Engaging Gifted Students with Depth and Complexity
Update: Since our #gtchat, it has been brought to my attention that the developers of Depth and Complexity (J. Taylor Education) were not specifically mentioned during the chat and I regret this omission. A link to a presentation ‘Depth and Complexity – Understanding the Pieces (pdf)’ (See below) was included.
Dr. Sandra Kaplan and Bette Gould, created and own the rights to the Depth and Complexity Prompts/Icons and the entire Framework. Depth and Complexity was written into the TX G/T Standards in the late 1990s. J Taylor Education (founded in 2006), is the largest sole source publisher of Depth and Complexity products.
Kaplan and Gould intended a different approach to depth and complexity than that proposed by Ian Byrd and cited in the chat. Byrd’s opinion on how to introduce Depth and Complexity with a scope and sequence, was not how the creators rolled out the Framework in thousands of schools from 1994-2005 (during the initial phase) – nor was it the way they intended it to be introduced. The 11 D&C Icons are meant to naturally be used in conjunction to elicit abstract thinking and foster interdisciplinary lessons. Only using 1 or 2 for a set period of times does not allow for this to occur.
Currently Depth and Complexity is used in nearly 80,000 classrooms around the country. It’s one of, if not the most, powerful and unique differentiation tools that exists and it took lots of hard work and dedication to create. Depth and Complexity Icon Cards can be found at J. Taylor Education. An ebook Frames as well as Frames-Maker Software is also available.
Original post (edited): Depth is the “language of the discipline, big ideas, essential details, rules, patterns, trends, unanswered questions, and ethics.” Complexity involves “change over time, multiple points of view, across the disciplines.” Depth and complexity in gifted education should be a natural extension of how teaching is approached; going beyond teaching to the test. It is about teaching how to think rather than what to think.
Some gifted students are under the impression they’re supposed to know everything about the subject they’re studying. Too often they fail to dig deeper because they’ve always been the first to answer the teacher’s questions. Lack of challenge in the early grades gives them a false sense of the breadth of learning that is possible.
It is important to incorporate depth and complexity when teaching gifted students because it increases rigor and engagement. Incorporating depth and complexity in teaching is an easy way to differentiate lessons for gifted students in mixed ability classrooms. GT students need to realize they are just scratching the surface in the elementary and secondary classroom; there are many disciplines where people spend their careers searching for answers to the big questions.
According to Ian Byrd, carefully consideration should be given to scope and sequence; how much time are you willing to commit and what’s the best order for undertaking the new subject. Prompts for introducing depth and complexity into the curriculum can be used as early as kindergarten by simply asking students about what’s the ‘big idea’ or having them identify details in a story. As students progress through the early grades, teachers can increase the use of more complex and deep questioning, modeling how to think about specific topics, and begin to differentiate the curriculum.
What thinking ‘tools’ can teachers use to empower students to demonstrate a deep & complex understanding of content? Thinking tools can encompass determining which details are important, looking for patterns, contemplating what the rules are, and discerning trends. Tools to demonstrate a deep and complex understanding may include knowing the language of the discipline, considering unanswered questions, or looking at problems from multiple perspectives. Additional thinking tools take a look at the ethics involved or look for the ‘big idea’ of a particular subject.
Parents can encourage their child to think with depth and complexity. They should model for their children how to pull out the important details when discussing specific topics and nurture their child’s awareness of trends in everyday life. Parents can help their children identify and analyze ethical issues and not shy away from difficult topics. For more from this chat, a transcript can be found at Wakelet.
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About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Depth & Complexity Framework – Understanding the Pieces (pdf) J. Taylor Education
Introducing Depth & Complexity Episode One (YouTube 7:28)
Depth and Complexity (pdf)
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad