What exactly is Webb’s Depth of Knowledge model, and why should educators know about it? We’re explaining the depth of knowledge (DOK) theory, the four DOK levels, and how movement-based learning can be intertwined with the theory in instruction.

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## What is Webb's Depth of Knowledge Theory?

Depth of Knowledge (DOK) is a model that organizes tasks based on the complexity of thinking required to complete them. Dr. Norman Webb developed the model to determine how well standardized tests were aligned with students’ expected knowledge of grade-level concepts. Now, the model is applied to all educational materials, including standards, test questions, class activities, curriculum, etc. DoK addresses how deeply students must know, understand, and apply their knowledge to academic questions and real-life situations.

The DOK levels describe how cognitively demanding a learning objective is. Webb categorized learning into four levels:

*Level 1*: Recall and Reproduction*Level 2*: Skills and Concepts*Level 3*: Strategic Thinking*Level 4*: Extensive Thinking

## Where did the term "Depth of Knowledge" or DOK come from?

Dr. Norman Webb originally coined the term in 1997 while working as a senior research scientist for the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER). The idea behind the term was to develop a framework for creating academic assignments based on cognitive level and complexity. He felt it would help educators with the planning and successful teaching of foundational lessons.

“The motivation to come up with Depth of Knowledge was to develop criteria that could be used for the alignment of curriculum, standards, and assessment,” Webb stated in a 2016 interview.

## What is the Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Wheel?

The Depth of Knowledge wheel is a graphic made based on Webb’s approach. It shows a wheel of verbs associated with tasks in each DoK level. While the depth of knowledge wheel may be helpful for teachers designing lesson plans, Dr. Norman Webb has disputed it as an accurate depiction of his theory.

The concepts described in a question, as well as the cognitive activity required to understand and answer the question, are the keys to identifying the DOK, not the verb. A verb cannot be used to determine the complexity of mental engagement required by a task, as the DoK wheel suggests.

For instance, the depth of knowledge wheel depicts the verb “identify” under DoK level 1. This verb could certainly be used for level 1 tasks, such as “identify a type of fish.” However, the verb “identify” can be used for far more complex tasks. The task “identify a strategy for preventing the spread of aquatic nuisance species using multiple sources of data” is far more involved and complex. This task would not fall under DoK level 1.

The DoK wheel by itself does not describe the depth of knowledge that students are expected to engage in. Context is majorly missing. Verbs describe the cognitive actions students will perform, but the depth of knowledge describes the situation in which students express their learning.

#### Why Was the Depth of Knowledge Wheel Created?

It is unclear who designed the DoK wheel, but we know it was not Dr. Norman Webb. Webb has stated that the wheel is misleading and that he discourages its use. The depth of knowledge wheel was likely created as a visual for a professional development training that has since circulated online. Many incorrectly assume that the depth of knowledge wheel was created by Webb.

## Understanding the DOK Levels

##### Level 1: Recall and Reproduction

* What is the information?* At this level, students are asked to identify or recall information, as well as perform simple, rote procedures. Tasks involve remembering a response or formula and usually involve only one step. Common DOK question stems at level 1 might include:

- “What is…?”
- “List the…”
- “Identify the…”

Tasks at this level may include:

- Recalling facts and definitions
- Labeling a map
- Multiplying two numbers
- Measuring the length of a line with a ruler

##### Level 2: Skills and Concepts

** How can the information be used?** DOK Level 2 is a little more cognitively rigorous. Students are expected to show that they understand what concept is being taught. At this level, teachers may ask their students to compare, contrast, organize, summarize, reproduce, or explain ideas. Estimation, prediction, and inferences fall under the scope of level 2. Sample DOK questions for this level include:

- “Explain how…”
- “Compare and contrast…”
- “How would you use…?”

Example tasks that fall under DOK level 2 include:

- Describing the cause and effect of a certain event
- Organizing data and displaying it in a graph
- Using context clues to determine the meaning of an unfamiliar word
- Summarizing a chapter book

##### Level 3: Strategic Thinking

** Why can the information be used to produce a specific result?** In DOK Level 3, students are expected to be strategic in their thinking. This includes planning, evaluating, and arguing ideas. Questions at this level will have more than one possible response, and students must use evidence to support their answers. This level emphasizes higher-order thinking skills. Example questions might be:

- “Analyze why…”
- “How would you justify…”
- “Can you elaborate…”

DOK level 3 tasks might include:

- Supporting an idea with evidence and examples
- Solving mathematical word problems that involve fractions or percentages
- Designing a science experiment and predicting the outcome
- Assessing the impact of a major historical event on modern society

##### Level 4: Extended Thinking

** What else can be developed with the information?** Tasks at this level require students to engage in deep thinking over a longer period of time. Tasks here have multiple conditions to meet or require multiple processes to complete them. Students might need to synthesize information from multiple sources or conduct original research. Typical DOK Level 4 questions include:

- “Design a plan to…”
- “Develop a solution for…”
- “What would happen if…”

DOK level 4 tasks may include:

- Conducting an in-depth investigation into a problem and proposing an original, comprehensive solution
- Writing a research paper that compares themes across multiple literary works and analyzing how different authors address the same topic
- Developing a mathematical model using data and statistics
- Analyze the effects of an ideology while considering multiple perspectives

##### Important Notes About the DOK Levels

It is important to note that one level of DOK is no more important than another. The levels categorize questions, prompts, tasks, standards, and learning objectives. Educators should ensure that students have opportunities to engage in their education at each level.

The levels do, however, build off of one another. For instance, a student may begin a DoK level 3 task like conducting a science experiment, and realize the need for a DoK level 1 task like taking a measurement.

When asked about a balance between the levels of DOK, Webb said: “A good education system will have learning and what students know will include all of the levels of complexity…How you balance them really depends upon the standards.”

### What Impact Has the DOK Model Had on Education?

Webb’s DOK model has shifted how educators approach cognitive complexity in the classroom. A lower DoK level does not equate to a lower difficulty and vice versa. Each level measures the complexity of thinking required to answer a question or complete a task – not the difficulty of the question or task.

For example, a teacher could ask students to name the capital of the United States. This question requires simple recall of one fact, which falls under DoK level 1. Next, the teacher could also ask students to name the capitals of all 50 states. This question still only requires simple recall and is, therefore, still DoK level 1, but it is a much more difficult question. The complexity, however, has not changed beyond level 1.

Higher DOK levels, such as DOK level 3 (Strategic Thinking) and DOK level 4 (Extended Thinking), have been found to have a significant effect on students’ performance. A recent study found that when teachers employ inquiry-based approaches, students demonstrate a significant improvement in higher-order thinking skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving skills (Antonio and Prudente, 2024.) This study concluded that these inquiry-based teaching strategies engage students more deeply with the material, fostering an environment that encourages analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

Educators also use DOK levels to communicate the specific levels of thinking required from their students to meet standards. DOK is a common language. Furthermore, educators can discuss if their teaching, learning materials, and assessments align with the grade-level standards’ expectations for students.

## How Can Teachers Use the Depth of Knowledge Model in Classrooms?

Teachers can bring Webb’s DOK into their classrooms by designing lessons and assessments that range from simple recall tasks to complex research-based activities. By using the depth of knowledge framework to create content, educators can appropriately challenge their students so that they can develop the thinking skills needed for academic success and growth. Educators can use DoK as a guide to implement rigorous, standards-aligned instruction.

“[Depth of Knowledge] was primarily developed as a tool to align standards and was not developed with instruction in mind. The application to instruction has been an evolution with DOK,” Webb stated. “It has been interesting to see how people are interested in using it.”

The DoK levels, however, should never be used as a rubric for evaluating teachers. Instead, they should be used as a guide for teachers to deepen instruction. Some lessons are DoK level 1 or DoK level 2, and that’s okay. The DoK level of a lesson depends on the goal of the lesson. Is the goal to learn new definitions? Or is the goal to think strategically and use complex reasoning supported by evidence? Furthermore, the lesson’s goal depends on the DoK level expected in curriculum standards.

### Benefits of Using the DOK Model

There are many benefits to utilizing the DOK model as an educator. A simple benefit is that it provides a clear structure for designing tasks: The Depth of Knowledge framework gives teachers a structured approach to lesson planning. When using DOK levels, teachers can guarantee that the lessons are not only cognitively demanding but also commensurate with the students’ abilities.

##### Applicable Across Subjects

Webb’s DoK promotes rigor and cognitive complexity across all subject areas in school. It is not specific to one subject or class. Furthermore, DoK level 4 tasks prompt students to consider how one academic concept can be applied to another content area. (For instance, using units of measurement in both math problems and science experiments.)

Additionally, the depth of knowledge model’s ideology can be applied to a wide range of academic tasks, including the verbal questions an educator asks during a lecture, homework assignments, test questions, research projects, and collaborative class activities.

##### Improved Instructional Planning

Teachers can use DOK question stems to develop activities and assessments that require both lower-level and higher-level thinking. Plus, educators ensure that their instruction and materials require the same level of thinking complexity expected of students on standardized tests and in grade-level standards.

“DOK is a language system; therefore, it is helpful for teachers to understand in more detail what is meant by curriculum standards and also by assessment,” Webb says. “…teachers have used it…to evaluate the questions they ask and… determine whether the questions asked are aligned to the expected outcomes that they look for within their curriculum standards.”

##### Differentiated Learning

The DOK model makes it possible to accomplish tasks to meet the various needs of the students. Instructors can modify the tasks to the student’s learning capabilities and ensure all students are learning at their potential.

##### Fosters Higher-Order Thinking

Through the use of upper levels of DOK, such as complex problem solving or conducting research projects, teachers can challenge the students to think critically and to analyze what they are learning. This is especially true when providing higher engagement with the material and improved learning with Webb’s Depth of Knowledge questions at levels 3 and 4.

## Math & Movement Lesson Plan Using Webb's Depth of Knowledge

Finally, we’re sharing a lesson plan from our CCLS Lesson Plan Workbooks that we believe considers the DOK model well. When educators combine Webb’s Depth of Knowledge with movement-based strategies, their lessons can be powerful, engaging, and appropriately challenging! This lesson starts with very concrete activities at DOK level 1 and progresses students to DOK level 2 by the end.

##### Lesson in Counting and Cardinality - Counting to 100

**Grade:** Kindergarten

**Subject:** Math

**I. Objectives**

The learner will be able to count to 100 by ones and by tens.

**II. Common Core Learning Standard**

K.CC.1 – Count to 100 by ones and tens

**III. Background Information/Vocabulary**

The learner must be familiar with the numbers 1-100.

**IV. Instructional Procedures/Activities**

**A. Introduction (10 minutes)**

First, the teacher will call for the students’ attention and ask them to stand quietly in a circle. Then, the teacher will tell the class that today, they will pretend to be dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus Rexes, to be specific.

Next, the teacher will show the class how they can be T-Rexes by stomping their left foot when they say “one,” their right foot when they say “two,” and then grabbing their prey when they say “three.” The teacher will demonstrate how the class can repeat the “stomp, stomp, grab” movements and count all the way to 100.

Then, the teacher will lead the class in counting to 100 by pretending to be dinosaurs. The teacher will tell the class that today, they will continue counting to 100, as well as practice skip counting to 100 by tens.

**B. Instruction (40 minutes)**

First, the teacher will show the class the Math & Movement Add/Subtract mat and will show the class that all the numbers 1-100 are on the mat’s squares.

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These colorful, large floor mats and stickers depict the numbers 1 to 100 in a 10×10 grid. Practice a wide variety of math concepts, including counting, addition, and subtraction by hopping on each number block! Select your material choice and size below.

The teacher will tell the class that they will take turns coming up with movements to count to 100. One student will jump on each number on the mat while the class counts to 100, doing different movements. When the student finishes jumping on the mat, they will get to pick the next movement for the class to count. Each student gets to jump on the mat once and pick a movement once.

The teacher will help the students spread out along the edges of the mat, select the first student to begin jumping on the mat, and pick the first counting to 100 movement. Additionally, the teacher will lead the class in counting and moving.

When the student reaches 100 on the mat, the teacher will ask that student to come up with the next counting movement. They will model the movement with the class. The teacher will select the next student to jump on the mat.

When each student has had a turn to jump on the mat, the teacher will tell the class that they can count by tens to 100 on the mat. Then, the teacher will model how the students can count down the tens column.

Next, the teacher will roll out the Hop by Tens mat and model how the students can also count by tens to 100 while jumping on this mat.

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This colorful vinyl mat includes each multiple of 10 through one hundred in numerals in order for students to build fundamental number literacy skills.

The teacher will move the Hop by Tens mat next to the Add/Subtract mat, and select two students to hop by tens at the same time down each mat. The class will count by tens aloud while their classmates are jumping. The teacher will also lead counting by ten.

When each student in the class has a turn jumping on a mat, the teacher will tell the class to take a seat in a circle on the floor.

**C. Closure (5 minutes)**

When the students are sitting quietly, the teacher will ask the class, “What did we do in today’s math lesson? What are some of the ways that we counted to 100? How did we count by ten? Why is it important that we learn how to count to 100 by ones and tens?” The teacher will help the students answer the questions.

Math & Movement’s goal is to get all students confident in academics through movement-based learning. Our various kinesthetic educational products create an interactive and engaging learning environment for young students. Our lessons and materials are aligned to state standards, improve student learning outcomes, and increase student engagement.

As seen in the lesson shared above, movement-based learning can help students visualize abstract concepts and move through the depth of knowledge levels. Educators can foster higher-order thinking while allowing their students to move around and experience their lesson rather than having them sit still!

### FAQs About Webb's Depth of Knowledge

##### What does Depth of Knowledge mean?

Depth of Knowledge (DOK) refers to the complexity of thinking required to complete a task. It measures how deeply students must engage with the material, from basic recall (DOK Level 1) to extended problem-solving and reasoning (DOK Level 4).

##### Why did Dr. Norman Webb create depth of knowledge?

Dr. Norman Webb created the depth of knowledge model to systematically determine how well standardized testing aligned with the curriculum standards they were assessing. He wanted to address the lack of questions requiring higher levels of cognitive rigor on these tests.

##### What are the 4 levels of Webb's depth of knowledge?

*Level 1*: Recall and Reproduction*Level 2*: Skills and Concepts*Level 3*: Strategic Thinking*Level 4*: Extensive Thinking

##### How can teachers increase depth of knowledge?

Teachers can increase students’ depth of knowledge by:

- creating tasks that promote strategic and extended thinking
- using a variety of DOK question stems to guide deeper inquiry
- encouraging students to solve real-world problems that require multi-step solutions
- reviewing Webb’s Depth of Knowledge levels to design lessons that align with the complexity of different learning objectives

Feature Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash