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SOLO taxonomy

The SOLO taxonomy stands for: Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes It was developed by Biggs and Collis (1982), and is well described in Biggs (1999) It describes level of increasing complexity in a student's understanding of a subject, through five stages, and it is claimed to be applicable to any subject area. Not all students get through all five stages, of course, and indeed not all teaching (and even less "training" is designed to take them all the way). There are fairly clear links not only with Slj on conceptions of learning, but also, in the emphasis on making connections and contextualising, with Bateson's levels of learning, and even with Bloom's taxonomy in the cognitive domain. Like my pyramidal representation of Bloom, the assumption is that each level embraces previous levels, but adds something more:

1 Pre-structural: here students are simply acquiring bits of unconnected information, which have no organisation and make no sense.

2 Unistructural: simple and obvious connections are made, but their significance is not grasped.

3 Multistructural: a number of connections may be made, but the meta-connections between them are missed, as is their significance for the whole.

4 Relational level: the student is now able to appreciate the significance of the parts in relation to the whole.

5 At the extended abstract level, the student is making connections not only within the given subject area, but also beyond it, able to generalise and transfer the principles and ideas underlying the specific instance.

Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome (SOLO)


The Structure of the Observed Learning Outcomes (SOLO) taxonomy offers a way of describing the growing complexity of a learners activity. It is based on the work of John Biggs. It can be used in two ways. 1. 2. To set learning objectives appropriate to where a student should be at a particular stage of their program. To assess the learning outcomes attained by each student.

When writing your course objectives ensure that the verbs you use correspond with the level of cognitive engagement appropriate for your students. The SOLO taxonomy lists levels of understanding and the indicative verbs associated with each level. Level of Understanding: Pre-structural No understanding demonstrated and approach involves acquiring disconnected bits of information. Student misses the point. Level of Understanding: Uni-structural Student shows concrete, reductive understanding of the topic. Simple and obvious connections are made but broader significance is not understood. Indicative verbs: identify, memorise, do simple procedure Level of Understanding: Multi-structural Student can understand several components but the understanding of each remains discreet. A number of connections are made but the significance of the whole is not determined. Ideas and concepts around an issue are disorganised and aren't related together Indicative verbs: enumerate, classify, describe, list, combine, do algorithms Level of Understanding: Relational Student can indicate connection between facts and theory, action and purpose. Shows understanding of several components which are integrated conceptually showing understanding of how the parts contribute to the whole. Can apply the concept to familiar problems or work situations. Indicative verbs: compare/contrast, explain causes, integrate, analyse, relate, apply Level of Understanding: Extended Abstract Student conceptualises at a level extending beyond what has been dealt with in the actual teaching. Understanding is transferable and generalisable to different areas. Indicative verbs: theorise, generalise, hypothesise, reflect, generate