Structure of Observed Learning Outcome

This tag is associated with 6 posts

Upside Down CPD: R and D Communities

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for teachers often tends to stem from whole school priorities around raising attainment and achievement, improving teaching and learning including assessment or responding to various local, national or Ofsted agendas.  These whole school priorities tend to monopolise the resources available including funding, access to external courses and use of INSET Days.

I’ve read blogs and tweets that liken INSET days, with training on these whole school priorities from external consultant, headteachers or members of the senior leadership team, to a little bit like the proverbial being dumped on teachers from on high.  Suggestions about people leading the CPD, particularly when it is about teaching & learning, include things like mirroring the strategies (the two hour talk on actively engaging students is a classic misjudgement) are important but miss a key point.


Part of our human nature leads us to enjoy and engage with issues that we have a particular interest in or ownership of.  If we really want to personalise CPD for staff then we need to shift the power in the decision making process from school leaders and external pressures to classroom teachers.  It is not simply improving the delivery it is moving the decision making by tipping it upside down and distributing the authority to make decisions about their own professional development to teachers.  This is not an either or – too often in education in England we take an extreme position and then seek to defend it – it’s about rebalancing CPD so that teachers’ particular pedagogical and curriculum interests are afforded time and resource alongside whole school priorities.

I’ve blogged before about setting up some new Research & Development Communities in the post “Improving Teaching Not Simply Measuring It” and the proposals are now in.  The basic structure behind the R&D Communities is:

  • A R&D Community can be set up to develop and embed best or emerging good practice within the College.
  • A R&D Community can be used to take forward an idea, innovation or approach by a group of staff that will lead to improved standards of attainment, levels of achievement, student well-being or student personal development.  A R&D Community can be set up by any member of staff.
  • Each R&D Community must have a named leader who will be responsible for the community, its outcomes and leading a group of staff between 3-8 people in size.
  • Funding of £100 per person in the R&D Community will be made available to fund the community’s work, the leader will have their teaching commitment reduced by one period (periods are 100 minutes in length) per fortnight and supply vouchers for use by community members can be bid for.
  • Funding will be released following the R&D Community’s idea and success criteria being accepted.
  • Approximately half termly a voluntary meeting slot will appear in the calendar for R&D Companies that may be used if some/all of the company members wish to.
  • Applications can be submitted in April/May each academic year, but no later than two weeks before the late Spring Bank Holiday and the funds will remain in place for the following academic year.
  • Student research and developers may be useful additions to the R&D Community.

R&D Communities for Next Academic Year

What impact does using SOLO taxonomy in peer assessment have on the quality of formative feedback, and learner responses, over one academic year, on an English writing assessment at KS3 and KS4?
Our R&D community wishes to look at various elements of technology in teaching and map them onto the SOLO taxonomy.  Similar work has been undertaken by various teachers globally with Bloom’s taxonomy which shows which tools are most useful for developing each skill area, and we would like to do the same for SOLO, providing a pedagogically sound platform for implementing the use of various technologies/web 2.0 tools/apps across the College.
How can we embed SOLO success criteria into the classroom in a way that encourages pupils to take ownership for their learning?
How far can student attainment be improved by implementing a ‘flipped classroom’ within their daily teaching and learning environment in order to accelerate their deep learning over a one year period?
The group would aim to carry out action research exploring ways by which students develop their moral awareness and “proclaiming, worshipping, service and civic duty” can be developed within the college.  Initially, the group would look to identify key moral threads from the PSHE / Citizenship curriculum that could be developed and lead into delivery via the peer mentoring ‘plenary team’ introduced this year.  The main vehicle for development would be through peer mentoring across Key Stages 2, 3, 4 and 5. 

Narrowing the Gap for FSM students: Improving achievement through participation in enriching experiences.

I’m not sure what you think about the different proposals and the good news is it doesn’t matter.  They are of interest to the staff groups that devised them.  All of them could potentially “develop and embed best or emerging good practice within the College” and that was the key requirement.  CPD has been flipped and turned upside down in this particular instance.  Teachers have decided what interests them and been given the resources to pursue it.  This is part of an increasing blend of different learning opportunities including INSET days, Thursday afternoon CPD and external and internal courses that staff may choose to go on.  The R&D Communities add a dimension we have never had before and fills a gap in provision.  All proposals were accepted.  The SOLO Taxonomy features heavily and this is something that has been a consistent theme of development for the past three or four and there are a couple more posts on this blog about using the SOLO Taxonomy to increase challenge and how we have sought to spread and embed it.

Produced by Pam Hook (@arti_choke) http://pamhook.com/wiki/The_Learning_Process

Produced by Pam Hook (@arti_choke) http://pamhook.com/wiki/The_Learning_Process

The total funding for the six projects involving thirty four staff – thirty one teachers and three support staff – is £3,400 though I don’t think the actual spend will be anywhere near that.  Teachers aren’t that great at spending money at school.  In addition, one hundred and twenty three cover vouchers have been asked for.  The use of the cover vouchers will need to be monitored as we won’t be able to release a large number of teachers all at once but leaders have been very clear that a number of cover vouchers will simply be used to keep staff “free” and our cover supervisors will support the release time for staff.  I can almost hear people shouting about the missed classes but this cover equates to about one day per member of staff per year.  This is equivalent to a one day course each, which often has no impact back at school, against what may well end up being about one hundred and fifty days equivalence of collaborative planning, lesson observations and peer evaluations with this deliberate practice developing staff’s pedagogical knowledge and skills.

The six R&D Communities are being led by two teachers who are currently Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) in their first year of teaching with us, three staff who have other middle leadership responsibilities and a part time main scale teacher.  It’s a wonderful mix and I just think a fantastic opportunity to develop leadership skills.  One of the responsibilities of the R&D Communities is to capture and transfer knowledge so I will be blogging about the successes, failures and lessons learnt by each group during next year.

What would you want to research and develop with a group of colleagues if given a £100 of funding each and a bit of time?

Redesigning Classrooms: Spreading and Embedding the SOLO Taxonomy

In this set of posts about redesigning classrooms I want to look at some of the changes that teachers can incrementally make to their classrooms that may over time transform their practice.  The first post about the SOLO Taxonomy can be found here:

Redesigning Classrooms: Using SOLO to Increase Challenge

Produced by Pam Hook (@arti_choke) http://pamhook.com/wiki/The_Learning_Process

Produced by Pam Hook (@arti_choke) http://pamhook.com/wiki/The_Learning_Process

SOLO first appeared as part of our CPD programme a number of years ago and all staff are familiar with it, however, a number of staff have started taking the use of the SOLO Taxonomy to new levels, spreading and embedding its use as they go.  One of the interesting dimensions of the work is how staff are using the SOLO Taxonomy with students and explicitly developing their understanding of it and how to use it to increase the depth of the work they are doing.  This post is a series of short inputs from staff at St. Mary’s

Art, Design & Technology Department – Student Friendly Success Criteria (Anna Johnson – HoD)

In the Art, D&T Department we are developing student friendly success criteria based on SOLO Taxonomy that allow us to identify ascending cognitive complexity in individual and collective student performance for understanding when mastering new learning. This will allow us to easily and reliably assess students’ progress.

Food Tech - SOLO SoW

Example of success criteria for students in Food Technology

The next step is to incorporate the 5 R’s using SOLO Taxonomy. We are also incorporating GCSE exam questions into Key Stage 3 lessons to allow students to demonstrate relational and extended abstract understanding.

RE Department – Developing the Learner (Phil Allan – HoD)

We made a decision to teach SOLO taxonomy discreetly to students in order to demythologise the whole concept.  We used a card sort on topics familiar to the students (Blackpool FC and the X Factor) and they had to sort information into one of unistructural, multi structural etc.

Two different card sorts that were used to help students understand the different levels of complexity in the SOLO Taxonomy

Two different card sorts that were used to help students understand the different levels of complexity in the SOLO Taxonomy

The students grasped the idea immediately and were table to transfer these skills to recognise where a religious topic moved from multi-structural to relational or extended abstract levels. Our lesson planning was revolutionised by the success of this initial lesson as we then attempted to ensure that students learned some declarative knowledge (multi structural) early in the lesson and were then able to make the move to functional knowledge (relational/extended abstract).The level of challenge in lessons has increased markedly as each lesson requires students to think at a higher level at some point.

The lesson plan and a further exemplar can be found below:

SOLO – RE Lesson Plan

SOLO template – blind man and the elephant model

Embedding SOLO in the English Department (Helen Stuart – Innovation Fellow)

When first faced with SOLO as, what seemed like yet another initiative to ‘get in the way’ of any actual teaching and learning, a sense of déjà vu, tedium and (if I am to be entirely honest) slight annoyance set in.  However, it takes a brave teacher to admit when they’re wrong.  In fact, SOLO has proven itself in my classroom time and time again to be an invaluable tool which is an accessible catalyse for students to: easily understand how ideas within the subject connect by forming real meaning of their learning; partake in cognitive demanding activities to achieve deep learning and appreciate the necessary strategies which are needed in order to unpack their skills.

I have found that by integrating SOLO into my planning, through the learning objectives and success criteria, students are more able to co-construct the lesson, using SOLO terms, as they actually become eager to achieve an extended abstract level of understanding within the lesson.  The power of SOLO within their own learning instantly creates high challenge, due to a greater level of engagement, and students being able to, almost instinctively, identify their next step and maximise their conceptual understanding.

The “SOLO Taxonomy and Making Meaning Workbooks” (Hook & McNeill) are tangible resources within the learning environment which put SOLO into real practice (something I know myself and the department craved in order for an educational theory to become reality).  The SOLO maps and rubrics within these texts have now become a staple part of English lessons, allowing students to select them as learning tools in order to scaffold their understanding.  I also find an insightful activity for students, and me as their teacher, is to ask them to define the SOLO level of an activity and then challenge them to change the activity in order that it be classed as extended abstract, which they then complete.  This activity also works well with forming questions on a given text, for example when analysing the writer’s purpose.

SOLO is one of those rare teaching acronym initiatives that actually works, in terms of: in a real classroom, with real students, to see real improvements in their metacognitive skills.  Embedding SOLO within my own teaching has effortlessly led to more engaged, higher achieving, interdependent students who can lead their own learning…albeit to my surprise.

This is an example of the HookED SOLO Describe ++ Map that can be found in the "SOLO Taxonomy & Making Meaning Series.  The books contain a number of different SOLO Maps and examples.

This is an example of the HookED SOLO Describe ++ Map that can be found in the “SOLO Taxonomy & Making Meaning Series. The books contain a number of different SOLO Maps and examples.

Essential Resources: (there are Australia, New Zealand and Rest of the World websites for Essential Resources as well) publishes some fantastic resources – “SOLO Taxonomy & Making Meaning” are a set of three literacy based books, two books that introduce “SOLO Taxonomy: A Guide for Schools” are two books that give you a great introduction to SOLO and finally one titled “Using SOLO as a Framework for Teaching” are all worthwhile.

Science – Use of Hinge Point Questions (One from me but not yet used in a real classroom)

SOLO Taxonomy can be used to produce increasingly complex hinge point questions.  The final slide is taken from a video in which @eric_mazur is explaining how the Flipped Classroom works.

Students armed with a white board and a pen select the answer they think is correct.  If a large majority of the students have the right response it’s probably best to quickly explain the answer to other students and then move on, don’t linger too long as most students won’t be learning anything.  If the number of students getting the correct response is somewhere between 30-70% (Eric Mazur’s figures) then resist giving students the answer and get them to discuss it with each other – this can lead to some really great debates.  If fewer then 30% of students have the answer you probably need to take a step back and revisit some earlier work as somewhere along the line their learning has a disconnect – can you prompt them forward to the next SOLO level without simply giving them the answer?

This series of slides is to help students learn about the expansion of solids when heated.  This first slide just requires students to describe a series of events linked to the age old ball & hoop experiment.  It would follow a demonstration of the experiment and is at a multi-structural level.

Hinge Point Q1 - Describe is at a multi-structural level

Hinge Point Q1 – Describe is at a multi-structural level

This second slide moves to a relational level in SOLO terms as students are required to explain what has happened.  The slide contains the correct answer and a common misconception amongst students to really test their thinking.

Hinge Point Q2 - Explain is at a Relational Level

Hinge Point Q2 – Explain is at a Relational Level

Finally it’s a move to the extended abstract with the students asked to hypothesise.  This is a really tough ask which has baffled more than one Science teacher I have used the slide with.

Hinge Point Q3 - Hypothesise is at an Extended Abstract Level

Hinge Point Q3 – Hypothesise is at an Extended Abstract Level

If you’re not sure think about the answer to slide 2 and the particles on the edge of the hole in the middle.  A “student model” is really useful here.

If you would like another way that SOLO Taxonomy is used at St. Mary’s to ensure we have rigorous and challenging Project Based Learning, please see the post below:

Redesigning Classrooms: PBL Not PBL Lite

Redesigning Classrooms: Using SOLO to Increase Challenge

If we are going to Redesign Schools then we are going to need to redesign classrooms.  Most of the changes to education over the past thirty years have been to do with the structure of education, in a country or state, and the curriculum offer.  However, many of these curriculum changes have influenced the subjects offered in schools rather than affecting the diet received in the classroom by students.  To change classroom practice requires teachers to have a deep understanding of pedagogy and their subject and a school where there are focussed multi-faceted CPD and high levels of support. Continue reading

Leadership: Being, Knowing, Doing (New Book)

Liminal Leadership


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 32,089 other followers

Follow @LeadingLearner on WordPress.com

Blog Stats

  • 1,538,993 hits


%d bloggers like this: