For those teachers who are examining their methods or perhaps want to try a new angle on communication with pupils and enhance their learning achievements, SOLO taxonomy is worth considering as a possible way forward for their pupils.

What is SOLO taxonomy?

SOLO means the Study of Observed Learning Outcomes and is a model developed by John B. Biggs and K Collis. It’s one which is gaining popularity in schools and focuses on five levels of student understanding:

  • Pre-structural: no understanding of or focus on the task, lack of tackling it and a poor outcome
  • Uni-structural: the focus of the student is on one element of the task only
  • Multi-structural: a focus on a number of aspects but they are all seen as independent of each other
  • Relational: the range of aspects become one with a basic coherence of their relevance as a whole
  • Extended abstract: the integrated whole advances to a higher level of abstraction or concept

SOLO taxonomy looks to enhance learning by increasing complexity in tasks being set and in turn their understanding of a subject.

The benefits of SOLO taxonomy

Any teacher who has not used the SOLO model can feel a real shift-change when they completely embrace the methodology behind it. Lesson planning changes in that there are new ways to encourage learning and it offers ways to develop a shared language of learning as well as the progression from pure fact-learning to actual understanding is visible.

A change in the teaching mindset

SOLO really works when used in conjunction with the quality of knowledge the pupil already possesses. To make the leap from knowing information to being able to analyse it means having something to analyse to start with. Therefore it’s vital that the groundwork of provision of fact is in place before progression is approached as well as the skill of making relational construction being held back upon until it is evidenced that knowledge is apparent is really embrace the way SOLO works.

The most important principle to remember when working in a SOLO teaching environment is that progression will not be visible within just one lesson. Yes, the pupils will be able to demonstrate aspects of progress in a lesson but actual extended abstract thinking takes time so the teacher may need a change in the way they monitor and evaluate the progress of a pupil and take it over a period of time rather than an isolated session.

Using SOLO to underscore teaching planning

Actively explaining SOLO to pupils and discussing how they should be using it is almost guaranteed to lead to confusion and will waste lesson time. SOLO should be viewed as a tool for teachers to plan learning outcomes rather than referring to it during classroom time and so could well be thought of as the invisible force behind the motivation of the whole of teaching from concept of curricular offering to goal achievement and future planning.

SOLO is now widely believed to create pupil independence, improve exam results and enhance overall life skills. Whilst many believe it’s a model still in its infancy with regards to teaching practice, it’s one which is growing at a pace where it is now frequently held as a true alternative to traditional methodology and models and it really is standing up for itself in many a teaching circle where SOLO is seen as the future of the structure of learning.