First steps in SOLO Taxonomy

The SOLO Taxonomy’s power is in its simplicity.  After 6months of implementing it into what we do in Quest (Year 8 integrated Science and Geography) I had a conversation with two year 12 Biology students about how they could improve their written response to HSC questions and released that I was seamlessly describing how they had connected ideas, but they had not extended as the question had ask.  I was explaining this with the simple hand gestures that describe SOLO and realised I had assimilated SOLO into the way I was thinking to the point it was flowing naturally out of me, and what surprised me most was the students grasped what I was saying instantly.

When I first started exploring SOLO Taxonomy I was confused by the terminology and I came to it with the mindset of the complexity of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  I have been a Bloom’s devotee, I believe much of what we have had students doing for so long was low level and not challenging.  Blooms gave some structure to help improve the depth of tasks but I have found Blooms relies on a deep understanding of the verbs used and that often leeds to confusion.  Blooms lacks an underlying framework of what happens when we think and learn.  SOLO on the other hand in its very nature of looking for observably thinking provides the framework that the learning verbs attach to.

Yr_8_Quest__How_has_penicillin_changed_the_world__A_Case_Study_My first steps in introducing SOLO into the lesson preparation for Quest was to describe the SOLO Taxonomy to the team of teachers I work with and create a template using the SOLO symbols that we expected all tasks to aline to (see the image for an example of how it was implemented). We started by only using the last three levels of SOLO (Multistructural, Connected and Extended abstract) in our scaffold and allowed teachers the flexibility of not including all levels if they felt the task could not be pushed into the higher thinking levels. We made extensive use of Pam Hook’s HookED site and the useful tools she makes available. It was stressed that we really wanted the extended tasks to push the students thinking and that they could be seen as ‘extension’ tasks for the brighter students.  In practice I have found that treating these tasks as optional for students or telling capable students to start with the extended tasks has been a helpful differentiation tool for a mix ability class.

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1 Comment »

  1. Artichoke said

    Thanks for this thoughtful post Jonathan – much like you I came upon SOLO Taxonomy after I had worked for many years with Blooms Taxonomy. They are very different – one evidence based – one not. The strength of SOLO lies in its simplicity (high inter rater reliability) – based on research into the structure of the learning outcome – clear alignment of learning verbs with SOLO level – and that task and outcome can be at different SOLO levels.

    There has been surprisingly little critique of Bloom’s Taxonomy by classroom teachers – in part because it has been part of what we do for so long – In my experience teachers often feel that their inability to “get it” when planning activities at different levels of Blooms is a fault in their reasoning rather than challenging the verb confusion within. And then there is the assumption that an activity at the “create” level of Bloom’s results in higher order thinking – all that “create a poster” activity that goes on. I tried to capture these ideas on my wiki – http://pamhook.com/wiki/Advantages_of_SOLO_Taxonomy

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