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September 21, 2015

Depth of Knowledge (DoK) for Writing

The complaints about writing being a lost form of communication may be slightly exaggerated — but there are certainly issues with writing in our modern world. Text messaging and Twitter can lead us to truncate our writing language (and even our thoughts). The idea of formal writing is a foreign concept to many these days. Still, colleges require papers and the professional world is full of reports, proposals, newsletters, etc., that require high-level writing skills.

Furthermore, when a student's research, thinking, and writing skills unify something special happens: Students learn to unlock their own intellectual independence.

Writing is a great subject area when it comes to assessing higher level Depth of Knowledge (DoK), but even top students can find writing to be a challenge.

At all DoK levels, students are expected to write and speak using standard English conventions. This includes using appropriate grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling (GUMS). Students with strong GUMS skills are more confident as writers, but even those students can struggle with DoK level 3 or 4 writing tasks.

DoK Level 1

At Level 1, there will be no complex synthesis or analysis — just basic ideas. Students write simple facts, create thought webs, lists, etc.

DoK Level 2

Level 2 items require students to display some mental processing. At this level, students produce first draft writing for a limited number of purposes and audiences. Students connect ideas using a simple organizational structure such as: note taking, outlining, or simple summaries. Students produce texts which may be limited to one paragraph — and show a basic understanding (and appropriate use) of reference materials such as a dictionary, thesaurus, and of course, web sites. At Level 2 students will:

  • Construct compound sentences.
  • Use simple organizational strategies.
  • Write summaries with a main idea of the reading selection, including any key details.

DoK Level 3

DoK level 3 requires higher level mental processing. Students create multiple paragraph compositions that may include complex sentence structures. Students will also provide some synthesis and analysis. Awareness of the audience and purpose are essential at Level 3, so students must use of appropriate elements including addressing chronological order in a narrative, supporting facts and details in an informational report, etc. At this level students will edit and revise to improve their work. At Level 3 students will:

  • Support ideas with details and examples.
  • Use a voice appropriate to the purpose and audience.
  • Edit writing to produce a logical progression of ideas.

DoK Level 4

Writing allows us to assess the higher-level thinking skills central to Level 4. Argumentative writing and prompts that ask students to synthesize information from multiple sources or works are great ways to get at Level 4 DoK skills. In multi-paragraph work, students demonstrate synthesis and analysis of complex ideas or themes. Level 4 writing will show evidence of a deep awareness of purpose and audience (e.g., informational reports include hypotheses and supporting evidence). At Level 4, there is an expectation that student work will demonstrate a distinct voice that can persuade the reader to take action, or to consider new perspectives on the ideas and themes presented by the student. At Level 4 students will:

  • Write an analysis of two selections, identifying the common theme and generating a purpose that is appropriate for both.
  • Be able to consider and communicate multiple perspectives on issues, topics, and ideas.


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Pear Assessment Team

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