Using flowcharts to explain a procedure
  • Character sketch and in-depth analysis
  • Writing letters that encourage action
  • Preparing and conducting a speech or a debate
  • Calculations and solving of complex problems surrounding the topic
  • Creating graphs, data, charts, and stats to organize information
  • Complex calculation of problems and seamless explanation of tasks
  • Tasks that require research and emphasis on research to make predictions
  • Making a small booklet
  • Preparing a case that presents the student’s point of view.

These activities will significantly help in tracking the overall progress of the students. Moreover, it will also measure how effective the overall classroom progress has become.

Possible Products

  • Graphs and spreadsheets
  • Outlines
  • Checklists
  • Podcasts
  • Surveys
  • Filming and acting
  • Reports and Evaluations
  • Investigation of a topic

Since level 3 focuses on growth and sustainability of the student, it is necessary to keep certain protocols in mind before preparing activities and possible products. Make sure they add knowledge and value to a student’s life.

Level 3 Activities

Level 4 Activities

Level 4 is the most advanced level of depth of knowledge. Teachers need to create a thorough plan before going ahead with activities to nurture thinking.

  • Applying academic information to solve real-life scenario problems.
  • Writing and testing a hypothesis over time
  • Tasks that require avid collaboration and teamwork
  • Persuasive and descriptive writing
  • Selling an idea or advertising
  • Evaluating and studying scenarios all over the world

These activities can help foster critical thinking skills in students, helping them reach new heights. This stage of development is integral since it reflects a student’s long term growth and academic prospects.

Possible Projects

  • Film projects
  • Game development
  • Media producing
  • Newspapers
  • Songs

All these projects require a thorough and critical plan before they are ready. Be it a song or a final year project, critical thinking and applications of level 4 are necessary.

Level 4 Activities

Apply Depth of Knowledge (DOK) As Needed

Apply Depth of Knowledge (DOK) As Needed

As identified before, it is important to know that DOK does not require a teacher to teach with a sequence. Nor does it require the students to stay well-versed in all levels. Teachers can apply this method in all grades and developments, including kindergarten and high school.

While you can’t expect young children to develop critical thinking, they should have the ability to reason according to their level. Therefore, you should always use the depth of knowledge framework as needed.

Final Thoughts

Incorporating the depth of knowledge theory in a classroom will require discipline and consistency. A teacher should always ensure that with learning, students are able to apply it in practice.

Each child will have their own pace of learning and developing skills according to levels. The most important thing for a teacher is to encourage students to think more deeply and establish the need for critical thinking.

We hope we made the concept easier for you to implement in your class. Don’t forget to comment and share our guide with others.