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Kaplan's Depth & Complexity

Kaplan's Depth and Complexity

Developed by Dr. Sandra Kaplan, this curricular model seeks to increase rigor into the general curriculum by asking students to develop scholarly behaviors, consider knowledge through the perspective of career specialties, or disciplinarians, and to use a variety of critical thinking skills.

Habits of a Scholar

This is the foundation for academic success as students learn to ponder, consider different perspectives, set goals, thirst for knowledge, persevere while taking intellectual risks, and strive for excellence, among others.  These are traits that students are taught to exhibit through modeling, guided practice, and ongoing reinforcement.  Behaviors include:

  • Ponder Ideas
  • Intellectual Risk-taking
  • Preparation
  • Excellence
  • Academic Humility
  • Curiosity
  • Save Ideas
  • Multiple Perspectives
  • Perseverance
  • Varied Resources
  • Goal Setting 

Thinking Like a Disciplinarian

Students examine content through the lens of a specific disciplinarian. This engages students in the use of academic vocabulary and specific content knowledge.  It becomes a tool for differentiation, research, and interest-based exploration. Disciplinarians can be broad, specific, or in between. 

Depth & Complexity
These are strategies and skills for approaching and analyzing new information.  They can be used individually or in combination.

  • Language of the Discipline - Specialized vocabulary, names of skills/tasks particular to people, working within the disciplines, tools used by the disciplinarians
  • Details – Parts, facts, describing words, attributes
  • PatternsPredictability, repetition
  • Rules - Order, structure hierarchy, laws
  • Trends – Direction, a course that seems to follow
  • Unanswered QuestionsAmbiguities, unclear ideas, incomplete ideas
  • Ethics - Points of view, different opinions, judging
  • Big Ideas - Generalization, principle, theory
  • Change Over Time How time influences things
  • Different PerspectivesInterpretations, compare and contrast topic with perspectives
  • Across Disciplines - Relationships between areas of study

Content Imperatives

These are aspects of knowledge to explore.  They can be used individually or in combination with the depth and complexity skills above.

    • Origins – Foundation, basis
    • Contributions – Value, achievement, impact
    • Parallels – Similarities, comparable phenomena
    • Convergence – Factors that come together, combinations
    • Divergence – Variations, related ideas, “spin-offs”
    • Paradox – Contradictions, irony

    Big Ideas and Universal Themes

    Content is tied to broad themes to help students make connections.  Below is the theme selected for instruction with gifted students at each grade level.  These were chosen because of their wide applicability and connection to state standards.  Each has multiple generalizations that break down the big idea into more concrete understandings.
    • All Grades - Change
    • K - Patterns
    • 1 - Relationships
    • 2 - Order
    • 3 - Community
    • 4 - Exploration
    • 5 - Systems
    • 6 - Force
    • 7 - Structure
    • 8 - Power and Conflict

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