Metaphors for SOLO Taxonomy

by Pam Hook on April 13, 2015

in SOLO Taxonomy, Uncategorized

… or SOLO Taxonomy, the chance of snake charmers and the hue gourd.

Growing or growth is a common metaphorical representation for ako – learning .

However when thinking about a suitable metaphor for SOLO Taxonomy, growth metaphors (bigger or more numerous) do not work. The sticking point is always in the jump from multistructural to relational to extended abstract. The changes from prestructural to unistructural to multistructural are simply quantitative – so up to this point any growth metaphor works well – but the change to relational and extended abstract represents a qualitative difference – so more of the same growth type metaphors do not work.

I have always felt that at extended abstract you need to have a metaphor that is open to “a chance of snake charmers” – the possibility of snake charmers – to new breathtaking new ways of looking.

Using puāwaitanga – the bloom – as a SOLO metaphor works at some levels – by involving quantitative change change in the growth of the plant then taking this thinking someplace new in the bloom or flower. But extended abstract is not necessarily captured by a maturing flower – to my mind at least some random act of Ikebana does not mirror the possibility of snake charming – I felt that the flowering metaphor needs to be taken further – to the fruit and then to seed dispersal – starting new growth in other places – to new uses for the fruit. Using the growth of the hue – the gourd was an option having metaphorical potential with respect to SOLO Taxonomy.

I like to represent pre-structural understanding as whakarau – the things done to a hue gourd seed by people to cause germination – a pre-learning pre-germination stage – it fits well with a sense of I need help to start to understand.

The shift to unistructural (and multistructural levels) through quantitative measures – more ideas or more understanding works through the germination of dicotyledonous hue gourd seeds – pantangaroa – or seed leaves created from the two cotyledons create the first leaf pair. The shift from producing seed leaves to producing many leaves – rautara and even putauhinu is simply quantitative and as such fits well with multistructural understanding.

Unsurprisingly the hue gourd plant metaphor works well for the unistructural and multistructural learning outcomes which are based on quantitative improvements. The real test is how it copes when when we hit relational and extended abstract representations. Developing more of the same does not fit with relational understanding – where the connection and integration of ideas occurs.

Relational thinking is a critical step for deeper understanding in SOLO – I needed to find a better way of explaining this to students. I started looking for ways in which plant growth can represent connection – qualitative changes in cells not just cell division resulting in more of the same.

Plant growth involves growth in cell number and growth in cell size – it differs from animal cell growth which is related to growth in cell numbers – but that thinking does not help us much here. Plant growth also occurs in specialised areas of the plant – the apical meristems – This is where I suspect we might get some leverage here in terms of the hue metaphor – and representing relational level outcomes.

Unspecialised cells in the hue gourd meristems are differentiated so that they can function in specialised ways – e.g as water transport cells or support cells – The cells change to fulfil specific functions – they are specialised in purposeful ways – ways we can explain. Given that explanation is one way of representing learning outcomes at a relational level as is strategic or purposeful action – perhaps growth at the apical meristem – pūwewehe tautihi of a hue gourd plant can be used to represent relational learning outcomes.

Extended abstract understanding is all about looking at the ideas you have connected and then seeing them in a new way – this could be by expanding on all sides – throwing out new shoots as a gourd – tautorotoro but I suspect we miss an opportunity here – especially in terms of the way the hue gourd has importance for Maori culture and well being – What makes using the hue gourd significant/appropriate in this instance is that the gourd has so many different uses for Maori – food containers (preserved birds or kiore (rat)/ medicine containers/ lamps/ floats/ musical instruments/ tops/ food/ even works of art (check out the gourd art of Theo Schoon). It seems that the Hue gourd itself makes a good representation of the extended abstract outcomes – of standing back and looking at things in a new way. And it seems from the Getty image above the hue gourd metaphor even entertains the possibility of snake charming – if snakes had ever arrived in the wobbly isles.

I would think that representing extended abstract as the creation of a hue gourd with all its future imaginings and possible uses something new from what has gone before would be more powerful metaphorically for students than a metaphor that suggests learning is simply expanding or throwing out shoots.

So what does that look like:

PrestructuralUnistructuralMultistructuralRelational Extended abstract
Learning outcomes show unconnected information, no organisation. Learning outcomes show simple connections but importance not noted. Learning outcomes show connections are made, but significance to overall meaning is missing. Learning outcomes show full connections made, and synthesis of parts to the overall meaning Learning outcomes go beyond subject and makes links to other concepts - generalises
whakaraupantangaroarautarapūwewehe tautihihue
To cause to germinateGrowth of the cotyledonary leaves – first leaves Growth of third leaf A place of specialised growth – strategic purposeful growth in apical meristems of the gourd plant Growth of the gourd – new life in as much as the gourd contains the seeds – also the fact that the gourd can be imagined as useful to Maori in many different contexts

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