Ripples & Reflections

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.

Webb’s DOK4 & Transfer


115013bI recently took part in a fabulous Bold Moves Curriculum Mapping Bootcamp, by Dr. Marie Alcock at ISKL. I was there to think about next steps for curriculum planning at CA, and it was a great opportunity to pick the brains of a true expert (and get lots done). I like the bootcamp model for PD: short, focused and with the opportunity to take immediate action with great feedback from colleagues in similar positions.

DOK is not a wheel of command terms


Not a Wheel. [John R. Walkup]

Through one of the discussions about high-quality assessment, Marie dug into Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) framework. She asserted that it’s not a “wheel” of command terms as is often presented, but a way of framing how deeply students need to know and use information, skills and concepts.

Similarly, DOK is not the same as Bloom’s Taxonomy, and is not a pyramid or a hierarchy of knowledge that “peaks” at DOK4. DOK4 can be accessed from any of the other three levels, and effectively sits in parallel. For a decent explainer of how DOK levels work, see this by Erik Francis for ASCD Edge – I used his DOK descriptors in my rough teacher plansheet tool below.

In practical terms, as explained by Marie, students should be able to access DOK4 from any one of the other DOK levels. This means that DOK4 can act as a filter for transfer.

How else can the student use the knowledge, skills and content at this level? 

So… in curriculum and task design and differentiation, teachers can set up situations for all students to pull their learning (even if only at a recall/DOK1 level) through to DOK4 by applying it in a new context – as long as it is the same skill/target. For example, this might mean taking a scientific skill and applying to a new experiment, or a writing technique applied to a new genre. This is knowledge augmentation.

MYP Teachers will see the immediate connections here to level 7-8 objective descriptors in the criteria (“correctly applying x in unfamiliar contexts”). This calls for some careful task design.


Teacher Plansheet: A Practical Use

Transfer is a notoriously difficult skill to teach, even though it is included in the ATL framework, and so I sketched up this planning tool (pdf) in the hope that it can visualise how DOK4 can be used as a filter to make transfer explicit. Follow the arrows as you think about putting a target standard or learning outcome to work. What level (DOK1-2-3) is expected of the student? How else (DOK4) could it be used? For some excellent, practical resources on applying DOK in the various disciplines, check out Dr. Karin Hess’s Cognitive Rigor and DOK rubrics and resources.


Transferring the Transfer: Thinking Collaboratively

How else might this tool be put to use? Here are some quick thoughts on how this might work with the collaboration of the relevant experts or coaches in the school.

  • Technology Integration: using the DOK4 filter as an opportunity to amplify and transform (RAT model) the learning task (but still meet objectives).
  • Service Learning: In moving from “doing service” to service learning, could this be used to help frame students’ focus on planning, or post-service reflection? As students learn about issues of significance, how can they put it work through transfer to meaningful action? As they reflect on their learning, can they connect new and existing disciplinary knowledge?
  • Interdisciplinary Learning: How can students take their learning and use it meaningfully in a context that requires transfer between disciplines?



Author: Stephen

Director of Learning & MYP Coordinator at Canadian Academy, Kobe, Japan. Formerly MYP HS Science & IBDP Bio teacher and missing it terribly. Twitterist (@sjtylr), dad and bloggerer.

3 thoughts on “Webb’s DOK4 & Transfer

  1. Pingback: Bold Moves for Schools | Ripples & Reflections

  2. Pingback: The Tempered Learner | Ripples & Reflections

  3. Pingback: Inquiry vs Enquiry | Ripples & Reflections

Thank-you for your comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s