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Cognitive Complexity - Depth of Knowledge (DOK)

The Role and Importance of Cognitive Complexity

The Iowa Core Standards for Literacy and Mathematics play a central role in defining what teachers teach. The Standards define the topical, procedural and conceptual knowledge students must learn, as well as the type of thinking in which they must engage. This is known as cognitive demand or cognitive complexity. In other words, the Standards require teachers to provide students with instructional experiences that not only address the topical, procedural, and conceptual knowledge in the Standards, but the type of thinking called for by the Standards as well. This page contains a variety of resources to help you learn about cognitive complexity and how it applies to the Iowa Core.

The Iowa Core Standards for Literacy and Mathematics have been coded for cognitive complexity using Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) approach. The DOK describes the kind of work required by students to demonstrate their attainment of the standard. Webb’s DOK has four levels: DOK 1 = Recall, DOK 2 = Skills and Concepts, DOK 3 = Strategic Thinking, and DOK 4 = Extended Thinking. Detailed descriptions of each level are provided on the following pages.

Depth of Knowledge Levels Descriptions for Reading and Writing

Depth of Knowledge Levels Descriptions for Mathematics

Guidance for Using Depth of Knowledge with the Iowa Core Literacy and Mathematics Standards

Process Used to Determine Depth of Knowledge in the Iowa Core Literacy and Mathematics Standards