Difficulty vs. Complexity

As I am rereading one of the best books on differentiation – Differentiation in Action by Judith Dodge – I thought I would share a snippet from this excellent research.

     ” We should be aware of the few problems that new research has brought to our attention regarding taxonomies. Bloom and his colleagues attempted to use degree of difficulty as the basis for difference between the levels.  But in fact, the higher levels are not always more difficult (Costa, 2011). You have probably seen evidence of this yourself when you have asked a kid to judge the value of something or to rate the best or worst in a category (evaluation – the highest level). Most likely, s/he was able to give an opinion and support it with reasons. On the other hand, the student may have had more difficulty reading a passage and using it to analyze a character’s attributes (analysis – lower level on the taxonomy).

       Sousa refers to this problem as well when he suggest that we need to pay attention to the difference between DIFFICULTY and COMPLEXITY when designing learning tasks. Unintentionally, many of us assign more arduous tasks – tasks requiring more effort or time – when what we mean to do is challenge students with more rigorous tasks – tasks requiring more complex thought.  


– increasing difficulty task: write two paragraphs about an author’s style

– increasing complexity task: write one paragraph comparing the author’s style in one story to the style of a different author from a previously read story.

Also we should keep in mind that: 

the levels are not necessarily sequential. In actual practice, constructing knowledge does not happen in a lockstep manner. 

the objectives at each level may overlap. It is not critical that students perform tasks at every single level of taxonomy. 

(…) Do not assume that students are not capable of thinking critically because they take more time to master basic concepts. Slower learners can reach higher levels of thinking if we help them focus on essential ideas and eliminate less important ones. ‘ 


One Comment to “Difficulty vs. Complexity”

  1. You hit the nail on the head with this.Blooms can’t be seen as a linear pathway. It has its limitations

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