Depth & Complexity

Depth and complexity tools were developed by Professor Sandra Kaplan following extensive research into what types of knowledge distinguished experts in a field of study from those with only a surface level of knowledge. Broadly speaking, expert knowledge can be categorized in two ways – depth: deep understanding of the content of the field; and complexity: scholarly insights into the connections across time, people and disciplines.

Deep understanding is achieved by investigating language, details, patterns, rules, trends, unanswered questions, ethics, and big ideas which form the content of the topic.

Complex understanding is achieved by investigating how the topic/field has changed over time, different perspectives held, and how the topic links to and connects with other disciplines.

To enable teachers and students to quickly identify the types of thinking needed, a set of icon prompts were developed to accompany the tools. (See below for the icons and summary of each tool.)

Depth & Complexity Icons