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Depth and Complexity Icons

Dr. Sandra Kaplan from USC created icons to represent elements that generate a deeper, more complex thought process.  Students involved in the learning process, whether it is reading text, watching a video, analyzing art, or listening to a presentation, can apply elements of depth and complexity as they begin to assimilate new information, make connections, and dig deeper into the content. 

The Depth and Complexity icons are tools that will take students of any age deeper into a study of any content area. Each of the eleven prompts acts as a different lens, prompting students to look at a topic in a new way. They will help you to take your advanced students deeper into grade-level material rather than moving them onto a new topic. The overarching goal of Depth and Complexity is to move students towards expert knowledge of content. 




Language of the Discipline: Vocabulary related to content or discipline being studied. May include phrases, signs/symbols, figures of speech, or abbreviations. 




Details: Information that enhances understanding. May include parts, factors, attributes, traits, or variables. 




Patterns: Reoccurring elements or factors in ideas, objects, stories, & events. Items may be predictable, repetitive or ordered. 




Unanswered Questions: Information or ideas that are unclear, unresolved, or not fully developed. May include the unknown, unexplored or unproven.




Rules: Organization elements that create structure, order or sequence. May include hierarchy, guidelines, or classification. 




Ethics: Moral principles or conflicts surrounding different points of view on events, ideas, or issues. May include bias, values, or judgments. 




Trends: General direction of change. Direction may be influenced by varied forces. May include current styles or tendencies. 


big idea


Big Idea: General statement about a principle, theory, concept or idea. May include a main idea, universal concept or generalization. 


over time


Over Time: How people, ideas, events and elements change over time . May include comparing past, present and future, predicting, or connecting points in time.




Multiple Perspectives: Different points of view on ideas, events, people and issues. May include roles, careers, fields, or opposing viewpoints. 




Across Disciplines: Connections within, between and across subject areas. May include connections, linked ideas, or integrations. 

Adapted from Sandra Kaplan, USC