Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Executive Ed.D. in Education Leadership Management and Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Christopher Tienken, Ed.D

Committee Member

Gerard Babo, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Tamika Pollins, Ed.D


Higher Order Thinking, Webb’s Depth-of-Knowledge Module, New Jersey Student Learning Standards, New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards, Elementary Education


Academic learning standards define the necessary skills and knowledge that students need to master in order to become college and career ready. The best 21st century learning standards are those that provide the opportunity to develop complex thinking skills including creativity, strategic thinking, and critical thinking. The learning standards that provide an insight into complex thinking are identified as critical thinking, creativity in practice, and strategic thinking. This dissertation’s intent was to examine the language of complex thinking of the newly adopted New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS) in Grades 4 & 5 Mathematics as compared to the language of complex thinking of the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards (NJCCCS) in Grades 4-5 Mathematics using the Webb’s Depth-of-Knowledge Module. 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 mixed methods, including qualitative content analysis using Webb’s depth-of-knowledge to code the learning standards in both the former New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards and New Jersey Student Learning Standards and descriptive statistics. 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 in regards to the Mathematics Grades 4 & 5 NJCCCS and the

Mathematics Grades 4–5 NJCCCS were compared using the DOK framework were:

  1. The mathematics Grades 4-5 NJCCCS were rated at an overall higher percentage of DOK Levels 3 and 4 than were the mathematics Grades 4-5 NJSLS.
  2. The mathematics Grades 4-5 NJSLS contained a higher percentage of lower rated standards, DOK Levels 1 and 2, as compared to the mathematics Grades 4 & 5 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 4 & 5 NJCCCS when compared to the NJSLS adopted in 2017 Mathematics Grade 4 & 5.