Gifted & Talented News - Gr. 6-12

Spring 2017: Depth & Complexity Instructional Strategies

What are Instructional Strategies?

Instructional Strategies are techniques uses by teachers in order to improve or enhance student learning. When instructional strategies are tied to the needs and interests of students, learning is enhanced. Instructional strategies should be directly tied to the curriculum, desired student outcomes, and ongoing classroom assessments. Students learn best when instruction is:

  • appropriately challenging
  • based on real world problems and situations
  • purposeful
  • meaningful and interesting

*Remember no one instructional strategy or method will work for all students, teachers or in all subject areas.

For more information about specific instructional strategies, visit

Getting Started With Depth and Complexity: Differentiation

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Instructional Strategies - Tools For Differentiation, Engagement and Rigor

The use of depth and complexity in combination with instructional strategies can assist in meeting the needs of diverse learners. Use of DEPTH prompts move students toward greater expertise and strikes a balance with the goal of content coverage. Use of COMPLEXITY prompts challenges students to make connections across disciplines, over time, and between disciplines.

Various instructional strategies outlined below contribute to overall rigor by challenging advanced learners to extend their understanding of the area of study.

Instructional Strategies

Depth and Complexity Prompts in Math

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Questioning Strategies and Tiering With Depth and Complexity

"Using questions to teach is an age-old practice and has been a cornerstone of education for centuries. Questions are often used to stimulate the recall of prior knowledge, promote comprehension, and build critical-thinking skills. Teachers ask questions to help students uncover what has been learned, to comprehensively explore the subject matter, and to generate discussion and peer-to-peer interaction. Student-initiated questions increase higher-order learning by requiring them to analyze information, connect seemingly disparate concepts, and articulate their thoughts. Indeed, questions are ubiquitous, but are the right kinds of questions – ones that promote learning, not recall – asked at the appropriate time? Poor questions can stifle learning by creating confusion, intimidating students, and limiting creative thinking. Effective questions asked in a psychologically safe learning environment support student learning by probing for understanding, encouraging creativity, stimulating critical thinking, and enhancing confidence." -Am J Pharm Educ. 2013 Sep 12; 77(7): 155.



Depth and Complexity: Mini-Lessons

Want to get started with teaching the icons of depth and complexity? Try some of the strategies presented in J Taylor's mini-lessons. These sample lessons/ideas are general but provide engaging methods for familiarizing students with the 11 elements of Depth and Complexity.

Anchor Activities

“Ragged time” is a reality in a differentiated classroom. It is not your goal to have everyone finish all tasks at the same time. Anchor activities have several benefits in the classroom. Because students complete group work at staggered times, anchor activities allow them to continue their learning independently while other groups continue to work on the original assignment. For students who need more advanced learning opportunities and for students who need to review a concept, the anchor activity can be the vehicle to extend their learning in differentiated ways. Read more...

3. Anchor Activities