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Depth and Complexity

Empowering Students to Think & Learn using the Depth & Complexity Framework

The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) Office of Gifted Education has designated the Depth & Complexity Framework as a focus for statewide professional learning to support the next cycle of program plans.  Empowering Students to Think and Learn Using the Depth & Complexity Framework is a suite of workshops designed to build capacity across the state in best practices for gifted education. Worskhops model structured and guided inquiry in an effort to promote a gradual release of responsibility in the classroom that results in students who are self-directed in their learning.  The Depth & Complexity Framework aligns with:

  • Colorado Academic Standards
  • 21st Century Skills
  • Teacher Quality Standards from the Colorado Teacher Model Evaluation System
  • Concept and problem based learning

To support building capacity throughout the state, the Office of Gifted Education provides Trainer of Trainers (ToT) workshops for schools, districts and/or BOCES that want to systemically combine this professional development with local initiatives. 

The following assurances must be met when registering for the ToT

  • The trainee has classroom knowledge & experience; a growth mindset that embraces continuous improvement; and the communication skills and rapport to facilitate adult learning.
  • The trainee agrees to attend all three ToTs for the Depth & Complexity Framework offered by CDE in June over a 2-3-year period.
  • The trainee has school, district or BOCES support necessary to attend the three ToTs, present the three workshops to schools or districts and provide implementation support to teachers throughout the implementation process.

For those who do not meet the registration requirements, the state will also provide regional Depth & Complexity workshops over the course of three years for groups of teachers who wish to use the strategies in their classrooms. There is no cost to attend the workshops.  Travel expenses are the responsibility of the participants or their district. District State Gifted Education Funds may be used to cover these expenses.  

ToT Workshop Format

Each workshop is divided into four 90-minute segments that can be delivered over one day, two half days or four 90- minute sessions. During each 90 min. session time is allotted for application of learning to current classroom instructional objectives, lessons, resources, etc. Trainees will participate in simulations of the actual six-hour workshop they will be providing in their districts. The focus of the second day of training is on discussions of how to implement the workshop; the intentional design and scope and sequence of activities; and, coaching methods and follow-up resources including formative assessments for teachers and students. Trainees will have time to consider how to best align the workshop with district initiatives, level of teacher readiness, schedules, calendars and resources. Trainees will receive all workshop materials including the PowerPoint, workshop lesson plans and handouts in a notebook. Additional resources and supporting materials are also included.

At the first workshop only, all trainees will receive a Depth & Complexity Vendor Kit that includes 8x10” Icon Cards, 3x5” Q3 Cards and a Differentiation Smart Reference Guide (flip book) from Please note that these materials are not required at workshops, but are considered a valuable resource for classroom use.

ToT Implementation Support

In an effort to support districts in their implementation of the Depth & Complexity Framework, the Office of Gifted Education provides optional guidance documents, plans and resources to use in between each workshop presentation. These include bi-weekly, 15-minute collaborative discussions for use at staff and department meetings, or with professional learning communities; electronic video reminders of the strategies to be implemented for the week; teacher observation forms to evaluate student growth in thinking using the Depth & Complexity prompts; teacher rubrics for self-, peer- or principal-evaluations; and a principal tutorial on the basics of the Depth & Complexity Framework.

Content of Workshop 1: Guiding students to think and discuss at deeper levels through inquiry

The first workshop covers structured inquiry, focused questioning and thinking routines in combination with depth & complexity prompts that require students to think at higher levels. Participants match standards and inquiry questions to specific depth & complexity prompts, and use them in conjunction with thinking routines and graphic organizers to guide and assess small group discussions.

Participants in Workshop 1 can download many of the materials for their reference and classroom use by going to Workshop 1 Resource page.

Content of Workshop 2: Differentiating student learning using tiered tasks

The second workshop focuses on structured inquiry that differentiates tasks with the assistance of layered Depth & Complexity prompts, Content Imperatives (5 additional thinking prompts) and standards aligned Depth of Knowledge mastery levels. Participants will design tiered thinking and learning tasks that differentiate challenge and complexity and structure and support based on student needs and readiness.

Participants in Workshop 2 can download many of the materials for their reference and classroom use by going to Workshop 2 Resource page.

Content of Workshop 3: Encouraging self-directed learning and self-efficacy through project based learning

This final workshop in the series transfers the responsibility of choosing resources and procedures for answering a question, solving a problem or producing a project to the student. Through the use of universal concepts that expand student learning across disciplines, students utilize Depth & Complexity and Content Imperatives prompts to focus and guide their learning. Participants will prepare a project based lesson.

Participants in Workshop 3 can download many of the materials for their reference and classroom use by going to Workshop 3 Resource page.



Workshop 1 Resource Page                                                                                     Workshop 2 Resource Page                                          Workshop 3 Resource Page