What Can Webb’s Depth of Knowledge Offer to Career Learning?


Careers work at its worse is full of questions around what clients should know and little thought is given to how they should interact with it. As practitioners we can be defensive about our delivery claiming “well I told them…” when we have not spent enough time thinking through what would be needed to make knowledge useful.

I came across Webb’s “Depth of Knowledge” paradigm recently and I found it useful as a way of discussing the different ways we ask clients we make use of knowledge and how this links to various learning activities. I have put the four levels below:

Level Descriptor Activity
Recall and Reproduction Often summarised as “tell and test” activities the teacher dominates the communication of knowledge and the student later reproduces it. Links to activities such as state, list, identify, define. Information is reproduced in more or less the same form it was communicated in.
Skills and Concepts Information is seen as something the student interacts with to understand better by some form of classifying, sorting it or putting it into practice. Links to activities that focus on classifying, sorting or presenting. Producing portfolios fits into this area.
Short-term Strategic-Thinking Here information is marshalled and drawn together to solve some sort of problem in the short term, often information is drawn from a number of sources. Links to project based or problem based learning with an unpredictable outcome in the short-term.
Extended Thinking The focus here is about sustaining higher order thinking, not just using higher order thinking once but suing it over a period of time. Links to longer-term activities such as reflecting, planning and implementing or synthesizing.

What I like about the scheme is that it is firstly simpler than Bloom, secondly (and more importantly) provides the flexibility to show how some tasks are necessary at the lower level while showing how knowledge can be leveled up and interacted with at a higher level.

Careers work is underpinned by lower level knowledge (e.g. entry requirements, job specs etc.) but requires people to work at all of the higher level to be successful. Especially the taking on of extended thinking could be seen as a vital element in career development. I have been challenged to think both in my one-to-ones and in group works to work towards these higher levels as much as possible. I have drawn up below my own table showing questions/ activities that could be worked on in both a one-to-one or a group setting.


Level Careers Question
Recall and Reproduction
  • Do you know…?
  • Can you tell me…?
  • What happened…?
Skills and Concepts
  • Could you summarise…?
  • What will they look for?
Short-term Strategic-Thinking
  • What does this mean for you?
  • What could you do about?
  • What does this say about you?
Extended Thinking
  • How will you keep on reflecting about that?
  • What plan should you make?
  • How will you implement your thinking?


I would thoroughly recommend reading the article below to take things further,


One thought on “What Can Webb’s Depth of Knowledge Offer to Career Learning?

  1. I look forward to your articles and you haven’t disappointed me yet. I had not heard of Webb’s Depth of Knowledge paradigm and will defintiely read more about this as I do think it is a lot of relevance with some clients. Thanks Tom.

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