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

Since 2005, Iowa has diligently worked to invigorate our education system. One of the foundational elements of this effort has been the Iowa Core. A common thread throughout the development and evolution of the Iowa Core has been a desire to set challenging, rigorous learning expectations for Iowa’s students. One way to describe these rigorous learning expectations is through something called cognitive complexity/demand. Cognitive complexity/demand describes what students are expected to do with topical/procedural/conceptual knowledge found in the Iowa Core Standards. The higher the cognitive complexity/demand of the standard is, the higher the rigor.

The Iowa Core Standards for Literacy and Mathematics have been examined for cognitive complexity using a framework called Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK). Based on this examination, DOK codes were inserted into these Standards documents in the Winter of 2012. No changes were made to the wording of the Standards themselves; the DOK codes were simply inserted.

Guidance: The Standards documents with DOK information are available for anyone to read and use. The following points should be kept in mind when reading and using these documents:

  1. Information and training beyond the contents of the Standards documents may be needed for educators to use the DOK codes to successfully implement the Standards.
  2. Educators should read the information about cognitive complexity and Webb’s DOK in the introduction sections of the Standards documents before reviewing the DOK codes assigned to the Standards.
  3. Discussions about the Standards should include the DOK codes as well.
  4. For things such as instructional content, instructional materials or assessment to be considered aligned with an Iowa Core Standard, the DOK level must meet or exceed the DOK level of the Standard.