As we begin a new year with the goal of ‘transforming together’ we each need to be thinking about the expectations we have for students as thinkers in our classrooms. As a way to consider these expectations, I’m going to refer back to the Depth of Knowledge (DOK) framework that’s been used in Missouri for many years.
Just like Bloom’s before it, the DOK framework has gotten simplified to a list of verbs, rather than considered as an overall way to view student learning. Thinking of DOK as a bullseye, rather than quadrants of a wheel as it’s often seen, helps to show how the levels relate to each other.
Standards and learning targets at a DOK 1 have only one simple answer. So 7x5=35 is DOK 1 information that can applied at DOK 2 to a story problem such as: Five friends each bring seven pencils to school on the first day. How many pencils do they have all together? This is DOK 2 because learners not only have to know that 7x5=35, they have to be able to reason through the sentence to determine that it’s a multiplication problem.
Ultimately, standards that fall in DOK 1 or DOK 2 almost always have a single correct answer, whereas DOK 3 and 4 cause learners to stretch their thinking, solve problems in novel ways, and perhaps come to different conclusions on the same task. For instance, asking five students to use 35 pencils to build a tower that will sustain its own weight for five minutes is a DOK 3 task (albeit more physics and engineering than math). A DOK 4 project might ask those students to research how the tallest towers are built a design the ideal skyscraper based on what they learn.
In order to be successful with DOK 3 and 4 level tasks, students have to possess DOK 1 and 2 knowledge and skills. HOWEVER, this doesn’t mean that students must be taught everything at DOK 1 and 2 before they are prepared to face more advanced tasks. Learning through discovery can be an extremely powerful strategy to help students master information and skills. Opportunities like the tower-building activity provide students with much more authentic experiences with skills and concepts, and a great means to teach the vocabulary and basic information that are important in every discipline.
So, this is your first challenge in our ‘Transform Together’ year. Try strategies and activities that TEACH a standard at a HIGHER DOK level than is required by the target itself. Our new math elementary series emphasizes teaching multiple strategies (DOK 2) to help students acquire DOK 1 level knowledge. The same technique can be applied across all content areas by providing students opportunities to stretch their thinking and solve problems throughout instruction, rather than just at the end of a unit. Try it!... and share what you’re doing and how it’s working on our new Google+ Transform Together community.