December 2014


Karin Hess


     All year long, I get emails from thoughtful educators about applying rigor/DOK. Here is one of the great questions I’ve been asked this year about on-demand writing and DOK:


     Q: Gary, a professional development provider in MA asks, “Is it possible for fifth graders to reach DOK 3 in a 50-minute on-demand essay, based in the lessons of the previous two weeks? If so, what qualities would have to be present?


     A: Yes, I think a DOK 3 task is possible to complete in a single class period, especially if it is summative assessment embedded in a unit of study. Of course, an on-demand essay will not yield the best writing product – since students do not have time to review and make edits and revisions for better flow and coherence of ideas. On-demand writing will not generally represent a student’s best work in writing, but rather what a student can do under a tight deadline…in which case a teacher might want to examine the scoring rubric to decide what is most important to look for and assess. I might let go of conventions and mechanics (DOK 1 stuff) and focus assessment of “proficient” work as (a) the ability to organize information specific to genre - stating and supporting a claim in an opinion piece versus introduction of a topic and elaborating on key aspects in an informational piece (DOK 2); and (b) depth of understanding and idea development (DOK 3).


     To “exceed” these expectations, I’d be looking for strategic use of language (e.g., precise, content –specific, and nuanced language; strategies for elaboration of ideas that go beyond pedestrian use of details) and the ability to analyze WHY each detail or quotation used is a compelling example. Ideally, I believe the stronger pieces of writing will include more than a concluding statement or simple summary of what has already been stated in the body of the writing (e.g., these are my three reasons why…). The strongest conclusions (at all grade levels) tend to be expressed as the writer’s personal REFLECTIONS on the topic, problem, or issue. This is where a student can make more global connections – perhaps literary connections, historical connections, or societal connections. A strong reflection at the end of a piece of writing can actually push the overall complexity of understanding to a DOK 4 and leave the readers with something more to think about!

Finally, if I really wanted to include assessment of command of Standard English and conventions, then I’d collect these drafts on day 1 and return them on day 2 for fine tuning.


- Dr. DoK  

Karin Hess, Ed.D, is a recognized international leader in developing practical approaches for using cognitive rigor and learning progressions as the foundation for formative, interim, and performance assessments.



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© since July 2014 Karin Hess, Ed.D.