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Depth Of Knowledge - Revised Bloom's Taxonomy Wheel


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Students must be prepared for future success in this increasingly complex and global society. As the rigor of academic expectations increase, there is one ever present skill that students will always need…critical thinking. Today’s classrooms must focus on learning how to find the solution, rather than focusing on the answer; thus, critical thinking should be infused throughout the curriculum. The result is for all students to be taught to think critically.

The Revised Bloom’s – DOK Wheel provides educators quick and easy access to critical thinking tools for engaging student in rigorous and complex thinking to address the cognitive demands of standards and the cognitive demands of assessments. Students need to learn how to process information rather than merely memorizing. Teachers must know how to assess different levels of knowledge such as factual, conceptual, procedural, and metacognitive. Bloom’s Taxonomy uses verbs to classify levels of thinking or cognitive processing from low levels to high levels of thought. Depth of Knowledge (DOK) levels are determined by the context in which the verb is used and the depth of thinking required. Both models are beneficial as Bloom’s identifies the different levels of thinking and DOK reflects the depth of thinking required within the levels. Teachers can increase student learning which results in increased achievement if they regularly employ the models Revised Bloom’s and Depth of Knowledge to generate higher levels of student thinking.

Students must be guided to become producers of knowledge. An essential instructional task of the teacher is to design activities or to create an environment that allows students opportunities to engage in higher-order thinking (Queensland Department of Education, 2002). With the Revised Bloom’s – DOK Wheel, teachers can incorporate all levels of the taxonomy and address deeper levels of thought in order to develop and increase rigorous, complex thinking within students. Questions, tasks, learning activities, and assessment items in every subject area can be developed that enhance teaching and learning. This resource helps teachers individualize learning according to the interests, abilities, and specific learning needs present in the differentiated classroom, from special needs students to students in gifted education. Students can become active participants in independent and/or collaborative settings while acquiring and applying critical thinking.

Critical thinking is an important issue in education today. Attention is focused on quality thinking as an important element of life success (Huitt, 1998; Thomas and Smoot, 1994). In the 1950s, Bloom found that 95% of the test questions developed to assess learning required students to only think at the lowest level of learning, the recall of information. Similar findings indicated an overemphasis on lower-level questions and activities with little emphasis on the development of students’ thinking skills (Risner, Skeel, and Nicholson, 1992). “Perhaps most importantly in today’s information age, thinking skills are viewed as crucial for educated persons to cope with a rapidly changing world. Many educators believe that specific knowledge will not be as important to tomorrow’s workers and citizens as the ability to learn and make sense of new information” (Gough, 1991). “Now, a considerable amount of attention is given to students’ abilities to think critically about what they do” (Hobgood, Thibault, and Walberg, 2005). It is imperative for students to communicate their thinking coherently and clearly to peers, teachers, and others.

Critical thinking is crucial in all instruction as indicated by state or national standards. Critical thinking tasks allow students to explain their thought processes and offer teachers opportunities to identify the precise point at which students demonstrate misunderstanding of mathematical skills, strategies, or conceptual understanding. The literature notes that when students use their critical thinking abilities integrated with content instruction, depth of knowledge can result. Teachers are encouraged to refrain from limiting instruction to lectures or tasks to rote memorization that exercise only lower levels of thought as opposed to incorporating those which build conceptual understanding (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 2000).

The ability to engage in careful, reflective thought is viewed in education as paramount. Teaching students to become skilled thinkers is a goal of education.  Students must be able to acquire and process information since the world is changing so quickly. Some studies purport that students exhibit insufficient levels of skill in critical or creative thinking. In his review of research on critical thinking, Norris (1985) surmised that students’ critical thinking abilities are not widespread. From this study, Norris reported that most students do not score well on tests that measure ability to recognize assumptions, evaluate controversy, and scrutinize inferences.

Thus, student performances on measures of higher-order thinking ability continue to reveal a critical need for students to develop the skills and attitudes of quality thinking. Furthermore, another reason that supports the need for thinking skills instruction is the fact that educators appear to be in general agreement that it is possible to increase students' creative and critical thinking capacities through instruction and practice. Presseisen (1986) asserts that the basic premise is students can learn to think better if schools teach them how to think. Adu-Febiri (2002) agrees that thinking can be learned. Students can be assisted in organizing the content of their thinking to facilitate complex reasoning. Revised Bloom’s - DOK Wheel assists teachers in actually facilitating students to think rather than providing students only with content knowledge.

The literature indicates Bloom’s Taxonomy is a widely accepted organizational structure to assist students in organizing the content of their thinking to facilitate complex reasoning. According to Sousa (2006), Bloom’s Taxonomy is compatible with the manner in which the brain processes information to promote comprehension. Bloom, Englehart, Furst, Hill, and Krathwohl (1956) developed this classification system for levels of intellectual behavior in learning. Bloom’s Taxonomy contains three domains: the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective. Within the cognitive domain, Bloom identified six levels: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. This domain and all levels are still useful today in developing critical thinking skills in students.

Anderson and Krathwohl (2001), revised Bloom’s Taxonomy in order to present a useful framework to educators as they work to align curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Basically, the six level names were changed to verbs to portray thinking as an active process. Knowledge changed to Remember, Comprehension to Understanding, Application to Apply, Analysis to Analyze, Synthesis to Create, and Evaluation to Evaluate. Create (originally Synthesis) was moved to the sixth level, since the revision reflected this level as containing critical and creative thought, showing it to be a higher level than Evaluate. The types of thinking were called the Cognitive Dimension and are ordered in terms of increasing complexity. In the newly revised taxonomy, a second dimension came in to being, the Knowledge Dimension. Four types of knowledge were identified: Factual, Conceptual, Procedural, and Metacognitive. According to Anderson, et al., “All subject matters are composed of specific content, but how this content is structured by teachers in terms of their objectives and instructional activities results in different types of knowledge being emphasized in the unit.” Students must make meaning of knowledge at a deeper level or integrate or organize it in a useful way. When teachers can better organize the knowledge and content of subject matter or ‘what students think about’ (facts, concepts, procedures, or metacognition), they can help students make more meaningful transfers or applications. Research indicates that when students use higher cognitive processing with factual information, then higher retention results (Hunkins, 1995; Sprenger, 2005). In conclusion, the Knowledge Dimension does not demonstrate if students are involved in higher levels of thought with selected questions, the levels of cognitive engagement (Cognitive Dimension) are what drives thinking. Emphasis is placed on the fact that the Revised Taxonomy should be adapted and used in the way educators find the taxonomy to best serve their needs. Teaching critical thinking skills is one of the greatest challenges facing teachers in the classroom today. The Original and Revised Taxonomies are useful today in developing and categorizing critical thinking skills of students. Bloom’s Taxonomy continues to be a widely accepted model for the development of higher level thinking.

The model Depth of Knowledge (DOK) was developed by Norman Webb in 1997 for the purpose of analyzing alignment between standards and assessments (Webb, 1997). Webb’s DOK is now being used to measure the different levels of cognitive complexity in academic standards and curriculum (Webb 2002; 2006). Dr. Webb advocates the necessity of instructional tasks and assessment items matching the standards. Webb stresses that educators become aware of the level of demonstration required by students when tasks and assessment items are developed, thus the rationale for his four levels of DOK. Each level expresses a different level of cognitive expectation or depth of knowledge. Level 1 requires students to recall information. Level 2 asks students to think beyond reproduction of responses. Students use more than one cognitive process or follow more than one step at this level. Students at Level 3 demonstrate higher and more complex levels of thought than the previous levels. Responses may have multiple answers, yet often students must choose one and justify the reasoning behind the selection. Level 4 requires students to make several connections with ideas. Typically, performance assessments and open-ended responses are created for this level of thought.

In Bloom’s Taxonomy, the focus is on the activities of the student such as apply, analyze, or create. DOK places the emphasis on the complexity of the cognitive processes (applying, analyzing, creating,) that each of the activities requires of the students. Complexity relates to the cognitive steps students engage as they arrive at solutions or answers. Thus, Bloom’s is a structure that identifies the type of thinking students demonstrate; whereas, DOK is a structure that determines what students know and to what depth they exhibit that knowledge. Both are measures of higher-order thinking.

Revised Bloom’s – DOK Wheel, showcases the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s Depth of Knowledge in a wheel format. This educator’s tool features six levels of Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy on one side and the four levels of Webb’s Depth of Knowledge on the other. One side of the wheel has six windows showcasing Student Expectations and Engagement (Questioning) Prompts for Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy. The face describes each of the six levels, identifies Cognitive Processes (Verbs) for each level, and defines the Knowledge Dimension of Bloom’s Taxonomy. The opposite side of the wheel has four windows showcasing Student Expectations and Engagement Prompts for the four levels of Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK). The face describes each of the four levels of DOK and identifies Cognitive Processes for each level.

Rigorous critical thought is an important issue in education today; thus, the reason attention is focused on quality thinking as an important element of life success (Huitt, 1998; Thomas and Smoot, 1994). However, Wagner (2008) noted that despite all of the literature that advocates rigor and complexity in thinking, researchers found that elementary students spend more than 90 percent of their time sitting and listening to teachers. Questions are posed, yet many teachers continue to only allow one student to respond at a time. Walsh and Sattes (2011) advocate that classroom expectations should exist where all students are expected to compose responses to all questions posed. Teachers must model for students how questions should be asked of students and teachers, with students providing evidence or examples that support given responses. Anderson and Krathwohl (2001) advise teachers to also ask questions about the remember and understand levels of Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy. Likewise, questions should often be asked at DOK 2 and 3 levels.

Research indicates that thinking skills instruction makes a positive difference in the achievement levels of students. Studies that reflect achievement over time show that learning gains can be accelerated. These results indicate that the teaching of thinking skills can enhance the academic achievement of participating students (Bass and Perkins, 1984; Bransford, 1986; Freseman, 1990; Kagan, 1988; Matthews, 1989; Nickerson, 1984). Critical thinking is a complex activity and we should not expect one method of instruction to prove sufficient for developing each of its component parts. Carr (1990) acknowledges that while it is possible to teach critical thinking and its components as separate skills, they are developed and used best when learned in connection with content knowledge. To develop competency in critical thinking, students must use these skills across the disciplines or the skills could simply decline and disappear. Teachers should expect students to use these skills in every class and evaluate their skills accordingly.  Hummel and Huitt (1994) stated, "What you measure is what you get."

Students are not likely to develop these complex skills or to improve their critical thinking if educators fail to establish definite expectations and measure those expectations with some type of assessment. Assessments (e.g., tests, demonstrations, exercises, panel discussions) that target higher-level thinking skills could lead teachers to teach content at those levels, and students, according to Redfield and Rousseau (1981), to perform at those levels. Students may know an enormous amount of facts, concepts, and principles, but they also must be able to effectively process knowledge in a variety of increasingly complex ways. The questioning or engagement prompts in this valuable teacher resource can be used to plan daily instruction as students explore content and gather knowledge; they can be used as periodic checkpoints for understanding; they can be used as a practice review or in group discussions; or they could be used as ongoing assessment tools as teachers gather formative and summative data.

Teachers play a key role in promoting critical thinking between and among students. Questioning stems in the content areas act as communication tools.  Four forms of communication are affected in critical thinking: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. a A wide range of questioning prompts are provided to encourage students to think critically which contributes to their intellectual growth. This educational resource relates to any content that is presented to students and saves teachers activity preparation time.  A teacher must examine what he/she fully intends to achieve from the lesson and then select the appropriate critical thinking engagement prompt(s) to complement the instructional purpose or the cognitive level of thinking. The questioning stem itself influences the level of thinking or determines the depth of thinking that occurs.

Solving problems in the real world and making worthwhile decisions is valued in our rapidly changing environment today. Paul (1985) points out that “thinking is not driven by answers but by questions.” The driving forces in the thinking process are the questions. When a student needs to think through an idea or issue or to rethink anything, questions must be asked to stimulate thought. When answers are given, sometimes thinking stops completely. When an answer generates another question then thought continues.

Questions lead to understanding. Many students typically have no questions. They might sit in silence with their minds inactive as well. Sometimes the questions students have tend to be shallow and nebulous which might demonstrate that they are not thinking through the content they are expected to be learning. If we, as educators, want students to think, we must stimulate and cultivate thinking with questions (Paul, 1990). By engaging students in a variety of questioning that relates to the idea or content being studied, students develop and apply critical thinking skills. Consequently, by using the analysis, synthesis, and evaluation levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and DOK Levels 2, 3, and 4, students are challenged to work at tasks that are more demanding and thought-provoking. These kinds of tasks can lead to situations and tasks where students make real-life connections.

Teachers need to plan for the type of cognitive processing they wish to foster and then design learning environments and experiences accordingly. Studies suggest that the classroom environment can be arranged to be conducive to high-level thinking.  The findings include the following:  an environment free from threats, multi-level materials, acceptance of diversity, flexible grouping, the teacher as a co-learner, and a nurturing atmosphere. A climate which promotes psychological safety and one in which students respect each other and their ideas appears to be the most beneficial (Klenz, 1987; Marzano, Brandt,  Hughes, Jones, Presseisen, Rankin, and Suhor, 1988). Sometimes it is necessary to lecture. Other times, the teacher balances methods of instruction by providing opportunities for the students to take some ownership of their learning. Lovelace (2005) concluded that matching a student’s learning style with the instruction can improve academic achievement and student attitudes toward learning.  In addition, there are stems identified that allow students to demonstrate learning and thinking using visual, auditory, or tactile/kinesthetic modes. The range of activities or tasks run the gamut from creative opportunities (writing a poem, composing a song, designing an advertisement, constructing a model) to participating in a panel discussion, presenting a speech, conducting a survey, holding an interview, using a graphic organizer, or simply compiling a list. The Revised Bloom’s – DOK Wheel is a vital tool in establishing a thinking-centered environment.

“Multiple forms of student engagement exist when high-level thinking is fostered. Examples of engagement include: collaborative group activities, problem-solving experiences, open-ended questions that encourage divergent thinking, activities that promote the multiple intelligences and recognize learning styles, and activities in which both genders participate freely. Brain researchers suggest teachers use a variety of higher-order questions in a supportive environment to strengthen the brain” (Cardellichio and Field, 1997). “Meaningful learning requires teachers to change their role from sage to guide, from giver to collaborator, from instructor to instigator” (Ó Murchú, 2003). “Since students learn from thinking about what they are doing, the teacher’s role becomes one who stimulates and supports activities that engage learners in critical thinking” (Bhattacharya, 2002). The Revised Bloom’s - DOK Wheel provides support to the teacher in promoting different levels and depths of student engagement. The role of the teacher is just as important as it has always been, perhaps more so. Teachers scaffold learning so that students can assume a more participatory role in their own learning. This means that lessons are in fact more carefully constructed to guide students through the exploration of content using both the Revised Bloom’s and DOK frameworks for critical thinking. Attention to Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s DOK does not mean that every class period must be optimally designed to place students in inquiry-based roles. Teaching requires that we constantly assess where students are and how best to address their needs.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 as well as academic standards emphasize the need for evidence-based instructional materials. Mentoring Minds Product Development Team sought to develop an educational resource that teachers could employ as they develop K-12 students who value knowledge and learning, and as they prepare students for life beyond the classroom. This preparedness consists of a culture of thoughtful learning if the goal is for students to advance thinking (Perkins, 1992). It appears important for students to learn the language of thinking to better communicate their thoughts. The Revised Bloom’s – DOK Wheel contains engagement prompts and cognitive processes which students may use in their daily academic conversations. Students should be encouraged to process their thoughts through questioning prompts, tasks, or the processes or verbs identified on the wheel. These components can jumpstart conversations with peers, discussions in small groups, or those with teachers. This wheel can become a building block for facilitating student interactions with texts, digital media, other students, and in other meaningful ways. Teachers may utilize the wheel to directly motivate and teach students to be purposeful and thoughtful in their thinking. Thus, the thinking culture can be strengthened in classrooms, creating independent lifelong learners.

The conclusions reached by researchers substantiate the fact that students achieve more when they manipulate topics at the higher levels of rigorous thought. These skills have little value without the ability to know how, when, and where to apply them. The utilization of the Revised Bloom’s - DOK Wheel provides direction to teachers as they apply the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and strengthen the abilities of students to think in depth using Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) framework. Incorporating the Revised Bloom’s – DOK Wheel as a planning tool for high-quality classroom instruction and assessment, the teacher can structure learning experiences to promote complexity of thought as well as teaching students how to learn as opposed to simply what to learn. Mentoring Minds seeks to support educators in their endeavors to help students acquire life-long skills of becoming independent thinkers and problem solvers.

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