Interview with a Depth & Complexity Expert – John Gould

Interview an Expert!

It is no secret that the J Taylor Education and The Center for Depth and Complexity community is home to many practitioner experts. Join us in this monthly blog series to learn more about how educational professionals use the framework to leverage creative, critical thinking both in and out of the classroom. The first expert interview will be with John Gould, the owner and president of J Taylor Education. 


I am from Los Angeles, went to university at UC Davis, and then went into teaching and coaching basketball. Growing up, I was obsessed with sports – playing just about anything and devoutly following the Dodgers and Lakers. My goal was to become a college basketball coach but I was sidetracked in 2004 for a few reasons. 

My mother, Bette Taylor Gould, had written teacher pedagogy books in the 1970s and 1980s that were published and had also worked with Dr. Sandra Kaplan (University of Southern California) in the late 1980s and early 1990s on a Framework called Depth and Complexity. My twin sister and I were part of a group of students that first used Depth and Complexity, and my mom tried part of their Framework on both of us. At about the time my thoughts on continuing in the coaching field were changing, I decided that Depth and Complexity was not well known to most parts of the U.S. I used its tools for years as a student, and young professional, and believed it should be available to educational communities throughout our country, not just a few parts of California and Texas. 

In 2006, I founded J Taylor Education, in hopes of creating a paradigm shift in how schools approached instruction and learning. The Center for Depth and Complexity became part of J Taylor in 2018, and now, some 17 years after our beginning, I am proud to share that Depth and Complexity is used in 45 states and in well over 100,000 classrooms.

 There’s still lots of work to do so all students are appropriately challenged with differentiated learning experiences and empowered to become critical thinkers. The desire to make that a reality for every young person in our nation is what continues to inspire me on our journey change education and make Depth and Complexity an integral part of what educators use on a daily basis.

Big Idea

Education should primarily be about teaching students how to think, not assessment scores. Our goal should be to empower students to be high-level thinkers, allowing them to flourish regardless of the content area, or tests being administered.

Over Time

Depth and Complexity makes an educator’s teaching life much easier. Once it’s employed, teachers are able to differentiate for and elicit high-level thinking from all students. I have witnessed this in so many schools and have been so impressed to see Depth and Complexity benefit students from ALL learning levels. 

My powerful “aha” moment was watching the discourse in a Kindergarten class when a bunch of 5 and 6-year-olds were discussing ethics from different perspectives related to a story their teacher had read. It was jaw-dropping and inspiring! 

It’s undeniable the “education industry” is in a challenging spot in 2023. Educators are leaving the field in droves, and the education world is having a challenging time attracting young professionals who in years past may have chosen to become teachers. Unfortunately, I have seen what I consider an unacceptable response to this challenge – doubling down on scripted programs, one-size-fits-all lesson templates, and unforgiving pacing charts. There are some districts nationally where the teacher shortage is so dangerous that they are looking at options to have in-person students learn core content in a more asynchronous fashion, on devices at their school site. This type of education is unsustainable – if we care about learning. 

I do believe that eventually educators and those involved in our education communities (students, parents, politicians) will realize the system needs to be broken down and “rebooted” so to speak. In the next decade, I envision a school system that values critical thinking above any one assessment or test and commits itself to raising expectations for all students. While assessments should always be part of the process, they should NEVER be the only determining factor to measure student success and teacher efficacy.

Unanswered Questions

There is one gigantic elephant in the room with respect to educational dilemmas… How can we push education away from the current obsessions of memorizing what types of questions are being asked on one assessment test, and instead focus on, and reward creative, critical thinking that excites and inspire students to have a genuine thirst for learning? 

Multiple Perspectives

My favorite part of watching this Framework in action is when students use the Depth and Complexity Framework tools to create their own learning pathways.

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