What Is Depth of Knowledge?

Learn more about the understanding of DOK levels and stem questions

Fifth grade girl at chalk board.
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Depth of Knowledge (DOK) was developed through research by Norman L. Webb in the late 1990’s. It is defined as the complexity or depth of understanding that is required to answer an assessment question.

Depth of Knowledge Levels

Each level of complexity measures a student's depth of knowledge. Here are a few keywords as well as descriptors for each depth of knowledge level.

DOK Level 1 - (Recall - measure, recall, calculate, define, list, identify.)

  • This category involves basic tasks that require students to recall information and/or reproduce knowledge/skills. This may involve simple procedures or working with facts or terms. Students do not need to figure out this level of DOK they either know the answer or they don't.

DOK Level 2 - Skill/Concept - graph, classify, compare, estimate, summarize.)

  • This DOK level requires students to compare and contrast, describe or explain, or convert information. It may involve going beyond describing, to explaining how or why. At this level, students may need to infer, estimate, or organize.

DOK Level 3 - (Strategic Thinking - assess, investigate, formulate, draw conclusions, construct.)

  • At this level students are required to use higher order thinking processes. They may be asked to solve real-world problems, predict outcomes, or analyze something. Students may need to access knowledge from multiple subject areas to reach a solution.

DOK Level 4 - (Extended Thinking - analyze, critique, create, design, apply concepts.)

  • Higher order thinking skills are essential at this level of DOK. Students must employ strategic thinking to solve problems at this level. Students will need to conduct, and synthesize as well as manage at level 4.

Possible (DOK) Depth of Knowledge Stem Questions & Possible Activities to Correlate

Here are a few stem questions, along with potential activities that correlate with each DOK level. Use the following questions and activities when creating your common core assessments.


  • Who Was ____?
  • When did _____ happen?
  • Can you recall_____?
  • How can you recognize_____?
  • Who discovered_____?

Possible Activities

  • Develop a concept map describing a topic.
  • Create a chart.
  • Write a summary report.
  • Paraphrase a chapter in a book.
  • Retell in your own words.
  • Outline the main points.


  • What did you notice about_____?
  • How would you classify____?
  • How are ____ alike? How are they different?
  • How would you summarize_______?
  • How could you organize______?

Possible Activities

  • Classify a series of steps.
  • Create a diorama to illustrate an event.
  • Explain the meaning of a concept or how to perform a task.
  • Create a game about the topic.
  • Make a topographical map.


  • How would you test_____?
  • How is ____ related to_____?
  • Could you predict the outcome if____?
  • How would you describe the sequence of_____?
  • Can you elaborate on the reason of_____?

Possible Activities

  • Conduct a debate.
  • Create a flowchart to show changes.
  • Classify the actions of specific characters in a story.
  • Explain a concept in abstract terms.
  • Research and design an investigation to answer a question.


  • Write a research paper on a topic.
  • Apply information from one text to another to develop a persuasive argument.
  • Write a thesis, drawing conclusions from multiple resources.
  • Gather information to develop alternative explanations.
  • What information can you gather to support your idea about _____?

Possible Activities

  • Create a graph or table to organize information.
  • Create an idea and sell it.
  • Write a jingle to advertise a product.
  • Apply information to solve a problem that is in a novel.
  • Develop a menu for a new restaurant.

Sources: Depth of Knowledge - Descriptors, Examples and Question Stems for Increasing Depth of Knowledge in the Classroom, and Webb's Depth of Knowledge Guide.

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Cox, Janelle. "What Is Depth of Knowledge?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-depth-of-knowledge-2081726. Cox, Janelle. (2020, August 27). What Is Depth of Knowledge? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-depth-of-knowledge-2081726 Cox, Janelle. "What Is Depth of Knowledge?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-depth-of-knowledge-2081726 (accessed March 22, 2023).