Going Solo @joeburkmar

We welcome fellow hipster Joe Burkmar to the blogging domain. Sit back, grab a cuppa and check out his fab take on SOLO taxonomy. For more info on the author check our meet the hipsters’ page Enjoy!


Read time: 11 mins approx.

Of all the AFL strategies and techniques that I have trailed in the last 7 years, SOLO Taxonomy is the most impressive. I love it for lots of reasons, but most importantly, because the students enjoy the simple structure and become incredibly engaged in their learning.  

So, in this blog, I will try to explain what SOLO is (briefly). However, I urge you to give this a go as soon as possible and see the impact for yourself.

SOLO stands for Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes, but really this means you build the lesson around your student’s stages of learning. Similar to Blooms, but a lot better (in my opinion!) SOLO involves the students either assessing themselves or being assessed by you and then being placed at one of the following stages of learning:


Stage 1 is Pre structural

Essentially this means that the students know nothing, they are in a state of no knowledge

Stage 2 is Uni-Structural

Students know one or two facts or pieces of information about the topic area

Stage 3 is Multi Structural

Students have a bank of facts or pieces of information

Stage 4 is Relational

Students know the bank of information, can link facts together and know how they influence each other

Stage 5 is Extended Abstract

Students know the bank of information, can link facts together, know how they influence each other and apply it to another topic or use this information to create something new

In a nutshell, if a student begins at Stage 1 Pre structural, you teach them one thing, then a few more, get them to relate it together then apply it to another situation. Simple right??!! Well, not quite. It’s more than likely that you will have students at different stages of learning. Not a problem…

How SOLO taxonomy works…

Plan the lesson by creating differentiated tasks to suit the different stages of learning. Each task should take a student from one stage of learning to the next.

In the lesson, make the blue signs visible, either on the wall or whiteboard. Ask the students to write their name on a post-it note and stick it to the appropriate stage.

Outcome 1

They all know nothing so are Pre structural. The students all complete the pre-structural task. Once completed they move onto the Uni structural task and so on.

Outcome 2

Most are Pre structural but a few are Uni Structural – you check that the students who are declaring they are Uni structural have relevant and correct information. If they do, then they share this information with someone else until all students are Uni Structural. Once completed they all move onto the Multi structural task and so on.  

Outcome 3

A mixture of Pre, Uni and Multi structural – You check that the Multi structural students have relevant knowledge through questioning, they then share with Uni and Pre Structural students getting everyone a bank of knowledge. Or you could provide each group of students with their relevant tasks, therefore having three tasks running simultaneously.

Outcome 4

One ‘know it all’ student who thinks they are already at Stage 4 Relational. Whilst other students are completing their tasks, I would question this student to check their knowledge and understanding. If they are right, and they are at the relational stage, provide them with the appropriate Stage 4 task. If not, provide them with the appropriate task for the stage you have assessed at. 

Throughout the lesson, you can ask students to reassess themselves against the stages of learning. They can move their post-it note, which allows you to see who is progressing and the rate of progress occurring.

Hopefully, by now, you are considering using SOLO taxonomy in your practice. But just in case you’re not quite convinced…

A few more reasons it’s so(lo) brilliant…

Reason 1You know what students know, so you don’t waste time

Sounds simple? But, how often do we teach students the information they already know? With SOLO you know what they know, they complete a task that is suited to their level of learning and will stretch them

Reason 2It is so easy to differentiate

The approach essentially is differentiation. It acknowledges that your students will probably be at different stages of learning and learn at different rates. You plan differentiated tasks based on the stage of learning not for individual students.

Reason 3You know which stage every student is at throughout the lesson

As previously outlined, you have a visual representation of progress which will be changing throughout. You can see which students are struggling and who is progressing the slowest. You can then intervene.

Reason 4The language used is student friendly

The students know that they need to learn one thing, then a few more, then relate them and apply them to another. Without doing this, they cannot move to the next stage. Imagine an OFSTED inspector asking a student how they progress in the lesson and the student saying, ‘Well I currently know 4 things so I need to be able to relate them together, then I can apply it to another situation’, BOOM!

Reason 5Peer teaching

If a student is progressing quickly, or you have one student who is an expert, then give them a task to get 3 students from Uni Structural to Multi structural in 5 mins.

Reason 6Culture of independence

The students take control of their own learning, and it creates a thirst for learning. I once saw a wonderful Psychology Teacher, Alex, make the extended Abstract task, a secret golden question in a golden glittered A4 envelope. Alex emphasised the importance of finding out what the task was. Her sixth formers were so engaged by this!

That’s it! SOLO taxonomy in a nutshell. I do hope I have done it justice, and you are enthused by SOLO. I have created a google drive folder Copy of Slides here:

The slides come with multiple tasks that use the SOLO framework, a lot of which can also be found at pamhook.com, please feel free to have a go and tweet me about your experiences of SOLO @joeburkmar


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