SOLO – Structured observation of learning outcomes
Taxonomy – the science of naming, describing and classifying
The 2 words put together mean describing and classifying student learning and the outcomes
What exactly is SOLO?
The structure of observed learning outcomes taxonomy (SOLO taxonomy) is a simple yet robust tool for measuring how well a student understands a topic. It describes 5 levels of understanding, moving from surface level understanding to conceptual understanding. It is widely used for designing curriculum outcomes and assessment tasks that get progressively more difficult as students move through their education.
To be honest, for a long time, I did not use this wonderful tool as I was not sure how to use it effectively, let alone explain it to my young students!
I am sharing my experiences of using this tool to hopefully encourage and inspire other teachers also to deploy this effective tool in their classrooms. On my part, I am looking forward to developing a deeper understanding thus applying this tool more effectively in various areas of my teaching and learning.
I had recently attended a JobsAlike session on SOLO Taxonomy and that really boosted my enthusiasm to use it. The session really helped, as not only did I get to witness how other teachers actually used it, the discussions also helped each participant enhance their confidence in using this tool. The participants shared some very useful online tools for using SOLO. That’s the power of collaboration, if anyone needed further proof!
As they say, the first step in any journey is the most difficult. The good news is, once you have taken that first step and built up your confidence, the second and third steps become so much easier. Yes, you might occasionally stumble or find yourself walking in the wrong direction — but at least you’ll be moving – quote from https://john-w-hayes.medium.com/
I decided that I would apply this strategy within the coming week itself. We had just completed the concept of fractions, decimals and percentages in math. I used SOLO Taxonomy as a reflection tool for the first time.
As students already had a fair understanding of command terms, I shared a list of command terms that related to each phase of the SOLO. I observed that students were able to reflect meaningfully, rather than the usual ‘I am confident’, ‘I did not understand’.
Using SOLO Taxonomy, students were able to justify the phase they felt they were currently at –
For eg. ‘I am able to describe how a fraction and decimal are related, i am able to compute sums based on percentages – that is why I am at a multi structural level’.
It also gave them a goal to work towards and the direction to progress in their understanding.
For eg. ‘I am at the multi-structural level and I want to progress to relational level – so I need to be able to analyse, explain and predict the relationship between fractions and percentages’ etc.
Student reflection samples below –
The ease with which students took to this new tool gave me the confidence to use it again. I subsequently used the SOLO Taxonomy as a learning continuum for the ongoing unit of inquiry on simple machines – to track how student’s understanding of simple machines was progressing. As you can see from the samples below – both teachers and students can track how understanding is evolving – from listing and describing simple machines to understanding the concepts of energy, work and force, and the impact that machines have on our lives .
1 interesting idea – use the SOLO continuum as an exit ticket on completion of a class/concept
5 reasons SOLO Taxonomy is a must have tool in every teachers kit –
– SOLO has a visual progression which helps students place their understanding in well defined phases.
– SOLO helps in framing effective success criteria which motivates students to be more engaged with the tasks
– It is an effective tool for assessment, feedback and feed forward
– It helps teachers and students track how learning is moving from simple to more complex levels
– It helps students reflect meaningfully on their learning