Teaching in 2015 should not look like teaching in 1980. One shift we are looking at when doing modern lesson plans is the level of complexity of the tasks students are doing. Depth of Knowledge (DOK) refers to the level of critical thinking the STUDENT is doing. When looking at lesson plans and tasks it is important to consider the DOK level of the task.
DOK 1 = Recall or procedural steps
DOK is not how hard a problem is, difficulty does not determine the DOK level. The amount of complex thinking the student is actually doing defines the DOK. Scaffolding assignments, while sometimes necessary and appropriate, decreases the amount of complex thinking a student is required to do.
Traditional Math Lesson
5 a day warm up of the questions from yesterday – DOK 1
Note taking – DOK 0
Guided practice – DOK 1
Independent practice – DOK 1 (possibly DOK 2 for more complex word problems.)
The math problems may be HARD, but if the student is following steps then the student is not involved in complex thinking.
Graph this Parabola y=-3x2+2x-5 is DOK 1. Students recall and follow a set of steps. If the task follows like a recipe it is DOK 1. If you need more evidence that it is DOK 1, I can literally ASK Google to graph it for me.
Copy Transfer is Not Thinking
I have been chatting with Shelley Burgess (@burgess_shelley) about DOK levels. She points out that tasks such as note taking (strictly copying) or copying facts onto a brochure or poster is not recalling information. This is DOK 0. No thinking.
Shelley points out that note taking can be more complex if students have to make decisions about what is important. This is a skill that must be taught. To be complex the student must engage in critical thinking about the notes. Not getting all of the information down is not the same as making purposeful decisions. Summarizing a lot of information intentionally can be DOK 2.
Ask Complex Questions
If you want students to be involved in complex tasks you have to ask complex questions. This is challenging since, for the most part, our textbooks do not have complex questions. What does a complex question look like?
If you can answer the question with a single Google search, it is not a complex question. If students were to search the answer, they would need to do a search to find evidence to conduct their next search.
A Google A Day
A fun activity for you, and for you to do with your students, is agoogleaday.com. Typically I have to think about what my search terms are going to be. I can not just copy and paste the question into a Google search. I have to break down the question to figure out what it is really asking and determine what keywords in the search will get me there. Practicing a Google a day will help you to sharpen your search skills and also to see examples of more complex types of questions.
Search technology is not going to go away and it is only going to get better. In almost any social situation, someone is likely to look up information on their mobile device or computer. This is part of the culture and it is real world. An important life skill is for students to be able to search for information. We should consider search and research as part of every lesson.
Do not just loose students on Google. “Just Google it.” While students are used to using Google, they do not have the skills to use the tool academically. Just as we need to include digital citizenship into our lessons, we need to include search and research literacy. Teach students advanced search techniques such as using quotations to find a phrase. Use the minus in front of a keyword to exclude it from the search.
For more information on DOK you may find Robert’s blog helpful.