Curriculum & Instruction

Depth of Knowledge

Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Overview


Depth of Knowledge (DOK) is the complexity of understanding required to answer an assessment-related item or classroom activity. This concept was developed by Norman Webb.


Originally, Webb developed Depth of Knowledge for science and math standards. The model has since expanded to include language, arts, history, social studies, mathematics, and science. Educators are applying DOK to design better instruction.




The Depth of Knowledge has four levels. The higher the level, the more complex and more steps required to complete the task.




Elements that fall into this category involve tasks that require students to reproduce or recall knowledge and skills. At this level, subject matter content involves working with facts, terms, and properties of objects.


It also involves the use of simple procedures and formulas. Copying, defining, and recognizing are examples of Level 1 tasks. This level answers the questions who, what, where, and when.


Possible Products


  • Quiz
  • Recitation
  • Example
  • Outline
  • List
  • Definition
  • Workbook
  • Show and tell
  • Googling
  • Social Networking


Potential Activities


  • Conduct basic mathematical calculations
  • Locating information in maps, charts, and graphs
  • Write a brief outline of a story or event
  • Retell in your own words
  • Draw a picture that illustrates a process or event
  • Perform routine procedures like measuring length
  • Represent in diagrams a scientific concept




This level includes mental processing beyond reproducing or recalling a response. It requires students to compare ideas, people, and events; explain issues and problems; classify items into categories; and convert info from one form to another. Examples of Level 2 tasks are comparing, summarizing, organizing, predicting, and estimating.  


Possible Products


  • Illustration
  • Photograph
  • Simulation
  • Presentation
  • Demonstration
  • Interview
  • Journal
  • Relationship mind maps
  • Moderating
  • Validating


Potential Activities


  • Write a diary or blog entry
  • Construct a model to demonstrate how a thing works
  • Write an explanation about a topic
  • Make a topographic map
  • More complex calculation tasks such as standard deviation
  • Identify and summarize the events in a narrative
  • Organize, represent, and interpret data




This involves the use of evaluation and analysis to solve real world problems. Stating one’s reasoning is an important marker of tasks belonging to this category. Level 3 tasks require coordination of knowledge and skill to carry out processes in a project-based setting. Processes that denote this level include: explain and support with evidence, analyze, create, and generalize.


Possible Products


  • Chart
  • Spreadsheet
  • Outline
  • Survey
  • Report
  • Debate
  • Investigation
  • Abstract
  • Animation
  • Film


Potential Activities


  • Use a Venn Diagram
  • Survey classmates to know what they think about a particular topic
  • Apply a concept in other contexts
  • Support ideas with details and examples
  • Write a persuasive speech
  • Prepare and conduct a debate
  • Design a questionnaire to gather information




Level 4 requires the most complex cognitive effort. Elements that belong to this level require extended use of thinking processes such as assessment, synthesis, reflection, and adjustment of plans over time. Students synthesize information from multiple sources over an extended period of time.


They conduct investigations to solve real world problems with unpredictable outcomes. Strategic thinking processes that denote this level include: reflect, synthesize, conduct, and manage.


Possible Products


  • Story
  • Film
  • Project
  • Plan
  • Song
  • New game
  • Newspaper
  • Media Product


Potential Activities


  • Sell an idea
  • Tasks that require various cognitive skills to complete
  • Writing tasks that have a firm emphasis on persuasion
  • Tasks that require students to formulate and test hypothesis
  • Write a jingle to advertise a product
  • Conduct a project that requires identifying a problem, experimenting, and creating solutions
  • Design a mathematical model to solve a practical situation




Educators should use a balanced approach in deciding how to implement Depth of Knowledge in the classroom. INcompassing Education can help guide them on how to design better instruction, increase learning, and improve outcomes for students. We provide high-quality professional development for teachers in Indiana and other US states. Send us a message so we can discuss the needs of your school or district.




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