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Without designing more complex tasks, our students will not go deeper with their learning…
Written by Shanda Dupras, Instructional Coach
Dr. Douglas Fisher:
Visible Learning for Literacy on August 16, 2017
“A critical difference between experienced and expert teachers lies
in their ability to move students from
surface to deep learning.” (Fisher, September 2017)
What is the Definition
was Dr. Fisher’s question he posed to a hundred plus educators as he circled
the room during his presentation. It is interesting, to watch teachers avoid
making conversation within their table groups…I wondered if Siri knew the
answer? Dr. Fisher broke the silence by explaining that “Rigor
is the careful balance between Difficulty vs. Complexity.” We often
confuse the two terms and use them interchangeably, when in fact they are two entirely
can be defined as the amount of
effort that is required for a student to complete a task. Complexity is the level
of thinking, the number of steps, or the abstractness of the task.
What Makes a Task Challenging?
students do a lot more work, does not drastically impact students’ learning…we
know that when students are engaged in deeper thinking, students learn more. We
were introduced to the“Difficulty and
Complexity Quadrants.” It was noted that each quadrant that includes
low difficulty and/or low complexity is not
unimportant. When teachers are designing their lessons, they should know
the level of difficulty and complexity they are requiring of their students.
This can guide them in how to differentiate for their students as well as give effective
We want our students to end up in the Fluency Quadrant… this is
our ultimate goal. (Fisher, 2016)
Change Complexity of the Task:
assigning hard text to read will not ensure that students learn at high
levels…students will not get any better. As educators, we will fail to move our
students into deeper literacy learning. We must armour our students with the
tools to allow and prepare them for the opportunities to go to battle beyond
surface learning. We want our students to
Fisher offered four types of teaching that would prepare students:
(including feedback to the learner)
Focusing on just 1 of
the 4 tools mentioned: Concept Mapping Effective size: 0.60
Concept Mapping is widely used
throughout classrooms…but how do we ensure that is effective, engaging as well
as being complex (level of thinking)?
Mapping is effective when it is used as a planning tool for something else. If
students are just filling out a concept map and filing it in their binders,
never to be seen again, it is no longer effective.
·The power of
the concept map is the cognitive work that it prompts (the complexity!)
out what they know…this becomes their planning for writing, research,
investigation or presentation.
Thinking Visible: Teachers and students are able to see the evidence/deeper
level of thought and connections as more information is added to the maps. Do
use the same concept map throughout learning task…add to it. Watch the thinking
questions as prompts for student’s thinking in their maps can also be powerful.
Example of a ‘Word Concept Map’ used during a
popular book study: ‘The Giver.’
Learning For Literacy, Fisher, Hattie, Frey, 2016)
“In order for students to deepen their knowledge,
they need to have their learning made visible to
them.” (Fisher, 2017)