Teaching and Learning Bulletin

Issue 6

Welcome back to the summer term! This term our teaching and learning focus will be on: planning effective learning sequences; using technology to develop our practice; and making marking more meaningful (look at that alliteration!). Today's bulletin introduces SOLO taxonomy as a means of planning activities to meet different learning outcomes.

What is SOLO?

SOLO taxonomy stands for the Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes and is the teaching model proposed by educational psychologist John Biggs. The concept is based on how students gain an increasingly complex understanding of a topic.


  • Stage 1 of understanding is pre-structural. This is when students have very little knowledge about a topic and see things in a simple way.
  • Stage 2 of understanding is uni-structural. This is when students understand one aspect of a topic but cannot go beyond making one point.
  • Stage 3 of understanding is multi-structural. This is when students know several things about a topic but they can't link these ideas together. They are treated separately.
  • Stage 4 of understanding is relational. This is when students can take all of the different ideas and start making connections between them. They can see how these ideas work as a whole.
  • Stage 5 of understanding is extended abstract. This is when students are able to take what they have learnt from one topic and apply this new knolwedge in different contexts to create further new meanings. This is what we would describe as students having a conceptual understanding of a topic.

Here's a video for the visual learners out there!

SOLO taxonomy explained using Lego

How do you use SOLO?

SOLO taxonomy is used by teachers to plan learning sequences. It is not expected that students would progress through all of the 5 stages in one lesson! To achieve extended abstract, it may take several lessons, depending on the complexity of the topic.


Teachers would begin by posing a key learning question for the learning sequence. Students would then think about their initial response to the question. Based on this, students would decide where they needed to position themselves on the SOLO taxonomy board. If they know nothing, they'd be at stage 1. If they had one idea, they'd be at stage 2 or if they had several unrelated ideas, they'd be at stage 3.


Teachers plan a range of activities for the stages 2-5 to help students progress their thinking and acquisition of knowledge.

What is a SOLO hotmap?

Pam Cook, an education writer and consultant, has developed different types of maps to help students visualise their thinking. Below are maps that can be used with students for different stages of the SOLO taxonomy.

Where can I get more information?

If you are interested in finding out how teachers plan lesson sequences using SOLO, you should definitely follow @totallywired 77, @davidfawcett27, @lisajaneashes, @learningspy and @deadshelley on Twitter.


Below are links to their blogs:


http://taitcoles.wordpress.com/ (Tait Coles)


http://reflectionsofmyteaching.blogspot.co.uk/ (David Fawcett)


http://lisajaneashes.edublogs.org/ (Lisa Jane Ashes)


http://learningspy.co.uk/ (David Didau)


http://deadshelley.edublogs.org/ (Jamie Warner-Lynn)