Photo by Elias Daniel
I haven’t written about Dr. Kaplan’s prompts of depth and complexity in a while, but they’re an incredible tool to begin differentiating learning objectives.
Teachers can quickly modify a lesson’s goal to increase the challenge.
But I frequently see the prompts used at a surface level in classrooms.
Beyond Just Depth & Complexity
Sure, you can drop “patterns” into an objective to raise the level of the content, like so:
- Before: “Look for a character’s actions”
- After: “Look for patterns in a character’s actions.”
Note, however, that the thinking skill is unchanged. Students are still “looking for.”
Often, I see students working with a grid that simply asks them to “identify details, identify patterns, identify rules…” and so on.
But on Bloom’s Taxonomy, “identify” is a bottom level skill. Yes, kids are identifying more advanced content, but we shouldn’t let them stay at the bottom of Bloom’s for too long.
Climb The Taxonomy
Instead, climb Bloom’s Taxonomy in combination with a prompt of depth and complexity. Here’s an example:
- Look for patterns in a character’s actions.
- Compare the patterns in this character’s actions with another character’s.
- Judge the ethics of the patterns we see in this character’s actions.
- Create a new situation that would continue this pattern.
At each step, students are forced to think harder about the patterns they’ve uncovered. They’re no longer just “identifying.”
Deeper thinking skills naturally lead to juicier products!
And notice how each step easily leads to a larger, more complex protect.
At level one, a student could just write a sentence, but after that, the responses need to be bigger. Perhaps by the end, students are debating and creating skits.
Adding a prompt of depth and complexity is just the beginning. Push students’ thinking as well.
An Interactive Version
Many years ago, I created The Differentiator, an interactive tool based on these ideas to help you modify the parts of a differentiated objective. Play around with it to see what a big difference the thinking skill can make!
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