Our Thoughts

← View all Our Thoughts

Applying Increased Rigor with DOK

Here’s the FYI if you’re thinking IDK about DOK.

image:Stereotyped girl toys in a toy store.

It seems we can’t go for any stretch of time without a new buzzword in education making us stop and reevaluate what we do and how we teach. Some of us have been around for the renaming and recycling of many such concepts. DOK (Depth of Knowledge) isn’t a new concept as it was created by Norman L. Webb in the late 1990s. The new buzzword that’s bringing DOK to the forefront is rigor, and applying the practices associated with DOK increases the rigor that is necessitated by CCSS.

Rather than feeling overwhelmed that another new facet of education is crashing down on you, take the time to think about what you already do in the classroom. You’ll often be surprised at how you are unknowingly incorporating a new concept or strategy in the classroom or how close you are to making it a part of your existing practices. It’s not always the case of reinventing the wheel, but oftentimes, it’s just a matter of polishing your existing wheel or adding some shiny new rims. With the GO DEEP Approach to DOK, you can let your current strategies and practices lay the foundation for an increase in content complexity and rigor.


Gather your existing lessons and activities.

  • Pull your lessons and activities for an upcoming unit or chunk of time.
  • These can be labs, writing workshop activities, mathematical models, etc.

Organize activities selected by DOK levels.

  • Examine your existing activities using a chart like the one provided by NYC Department of Education1.
  • Pay attention to the power verbs used in your existing activities, but don’t rely on them to be the sole indicator of a DOK level. Justin Tarte2 shares the distinction between hard and rigorous, and it’s what comes after the verb that denotes the level.
  • List activities on a chart under the appropriate Level 1 (Recall), Level 2 (Skills/Concepts), Level 3(Strategic Thinking), or Level 4 (Extended Thinking) heading.

Determine activities to transition or eliminate.

  • Are you finding most activities fall into the Level 1 or 2 range?
  • Pinpoint the oversaturated and unrepresented levels in your current instructional framework.
  • Select activities from highly saturated levels that can be adapted and transitioned to new levels, or activities that are repetitive and should be removed.
  • Move selected adaptable activities up or down to cover a wider scope of DOK.

Eedit and Enhance transitional activities.

  • Whether moving them up or down, make the needed changes/adaptations to the transitional activities chosen.
  • Keep in mind that a change in performance verbs does not a level changer make. Task and product will determine if a true level transition is achieved.

Establish new activities to further develop DOK.

  • Don’t force activities from your current repertoire into new levels if they are not a good fit.
  • Using these question stems provided by the Arizona Department of Education3 is a great starting point for developing new activities at the proper level.
  • Don’t think that extending the time-frame creates an extended thinking task. As we’ve shared before, sound design leads to quality assessments4.

Plan revised activities and units to increase rigor.

  • Choosing the right activities from a revised and redesigned repertoire will increase rigor.
  • Giving students the opportunity to explore DOK will lead to a more lasting learning impact.

Let your existing activities be the springboard for exploring DOK and increasing rigor. With a focus on content complexity using the DOK framework, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel because of a seemingly new buzzword. By revising your current practices with our GO DEEP Approach, your students will be rising to new levels in no time!

If you enjoyed the thoughts and ideas shared here, check out the trainings and tools (for teachers and for families) that we offer.

Additional Resources & Works Cited

1. NYC Department of Education

2. Justin Tarte Distinction

3. Arizona Department of Education

4. Align, Assess, Achieve: Sound Design Article

← Previous Next →

Leave a comment