Date of Award

Summer 8-1-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

EdD Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Christopher Tienken, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Luke Stedrak, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Dennis Copeland, Ed.D.


Common Core State Standards, Complex Thinking, Standardization, New Jersey Student Learning Standards


Learning standards define what knowledge and skills students need to master in order to be prepared for college and careers. The acquisition of knowledge and skills is essential for the 21st century learner as students are required to think, problem solve, create, and communicate for future employers. The best 21st century learning standards are those that provide the opportunity to develop complex thinking skills including creativity, strategic thinking, and critical thinking. This dissertation sought to examine the cognitive complexity of the newly adopted New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS) in Grades 6–8 mathematics as compared to the cognitive complexity of the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards (NJCCCS) in Grades 6–8 mathematics using the Webb’s depth-of-knowledge framework. This study aimed to reveal the extent that complex thinking skills are incorporated throughout these two specific sets of learning standards.

This study utilized a qualitative content analysis using Webb’s depth-of-knowledge methodology to code the learning standards in both the NJSLS and NJCCCS. Deductive category application was used to connect Webb’s depth-of-knowledge framework to the existing NJSLS and NJCCCS. Each depth-of-knowledge level represents a specific level of cognitive complexity. The higher the DOK level of a standard, the higher level of cognitive complexity is contained within that specific standard. The higher the cognitive complexity of a standard, the more complex thinking is embedded into that standard. Each standard was rated on a 1–4 DOK level based on Webb’s depth-of-knowledge methodology. To assist with reliability in coding each set of learning standards, a “double-rater read behind consensus model” was implemented as in other similar studies.

The major findings identified when the mathematics Grades 6–8 NJSLS and the mathematics Grades 6–8 NJCCCS were compared using the DOK framework were:

  1. The mathematics Grades 6–8 NJCCCS were rated at an overall higher percentage of DOK Levels 3 and 4 than were the mathematics Grades 6–8 NJSLS.

  2. The mathematics Grades 6–8 NJSLS contained a higher percentage of lower rated standards, DOK Levels 1 and 2, as compared to the mathematics Grades 6–8 NJCCCS.

This study suggests that more opportunities for developing complex thinking, which is essential to 21st century learning, is contained within New Jersey’s older, replaced set of learning standards found in the mathematics Grades 6–8 NJCCCS when compared to the newly adopted mathematics Grade 6–8 NJSLS.