We’ve all seen the articles about the need to develop strong science-related skills, if the United States is to remain competitive in the 21st century. We have also seen the data from organizations such as Pew Research showing that American students are not as strong their counterparts from other developed nations when it comes to the science and math.

With science and science education being central to the future of everyone, all students must have a comprehensive, challenging K–12 science education that prepares them for college and working life. With that in mind, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were developed by a consortium of 26 states and released in 2013.

The NGSS place emphasis on the latest scientific information and critical thinking skills. The NGSS lay out the core ideas of science and engineering practices and concepts that students should master in preparation for their academic and professional futures.

So, how do the NGSS relate to Depth of Knowledge (DOK) in the items you develop to assess your students? What you know about applying your DOK expertise to the science content and standards of old, remains in play. Let’s explore DOK questions for science.

Depth of Knowledge Questions for Science


Of course, DOK 1 items involve the recall of information and basic concepts. At DOK 1, students will:

• Recall and identify basic, grade-level appropriate scientific terms, procedures, and tools;
• Represent scientific relationships using words or diagrams;
• Describe examples and non-examples of grade-level appropriate scientific concepts.



DOK 2 items involve a higher level of thinking than DOK 1 items, including some decision-making around how to approach the task. You will see back and forth with the knowledge skills and abilities with DOK 1 and 3 items and tasks. At DOK 2, the evaluation may focus on only one possible answer. At DOK 2, students will:

• Describe examples and non-examples of scientific concepts;
• Interpret data from charts, graphs, and other graphic displays;
• Design investigations around scientific questions;
• Evaluate models of engineering and scientific solutions.



Items at the DOK 3 level require strategic thinking and include the use of reasoning, planning, and/or evidence-based solutions to solve and justify responses. At DOK level 3, the depth of knowledge questions for science should focus on a concept that has more than one possible answer. At DOK 3, students will:

• Design investigations around scientific questions;
• Evaluate models of engineering solutions;
• Justify conclusions based on experimental data with reasoning and evidence.



At DOK 4, the focus is on projects. At DOK 4, students will:

• Develop and work on an inquiry project that focuses on solving a problem;
• Design and conduct an experiment, analyze its data, and report results or solutions.


Working towards DOK 4 in science

It’s important to note that as you work towards engaging students with project based learning or inquiry projects, you are working towards DOK 4. As with learning in any subject, to get to DOK 4, it’s important to make sure that students can recall terminology and demonstrate basic understanding first.

Teachers often use the Label an Image question type to ensure that students can identify different parts of a model or diagram. The Expression Evaluator can be used to have students evaluate diagrams such as a Punnett Square. From there, other  question types can be used to break down different parts of science learning and test for different levels of DOK.

Start making your own depth of knowledge questions for science and put them to practice by signing into your Edulastic account or joining Edulastic for free today!

Dive Deeper into DOK