Hello and welcome to the introduction to SOLO. SOLO stands for Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome.
The SOLO taxonomy is an evidence based, cognitive framework that provides a categorisation system encompassing the increasing levels of sophistication of student understanding in science, the cyclical nature of learning concepts in science and the hierarchical nature of cognitive development.
The original SOLO model was developed by Biggs and Collis in the early 1980s. The model contends that we move through a series of modes of learning from sensori-motor through to iconic and concrete symbolic mode and then perhaps through formal and post-formal modes. The SOLO taxonomy suggests that each time we learn something new or novel, we begin, in the sensori-motor mode. For example, when handed a new device, the first thing we learn is the weight and feel of it, if only for a milli-second. We then move to iconic and we learn the components of the device, the on-off switch, the sound controls, the keyboard, the screen. Once we have turned the device on, we move to the concrete symbolic. We learn how to open the programs we use. We engage with the operating system and set up our device preferences and begin using the programs on the devices. For most of us, we will remain in the concrete symbolic. However, some of us will move into formal learning if we learn to use html coding to develop a website, use visual basic or develop macros in excel or create our own app to be used on a phone or laptop. A smaller group will perhaps move into the post-formal learning and develop a new operating system, an innovative device or develop a new way of storing and retrieving data.
Student learning and our teaching in Stages 3, 4 and 5 is mostly focused in the concrete symbolic mode of SOLO. Evidence suggest that there are a number of cognitive levels within each mode. Students who can retrieve one idea about the concept are operating at a uni-structural level. Students who are able to retrieve two or more ideas about the concept or are operating at a multi-structural level and students who are able to connect ideas and explain the relationship between them are operating at a relational level.
In 2006, John Pegg, expanded on the SOLO model. Student responses were shown to fall out into two cycles. Students in Cycle 1 are retrieving information below the stage level and they are holding onto their common-sense observations or their previous stage learning about the concept. Students in Cycle 2 are retrieving information at the stage level they have been taught and recall information at this stage appropriate level.
So student responses can be categorised as Cycle 1 unistructural (1 idea below stage), cycle 1 multistructural (2 or more ideas below stage) and cycle 1 relational (explaining the relation between below stage ideas OR Cycle 2 unistructural (1 at stage idea) cycle 2 multistructural (2 or more at stage ideas) and cycle 2 relational (explaining the relationship between at stage ideas).
The VALID extended response questions are often presented in an unfamiliar or unusual context. The questions are asked in several parts. This is to provide students with a scaffold to help them retrieve information and write a response.
Students will respond using the context of the question combined with their knowledge understanding and skills of the concepts addressed.
The student response is considered holistically and students are awarded the highest level of understanding they demonstrate anywhere within the questions.
Each marking manual provides teachers with an explanation of each level of the SOLO taxonomy as a simple rubric and more detailed A3 rubric which provides examples of each level in ‘teacher-speak’ and ‘student speak’. The manual then provides a number of examples of student responses at each level. A number code is then applied for each level. The number is not like the marks awarded for criterion based marking rubrics as it represents a demonstrated level of understanding.
When marking using a SOLO rubric teachers are asked to read the whole response and first decide whether the answer is cycle 1 (below stage) or cycle 2 (at stage).
The rubric should then be used to identify the level that the student has demonstrate in this cycle.
Teacher are asked to make an on-balance judgement based on the highest level of understanding demonstrated by the student.