What is SOLO Taxonomy, and why might you want to try it?

What is it?

SOLO taxonomy stands for Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes, and is a model for students to clearly see how their understanding builds.

SOLO image

This image depicts how the stages of understanding are visualised. The circle represents the prestructural level of understanding – the student has no understanding of the concept.
The single rectangle shows understanding at the unistructural level, where students may have surface understanding of a single idea – for example, they can give one reason for World War 1 beginning (this is me trying not to just use Science examples!). At this point, student understanding is disconnected and limited.
At the multistuctural level (3 rectangles), several aspects of the task or question are known but their relationships to each other and the whole are missed.
Students then move onto the relational level, where their individual pieces of understanding are linked and integrated, so they have a deeper and more coherent understanding of the topic as a whole.
Finally, the last diagram is the extended abstract level, where the new understanding can be re-thought and applied to a different situation, or used in a different way.

Three ideas of how you could use it in class

Extended homework:
In ICT, Lisa has developed a booklet for the Year 9s to work on a project over several weeks. Here is the SOLO template that students have been given to help them move through the homework task to produce an impressive piece of work.

ICT solo example

Class example 1:
An example of where I have used SOLO at A-level is to begin with a quick quiz to establish current understanding of Parkinson’s Disease prior to any teaching. Depending on their success, students were directed to begin at a certain station in the room. At each area were information packs labelled with the relevant SOLO image. This was the slide I displayed on the board to show what the diagrams meant, so the students could see how their understanding was being developed.

PD solo example

I made sure that the information in the packs helped them to move forward in their understanding, without necessarily giving them the answer. For example, I used mostly images and diagrams that they had to interpret to move forward. This also ensured that students were collaborating. Students had to fill out their thoughts using the standard handout shown here:

solo handout

Class example 2:
Another way to use SOLO in class is through using hexagons:




Students record different ideas about a topic onto each hexagon.
Unistructural – single hexagon.
Multistructural – several separate hexagons.
Relational – connected hexagons (explain the cause for connecting two edges).
Extended abstract – tessellated hexagons that form a mosaic / link in unusual shapes (eg students can generalise about the points where three hexagons meet).

Where can you go to get more support?

Come and ask me, Lisa, Martin, Claire D, Mike or Chris for ideas or further explanation.
Also, have a look here to get you started http://pamhook.com/solo-taxonomy/ and on the T-drive at 2.Teaching and Learning / Teaching and Learning / BLTS / SOLO Taxonomy

Charlie Venter

Posted in Four to Grow
3 comments on “What is SOLO Taxonomy, and why might you want to try it?
  1. Martin Nash says:

    Click on the link below which is for a short video of a few examples of how Solo can be used in lessons.


  2. Lisa Finch says:

    I’m just starting out with SOLO – but it’s something that I’ve wanted to try for a while. Martin and Mike really pointed out the positive value it can have on T&L – they inspired me to experiment with it. I’m traying to adapt it for theory and practical use. Additionally, I’m setting up “Learning Boxes” where students can learn at their own pace with a set of resources and materials (differentiated at the different SOLO stages). There’ll be two Learning Boxes – the Skills Box and the Knowledge Box. Students will be able to “unpack” a box when they have successfully completed the lower level one.

  3. Chris Vizzard says:

    I have some excellent resources on how to use SOLO (currently in possession of Lisa!). I’ve found it most useful in aligning the lesson objectives with the levels to demonstrate the depth of the learning. For GCSE and A level it really does get students to see what is needed to reach the higher grades and make learning less superficial. In the resources there are structured tasks that support students in making connections and help them to reach multistructural, relational and abstract levels. I have found that the students enjoy this way of learning and that it provides them with motivation as it actually does make the learning ‘visible’ – students can see what is needed to move on and improve (feedforward is the SOLO term). SOLO stations is an excellent idea; tasks are laid out around the room and relate to different levels of learning on the SOLO scale. Students can choose what to do and once they have met the criteria can move to the next station – great for personalisation. I’d recommend http://mcintosh8.wordpress.com for more great ideas on how to use it.

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