Webb’s Depth of Knowledge to Increase Rigor

By categorising assignments according to their difficulty, teachers may build rich learning environments.

Today, it’s difficult to ignore the word rigour. Educators have strong feelings about this. It is an important aspect of policymakers’ plans. Publishers emphasise it as an important aspect of their publications.

Some English teachers agree with Joanne Yatvin, the National Council for Teachers of English’s previous president. To them, rigour just means more work, more difficult reading, and longer school days. “I don’t want any of these things for students at any level,” Yatvin says.

One issue is that we employ jargon without fully comprehending what it implies.


In the classroom, teachers must ask the question of practise. How can we build rich and supportive learning environments for all students? The Depth of Knowledge Levels, developed by Norman Webb, are a useful tool that can assist teachers in addressing this issue. Depth of Knowledge (DoK) classifies tasks according to how much complicated thinking is required to execute them.

1st level Except for remembering the correct response or formula, this exercise involves little cognitive effort. Level 1 tasks include typing, computing, and recognising.

Level 2: Concepts and skills: Students must make decisions regarding their approach at this level. Multiple mental steps, such as organising, summarising and forecasting, and comparing, are involved in Level 2 tasks.

Level 3: Strategic Thinking: At this level, students must use evidence and planning. The reasoning has become more abstract. Level 3 would feature an assignment that requires students to justify their choices and requires numerous viable solutions. Designing experiments, resolving non-routine challenges, and analysing the features of a genre are all examples of Level 3.

Extended Thinking (Level 4): Level 4 tasks need the highest mental effort. Students must be able to synthesise information from a variety of sources over a long period of time. They must also transfer knowledge from one field to another in order to address challenges. These are all Level 4 examples.

Educators have used Webb’s DoK to improve their teaching. This exercise will help you better grasp the cognitive level of the tasks in your classroom and improve the rigour of your lessons.

1. Make a list of all the chores that students are expected to do in a particular day or week. This includes classwork as well as homework.

2. Arrange the tasks according to the four levels of the DoK. Here are some sites that may be of assistance to you:

For English language, math, science, and social studies, there are DoK levels (PDF 39KB).
These are some examples of DoK in the fine arts (PDF 102KB).

3. Collaborate with a group of colleagues to review the groups. While many activities can be easily classified, others will necessitate a more in-depth conversation in order to fully comprehend the levels. Strive for agreement. A few suggestions:

The verb does not specify the level. Consider how much mental work a pupil will need to perform the activity. The verb describe can be at any level, depending on the nature of description.
Tasks are usually divided into two categories. If you’re unsure, go with a higher level.
If a work takes longer than that, it is not deemed Level 4. Lower-level tasks are those that are repeated over a period of time.

4. Examine your classifications. What are some of the patterns you’ve noticed? Is there an acceptable distribution of tasks across all four levels? Are there any pleasant surprises in store?

5. Rewrite a Level 1 work to reach Level 3 or higher.


“Well, how can I select an acceptable distribution?” you might wonder. At each level, what should I do? What is the most effective order?

DOK levels are not in any particular order. Before moving on to Level 2, students do not need to master Level 1 subject. Giving students an intriguing Level 3 activity can drive them to engage in more routine learning at Levels 1, 2, and 3.

DOK levels aren’t developing either. Even the smallest toddlers are capable of performing extended and strategic thinking activities. They will appear differently, and what may appear to a kindergartener as Level 3 may appear to a middle schooler as Level 1. All students, on the other hand, should be able to do complicated reasoning.

These questions will assist you in achieving the ideal balance.

What kind of thinking do I want pupils to do on a regular basis?
If your child were mine, what would you want him or her to do?
What can I do to make the most of my class time?

To ensure that students get the most out of the learning opportunities you provide, you can decide how often you should focus on each level of assignment.

It is critical that students think deeply every day, regardless of how rigour is defined. Webb’s Depth of Knowledge gives a common vocabulary and framework for you to use in your classroom to accomplish this.