I love the prompts of depth and complexity and the content imperatives. They’re simple, powerful, and flexible. They really saved my bacon as a teacher.
But now, I hear from teachers being told to add eight new prompts to their classrooms. That’s 24 thinking tools in total! I always thought we should trim down a few (trends), not add more!
If we’re putting more on kids’ (and teachers’) plates, we’d better have a darn good reason for doing so. But I don’t think there is a darn good reason for the new depth and complexity icons.
It’s important that we think critically before adopting a new classroom practice.
They Seem Different
My problem isn’t just that there are too many, I think the new depth and complexity icons are just… off.
I asked around to see if, perhaps, I was taking crazy pills. But many teacher friends shared the exact same doubts.
Now, if you love these tools, then go for it (and please email me). But I see three main reasons that they’re just not in the same league as what I’ll call Classic Depth and Complexity.
Some new prompts duplicate existing ideas, or are so similar that we could use a classic prompt.
Is process significantly different from rules? Isn’t a process just a set of rules one follows?
It seems pretty obvious that original duplicates the content imperative origin, right?
Impact duplicates the content imperative contribution. In both cases, we’re exploring the effect of one thing on another.
Context (probably my favorite of the new eight) can be covered by “big idea” since we’re asking students to look at a larger situation. And you can still use the word “context” but just draw the Big Idea icon. No reason for a whole new prompt.
I find judgment to be quite odd. You can’t use it like the other prompts:
- “What’s the judgment of Hatchet?”
- “What’s the judgment of the rain forest?”
If you’re studying a person, then why not use the classic prompt “multiple perspectives”? And if you’re asking students to make a judgment, then that’s the realm of Bloom’s Taxonomy, since it would be a thinking skill.
So, it’s not that the new prompts of depth and complexity are exact duplicates, but they’re so similar that we don’t need to burden students with entirely new terms.
The classic prompts are super flexible. They plug into almost any topic… and just work. But the new depth and complexity prompts lack this flexibility:
Only people have motives (and, in that case, you can use multiple perspectives) Or, if you’re discussing the motive behind creating the Constitution, just use big idea: “What was the big idea that motivated the Constitution?”
Proof only applies to situations that, well, require proof. Plus, you can just use important details to represent proof or evidence. And, if we want students to prove, then that’s also the realm of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Thinking Skills, Not Content
I’ve mentioned that judgment and proof are actually thinking skills if we ask kids to judge or prove.
But translate is definitely a thinking skill because it’s a verb. And thinking skills belong with Bloom’s Taxonomy, not the prompts of depth and complexity.
Plus, you can’t study “the translate” of a topic like you can study the ethics of, the patterns of, or the trends of a topic. It just doesn’t fit.
Do you use them?
To me, each of the new depth and complexity prompts falls short. But I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you see a true use for these new tools? Are they worth adding to kids’ plates? Or are you as confused as me?
Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @ByrdseedGifted.