Advantages of SOLO Taxonomy

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The most powerful model for understanding these three levels (surface deep conceptual)and integrating them into learning intentions and success criteria is the SOLO (structure of observed learning outcome) model developed by Biggs and Collis (1982). Hattie 2012 p54

SOLO has many advantages over Bloom's Taxonomy

1. SOLO is research/evidence based on structure of student learning outcomes (versus Bloom's developed from proposal by a committee of educators)

2. SOLO is a theory about teaching and learning (versus Bloom's theory about knowledge)

3. SOLO is based on levels of ascending cognitive complexity (versus Bloom's questionable hierarchical link between levels) This is powerful when giving feedback, feed-forward and feed-up. Enables proximate - hierarchical - explicit feedback For example - Educators and students find it easy to determine what they are doing - the SOLO complexity of the task - Educators and students find it easy to reliably and validly determine how well it is going - SOLO differentiated success criteria - Educators and students find it easy to reliably and validly determine their next steps - plus one SOLO level

4. SOLO has high inter-rater reliability - educators and students tend to agree when moderating student work against SOLO levels - (versus Bloom's with low inter-rater reliability)

5. SOLO levels can be communicated through text, hand signs and symbols - across large and noisy learning environments (versus Bloom's where levels communicated by text alone)

6. SOLO allows task and outcome to be at different levels (versus Bloom's not designed/cannot be used to level outcomes against each task)

7. SOLO has clarity of verb use for each level. Clarity of verb level is a powerful advantage when educators are planning and writing learning intentions using OBE and constructive alignment - and when students are doing their own inquiry - see below. (versus Bloom's confused verb use across levels.)

8. SOLO can be used to look at levels of declarative knowledge and functioning knowledge including metacognitive reflection. Kinds of knowledge

9. SOLO is brutally and blissfully simple and can be used by students as young as five to look at their own learning outcome and the learning outcomes of their peers

Refer to this extract from Hook, P. (2012). Teaching and Learning: tales from the ampersand. In L. Rowan and C. Bigum (Eds),Future Proofing Education: Transformative approaches to new technologies and student diversity in futures oriented classrooms. Springer. p. 123 and 124

SOLO has advantages over Bloom's cognitive taxonomy (Bloom 1965), the traditional taxonomy for differentiating learning experiences. SOLO is a theory about teaching and learning based on research on student learning rather than a theory about knowledge based on the judgements of educational administrators (Biggs and Tang 2007, p. 80). A second advantage lies in SOLO's facility in enabling student and educator to understand and evaluate learning experiences and learning outcomes in terms of ascending cognitive complexity (Hattie and Brown 2004). Thus if SOLO is used to design the learning experience and its assessment, then it is possible to design the follow-up learning experience at an appropriate level of cognitive complexity in order to challenge yet not overwhelm. SOLO can be used to design a learning experience or ask a question at one level of cognitive complexity whilst at the same time determining different levels of complexity in the student learning outcomes or answers within that level. For example it is possible to design a learning experience using compare and contrast,a declarative knowledge verb at the relational level and at the same time assess a student's learning outcome or answer against success criteria written a unistructural, multistructural, relational or extended abstract levels. Finally and significantly, when working with teachers, SOLO provides greater clarity when writing ILOs. For example an intended learning outcome from the "understanding" level of Bloom's revised taxonomy includes verbs such as classify, compare, exemplify, conclude, demonstrate, discuss, explain, identify, illustrate, interpret, paraphrase, predict, and report (Anderson and Krathwohl 2001). SOLO differentiates these verbs from one level in Bloom into three different levels of learning outcome, allowing a more effective targeting of ILOs and a greater clarity when helping students learning to learn (Biggs and Tang 2007, p. 80).

Refer to this extract from Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2007). Teaching for Quality Learning at University. What the student does (3rd ed). Berkshire: Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press.p. 80

The original Bloom taxonomy was not based on research on student learning itself, as is SOLO, but on the judgements of educational administrators, neither is it hierarchical, as is SOLO. Anderson and Krathwohl's revision is an improvement, but even then under "understanding" you can find "identify", "discuss", and "explain", which represent three different SOLO levels. This is exactly why "understand" and "comprehend" are not helpful terms to use in writing ILOs. However, the Bloom taxonomy is a useful adjunct for suggesting a wider list of verbs, especially for a range of learning activities.

Refer to this extract from Hook, P. (2006) A Thinking Curriculum NZCER p100

The SOLO Taxonomy (Biggs & Collis, 1982), provides a measure of cognitive learning outcomes or understanding of thinking, that, in my experience, teachers have felt comfortable adopting. This hierarchical model is comprehensive, supported by objective criteria, and used across different subjects and on differing types of assignments (Hattie & Purdie, 1998). Teachers enjoy the way that SOLO represents student learning of quite diverse material in stages of ascending structural complexity, and that these stages display a similar sequence across tasks. Furthermore, surface or deep levels of understanding can be planned for and assessed by coding a student’s thinking performance against unistructural, multistructural, relational, or extended abstract categories, as shown in Table 1. Using visual symbols to represent levels of understanding in SOLO means that coding for complexity of thinking can be undertaken by both student and teacher, allowing “where should we go next?” decisions and thinking interventions to more accurately target student learning needs.

Refer to these notes from Professor John Hattie - Course 224: Assessment in the Classroom (The University of Auckland)on "Creating best tests using Bloom's taxonomy or the SOLO classification.

Critique of Bloom's taxonomy

The taxonomy was published in 1956, has sold over a million copies, has been translated into several languages, and has been cited thousands of times. The Bloom taxonomy has been extensively used in teacher education to suggest learning and teaching strategies, has formed the basis of many tests developed by teachers (at least while they were in teacher training), and has been used to evaluate many tests. It is thus remarkable that the taxonomy has been subject to so little research or evaluation. Most of the evaluations are philosophical treatises noting, among other criticisms, that there is no evidence for the invariance of these stages, or claiming that the taxonomy is not based on any known theory of learning or teaching.

Knowledge. Who painted Guernica? Comprehension. Describe the subject matter of Guernica. Application. Relate the theme of Guernica to a current event. Analysis. What compositional principles did Picasso use in Guernica? Synthesis. Imagine yourself as one of the figures in Guernica and describe your life history? Evaluation. What is your opinion of Picasso’s Guernica?

When using Bloom’s taxonomy, the supposition is that the question leads to the particular type of Bloom response. There is no necessary relationship, however, as a student may respond with a very deep response to the supposedly lower order question: 'Describe the subject matter of Guernica?' Similarly, a student may provide a very surface response to 'What is your opinion of Picasso’s Guernica'? When using the SOLO taxonomy, either the questions would be written in a different manner, or the test scorer would concentrate on classifying the responses only. An example of re-writing to maximise the correspondence between the question asked and the answer expected is:

Unistructural. Who painted Guernica? Multistructural. Outline at least two compositional principles that Picasso used in Guernica. Relational. Relate the theme of Guernica to a current event. Extended Abstract. What do you consider Picasso was saying via his painting of Guernica?

Advantages of the SOLO model over the Blooms Model for student learning

Also read

Questioning Bloom's and Gagne's significance

- Verb alignment

Problems with Bloom's Taxonomy

- Invalid, unreliable, impractical

SOLO References:

Cognitive processes in asTTle: The SOLO taxonomy. asTTle Technical Report #43, University of Auckland/Ministry of Education.

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