October 26, 2020

Content Standards — Going Deeper

It’s been said that K-12 education standards run a mile wide and an inch deep. Well, Colorado is gearing up to go deep. Along with Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, new Colorado standards include Depth of Knowledge (DOK) indicators, based on the model developed by Norman Webb of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

There are 4 levels:
Level 1:  Recall — recalling facts, definitions, terms and such
Level 2:  Skills and Concepts — deciding how to approach a question or problem
Level 3:  Strategic Thinking — explaining, generalizing or connecting ideas
Level 4:  Extended Thinking — complex reasoning, planning, developing and thinking over an extended period of time

In her module, Depth of Knowledge: What Does It Mean for Students and Teachers, Pam Lowe explains, “Depth of knowledge is the degree of depth or complexity of knowledge standards and assessments require; this criterion is met if the assessment is as demanding cognitively as the expectations standards are set for students.”

DOK is similar to Blooms Taxonomy, but there’s greater emphasis on the context, according to Debbie Baughman in herDepth is one of six dimensions for assessments required by the U.S. Department of Education, along with comprehensiveness, content and performance match, emphasis, consistency with achievement standards and clarity for users.

I really like the idea of deep learning. It implies a level of mastery and understanding, and requires higher-level thinking. AND I worry about what we’re asking of our educators. We’ve seen how high-stakes testing sets up a near-frantic drive to “cover content” so that students will be prepared for the big tests. Sadly, this content coverage often this comes at the expense of other learning opportunities and teachable moments.

Can we keep all the content, add 21st post-secondary and workforce readiness skills, and go deeper? Maybe we can, but the way we teach and learn will have to change dramatically.

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