Using Norman Webb’s depth-of-knowledge (DOK) levels, the Web Alignment Tool (WAT) is a web-based application that automates the process of aligning state education standards with standardized tests. This tool makes it possible to gauge the alignment between the standards and the assessment based on five criteria:
- The alignment process focuses on the content or subject area and its attributes. Alignment could look very different for science than for language arts.
- Alignment is articulated across grades and ages; alignment occurs not only within a grade but also between grades.
- Alignment addresses issues of equity and fairness.
- The alignment process should address the pedagogical implications that might arise.
- Alignment should be reasonable with respect to the resources needed to attain such alignment.
This tool is designed to produce reports on the alignment of curriculum standards and student assessments. The process requires a group of reviewers first to assign DOK levels to standards/objectives. Then reviewers code assessment items by identifying the depth-of-knowledge for each item and the corresponding standard/objective.
The website provides training materials and tutorials to train reviewers. Materials are free, but a login is required to access certain pages on the website.
Training for the WAT is a serious undertaking requiring time and leadership. The alignment process is for state-level teams to ensure that their state’s standards match the assessments students are taking. State-level staff aside, there are sections of the website that are useful for any educator who would like to know more about DOK levels and assessment. Particularly helpful are the definitions of each DOK level for the content areas of math, ELA, science, and social studies (under the Tutorial tab). For example, a DOK level 1 for math and ELA follows:
- Math DOK 1: "includes the recall of information such as a fact, definition, term, or a simple procedure, as well as performing a simple algorithm or applying a formula. That is, in mathematics a one-step, well-defined, and straight algorithmic procedure should be included at this lowest level. Other key words that signify a Level 1 include “identify,” “recall,” “recognize,” “use,” and “measure.” Verbs such as “describe” and “explain” could be classified at different levels depending on what is to be described and explained."
- Reading DOK 1: "requires students to receive or recite facts or to use simple skills or abilities. Oral reading that does not include analysis of the text as well as basic comprehension of a text is included. Items require only a shallow understanding of text presented and often consist of verbatim recall from text or simple understanding of a single word or phrase...[continues with examples]."
Also included are sample objectives and examples for each DOK level. Classroom teachers and school and district leaders can use these DOK definitions and examples to help ensure that the student tasks and school/district curricula meet various DOK levels and rigor.