Saturday, November 23, 2013

Striving for Higher-Order Thinking and Depth of Knowledge

A little over a year ago, I read Higher-order thinking is the exception rather than the norm for most classrooms on Scott McLeod's blog, Dangerously Irrelevant, and have been mulling it over, wondering if our school district is any different.

Over the past year, our teachers periodically collect data with their teams on the types of questions/tasks they ask students. One teacher records teacher questions and the other records student responses on a shared Google Doc; then teams sort through their own data, plotting teacher questions by Bloom's Revised Taxonomy, and student responses to those questions/tasks with Webb's Depth of Knowledge (DOK). The 2012-2013 data showed we were not very different from other districts; therefore, our teams set their own goals for higher-order thinking and depth of knowledge.

The data so far for the 2013-2014 school year shows questions asked of students are up and down the Bloom's ladder, equally distributed (with a little less in the create category, but that's probably because the 20 minutes of collecting data in those classrooms did not occur during PBL). However, on average, the student responses and tasks were still primarily in the DOK Levels 1 and 2. Thus, teacher teams are focusing on creating DOK Level 3 discussions and tasks.

Why should we strive for DOK Levels 3 and 4?

Depth of Knowledge (DOK) is about the cognitive complexity of thinking. In DOK Level 3, students must justify and defend their reasoning (thus more rigorous and requires more critical thinking). While DOK 4, is continued analysis over longer periods of time.

The critical thinking and rigor that occurs in DOK Levels 3 and 4 are our goal as 21st century thinkers, and our goal for preparing them for college and careers (thereby also the goal of the Common Core).

What does DOK Level 3 look like?

DOK Level 3 questions and tasks require more than one "correct" answer. Below are some examples, based on the work of Karin Hess:
  • ELA: Explain, generalize or connect ideas, using supporting evidence from the text or source.
  • Math: Solve a multiple-step problem and provide support with a mathematical explanation that justifies the answer.
  • Music: Analyze or evaluate the effectiveness of the concept of ‘groove’ in a musical composition.
Click here to download as PDF
How do you move student responses and tasks to DOK Level 3?

DOK Level 3 requires the question or task to have more than one acceptable answer. This is a shift for teachers to ask these questions and design these tasks, and it's a shift for students because they are used to answering and waiting to see if they were "right".

Raise Awareness of DOK Level 3

Why not explore DOK with the students? Discuss what DOK Level 3 questions and tasks are; have students design a few; and share the benefits of this type of thinking.

Question stems

Asking open-ended questions that do not have right/wrong answers would give students more DOK Level 3 opportunities.

Here are some question stems to help create more strategic thinking:
This requires some time up front, but the end result is greater rigor and cognitive complexity of thinking.

Tracy's Twist on a DOK Level 3 Question Stem

The teacher makes a claim such as, "This is the best book I've read" or "Online activities are better than face-to-face activities." Then students can decide how much they agree or disagree with the statement, and place a sticky note on the spectrum from agree to disagree to represent their opinion, and support their claim with reasons.

While this can be done face-to-face with sticky notes or by physically lining up, it can also be online with free tools such as Padlet. For example, if I claimed this activity is better to do with online sticky notes, then we could discuss how much we agree with the statement by placing our own sticky note on the line spectrum to quantify our perspective, while supporting our thinking by adding reasoning.

Click here to download image to use.

Final thoughts: Task predicts performance

Is it worth it? Is it worth the teacher's efforts to seek DOK 3 and 4 responses and learning tasks? Heck ya! Task predicts performance.

When students work at DOK Levels 3 and 4, students are prepared to transfer their learning to other situations and non-routine applications. Isn't this what we want for our students? Isn't this what the Common Core is trying to accomplish?
  • What question stems do you like to use to promote deeper thinking? 
  • How would you create DOK Level 3 questions and tasks?
  • Why do you think higher-order thinking and DOK learning activities should be goals of educators?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Nominations for the 2013 Edublog Awards

The purpose of the Edublog Awards, or Eddies, is to raise awareness of educational blogging and social media for learning.

Image Credit: Edublogs
Here are my nominations:
Final thoughts

It's all about the kids and their learning opportunities. Without educational uses of social media and blogging, students might not realize the power of their voices, nor would they have the opportunities to learn with other beyond the four walls of the classroom.

I would like to encourage you to share your nominations with others to spread the word of the power of educational blogging and social media for learning. Nominations are open until December 1st.
  • Can you think of a better way to raise awareness of the power of educational blogging and social media other than the Edublog Awards?
  • Were there new blogs/resources/ideas shared here that you hadn't heard of before?