Over the past fourteen years, as a headteacher, I have led many professional development sessions for staff and introduced a number of different strategies and initiatives. Without doubt the one that is most often been reflected back to me as having the greatest impact was introducing staff to the SOLO Taxonomy. It has helped teachers structure the learning within lessons, projects and schemes of work in a sequential and increasingly complex manner. The structuring and sequencing of learning is at the heart of what great teachers do in their lessons, projects and courses so maybe it should be no surprise of the extent of its impact.
The benefits have moved beyond individual teachers to our work as a school since SOLO has become our shared language and in part the language is shared by the students. If you want to know more about the SOLO Taxonomy (Structure of the Observed Learning Outcomes) my introductory post, Using SOLO to Increase Challenge may help.
Pam Hook (@arti_choke) has spent years developing resources, presenting and leading workshops on the use of SOLO Taxonomy. Her website, HookED, is a treasure trove of ideas and resources. The following resources are being shared with the kind permission of Pam under the Creative Common Licence.
Compare & Contrast
Students up and down the country (and internationally) will compare and contrast numerous things. This can be characters in a play, geographical features like river valleys, views of different religions or secularists on marriage, death or the after life and differences between mixtures and compounds in Science. The problem is that this can remain at a low level descriptive outcome if we are not careful.
Students can describe what a mixture and a compound is but don’t explore why they are different. The real potential of SOLO is in scaffolding the learning towards more sophisticated thinking at a relational or extended abstract level. When preparing lessons it is crucial that teachers are absolutely clear where the learning is going, from shallow to deep, from the necessary factual knowledge towards the more conceptual understanding.
As students are required to explain the descriptions that they have made, for example about mixtures and compounds, they begin to look at the core of the subject or discipline – Chemistry is all about the relationship between particles and the factors that affect them. The relationship (bonds) between the particles in mixtures and compounds are fundamentally different and students need to understand this.
Increasingly students are being required to evaluate both within the classroom but also the examination hall. The “evaluate” element of a question, due to the complexity of thinking required, is often very heavily weighted in terms of the number of marks available. We need to be able to drill our students into a way of thinking and a way of structuring their responses.
The rubric below helps both teachers, in the first instance, and students to take a structured approach to evaluating a particular claim. Moving from evaluating a claim with “for and againsts“, to explaining why these are relevant and eventually looking at the weight of the arguments to come to a reasoned judgement. This is a useful skill in life as well as the examination hall.
The power of the SOLO Taxonomy – and the resources produced by Pam Hook – is that it is content free. You can use it in any subject and for any content including procedural and meta-cognitive knowledge as well as factual to conceptual knowledge. Thanks to Pam for her genius and generosity in sharing these resources.
This is just a mini-blog (a bloglet if you like) about the benefits of incorporating the SOLO Taxonomy into your everyday practice. It is not a gimmick or a quick fix but at the heart of Teacher Clarity and the raising of achievement.