Some Key Ideas

April 8, 2014

  • Bloom’s dimensions identify types of thinking that CAN become deeper when matched with increasingly more complex content: deeper application, deeper understanding, deeper analysis, etc. 


  • DOK descriptors reference the complexity of mental processing needed to answer a question, perform a task, or generate a product. 


  • An activity that aligns to a particular DOK level is not always “easier” than an activity that aligns to a DOK level above it. Complexity and difficulty are NOT the same. Difficulty refers to how easy or hard something is. An example: Once someone learns the “rules” of how to add, they should be able to add any numbers. Adding 4 + 4 is DOK 1 and is also easy to do. Adding 4,678,895 + 9,578,885 is still a DOK 1 but may be more “difficult.” Or, a task where students recite a simple fact or a much more complex abstract theory are both DOK 1, even though the abstract theory is much more difficult to memorize and restate. Neither task asks for much depth of understanding of the content.


  • The complexity of both the content (e.g., text complexity, number of texts) and the task are used to determine the DOK levels, not the grade level or innate ability of students.


  • Verbs alone do not determine the complexity level of a task. DOK focus is on how deeply students need to know and interact with content to be able to generate a specific type of response. It is what comes after the verb that indicates complexity.


  • If there is a question regarding which of two levels a standard addresses, such as Level l vs. Level 2, or Level 2 vs. Level 3, it is appropriate to assign the highest level as the “DOK ceil- ing” for the task, but also provide opportunities at the lower DOK levels as an instructional progression (e.g., summarizing a text/DOK 2 before analyzing a text/DOK 3; making obser- vations/DOK 2 before drawing conclusions in an investigation/DOK 3) (Hess, 2004-2006).


  • Descriptors in the CRM offer a common language to analyze the “rigor,” or cognitive demand, in assessments, curricular units, lessons, and learning tasks across teachers, classrooms, and schools.


  • Descriptors in the CRM provide educators a more sophisticated lens to systematically guide the creation of more cognitively engaging and challenging tasks.

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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.