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Canyons School District

Instructional Supports Department

DEPTH AND COMPLEXITY “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” - Albert Einstein

Additional Resources

Overview The Depth and Complexity Framework was developed by Sandra Caplan, clinical professor in learning and instruction at USC’s Rossier School of Education. They were created through her researching into other knowledge types which distinguish experts in a particular field of study from others with only a surface knowledge.

Critical Actions for Educators:

Introduce the Depth and Complexity Thinking Tools gradually. Introduce a prompt of Depth and Complexity using a topic that students are already familiar with. Let students play, or practice, with the Thinking Tools as they initiate their engagement with Depth and Complexity. Once students understand a tool’s use, take it to grade level content. Combine Thinking Tools when appropriate. At the beginning of the school year, introduce yourself to your student using the Depth and Complexity Thinking Tools. Select a few tools with which to tell your students about you.

Expert Knowledge

Expert knowledge is defined as having depth and complexity.

Deep understanding is knowing the language, details, patterns, rules, trends, unanswered questions, ethics, and big ideas which make up a topic’s content. Complex understanding is gained by examining the change in the topic over time, different perspectives of the topic, and how it connects to to others’ disciplines. Depth and Complexity Elements The Depth and Complexity Framework uses icons as thinking tools so teachers and students can quickly identify the types of thinking needed to move toward expert knowledge in a given topic or content area. Depth Thinking Tools ● Require students to uncover more details and new knowledge surrounding a topic of study ● Encourage students to view a topic from different perspectives and see patterns and connections ● Examine a topic from the known to the unknown and from the concrete to the abstract ● Uncover topics by identifying facts, concepts, principles, generalizations, and theories related to it. Complexity Thinking Tools ● Students make relationships, connect other concepts, and create layers of understanding ● Students build bridges to other disciplines, enhancing the meaning of content ● Students examine ideas and concepts to a more sophisticated degree ● Students discover associations among diverse topics and subjects ● Students create multiple solutions from different points of view

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