Calculate, Categorize, Construct, Critique, Conclude… Catastrophe?

In our district, there is a push for movement toward a deeper depth of knowledge (DOK) for students. For those readers outside of the education field, here is a chart that outlines four DOK levels based on the types of tasks that require each.

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The math department at my school has been asked to include more DOK 2 and 3 tasks in our curriculum and assessments. The state test assesses students almost entirely at DOK 2 and 3. When I look back at the assessments that I gave my students last year, they are almost entirely comprised of DOK level 1 tasks. I shouldn’t be surprised then, that my students struggled with the state test and it makes perfect sense to try to actively move them along the continuum before the test. On the other hand, many of my students were not able to demonstrate mastery at a DOK level 1 in Algebra. So it is daunting to consider pushing them further.

I’ve mentioned before that I work in a district where dialogue is open and collaborative among teachers. So I know that I’m not the only one whose nervous about pushing the students beyond the prior standard. I frequently hear others express the belief that students wont be able to reach DOK 2 if they can’t reach DOK 1.

Recently I started to wonder if that’s true. Do you need to be able to solve 3x + 14 > 7 in order to think of a situation that could be modeled by it? If not, which is the more important task? The state test places emphasis on the latter. I agree that since the computer can do most DOK level 1 tasks, it’s more important for our students to master the higher level tasks. It’s also more interesting to teach DOK 2/3 and for most students more interesting to learn at DOK 2/3. The challenges are that it’s both harder to teach this level of thinking and harder to assess.

And time…there’s always the frustration that there isn’t enough time. I barely have time to teach my students how to DO all of the algebra in the curriculum. This leaves little, if any, time to analyze the procedures, apply the concepts, model real world situations, compare, construct, classify, critique, etc. If there’s not time for both and the higher levels are more important, can I teach and assess at DOK 2/3 without ever touching DOK 1? Can I ask them to model 3x + 14 > 7 but not teach them to solve it? Logically, my argument leads to yes but my gut feeling is no.

Your thoughts?

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