A SOLO Experiment.

For the last few weeks I have been reading/hearing about SOLO Taxonomy and flirting with the ideas of introducing it to my classes but have had no idea how to do so. Having attended a CPD session in which there was a lot of discussion about learning intentions, and then seeing a prior post on Pedagoo about learning intentions I decided now was the time to revisit this notion of using SOLO with my pupils and using learning intentions as a way to do this.

As an NQT I have been brought through my teacher training habitually displaying the learning intentions at the start of every lesson for pupils but have always had this nagging feeling of
a) giving the game away before the exciting discovery has begun
b) the pupils not actually engaging with them at all
so I have spent this weekend pondering over the notion of creating learning intentions that pupils can actually use and engage with.

Following the post by Callum Mitchell I decided to use the five stages of SOLO to create myself some learning intentions which took the pupils through the 5 stages.

Here is an example of a set I created for a lesson I am teaching tomorrow about the stomata and leaf structure:

As an NQT I am still for the most part trying to plan my lessons in full so the above learning intentions came from my NEW lesson planning template that I created in order for me to think about various aspects of my teaching and new things I’ve picked up through CPD during the planning level… anyways… that’s another story.

Those learning intentions are draft two. Draft one was giving the learning content away too much and as I want the pupils to engage with these learning intentions without being able to use them to superficially answer the questions I didn’t want to do that –  I want to encourage them to evaluate where they are themselves and work out how they can move “through the levels” on their own.

My intention for the start of tomorrows lesson is to ask the pupils how much of the course so far they feel is about “recalling knowledge” and use their answers which I am sure will be a lot to explain to them that although recalling knowledge is helpful for the exam it is only “level two” and it is much better to recall things which we fully understand and briefly touch on explaining the five stages of SOLO. I am then going to give the pupils my student version of the learning intentions for this lesson which contains boxes for them to tick which stage they feel they are at. I will then give them a few minutes to come up with questions they need to answer in order to move through the stages — questions which will be answered during the lesson or by them for homework.

As we go through the lesson I will refer the pupils back to these and ask them to re-evaluate where they are.

I am hoping that by the end of the lesson most pupils will be comfortably in level 3/4 and a few in level 5 but I will leave it to them to come up with the steps they need to undertake (as homework) to move from their current level to the next or final level.

My aim is to introduce the pupils to the prospect of deeper learning and understanding and getting them to evaluate where they are in the scale and thus give themselves some responsibility for their  learning. The experiment begins tomorrow with my S4 class so I will let you know how it goes!

Wish me luck.



6 thoughts on “A SOLO Experiment.

  1. J Wilson

    Just a little adjustment – stomata don’t lead to wilting. Transpiration leads to wilting and the presence of stomata could make this worse or better depending on whether they are open or closed….

    Personally I am glad I was a teacher before all this learning intention thing. I still do not see why a child or even an adult learner would ever think that they would necessarily want to name the layers of a leaf. From just looking at it you would not necessarily know it had layers. However a learner might well say along the lines of “I would like to find out how a plant works” or “how a plant survives/feeds itself”….

    You could prepare three leaves in advance or hopefully you will get the learners to do the experiment as it is a good one.

    Good luck !

  2. Jordan-Leigh Cunningham

    Will change it to “Can explain the role of stomata in wilting” — thanks for the heads up!

    I think that here the point in showing pupils the learning intentions (and particularly in this way) is to show them that simply learning what the names of the layers (which I know I was guilty of during standard grade) isn’t enough for them to make the link between the structure of the leaf and how it aids photosynthesis which is what this chunk of learning is all about.

    By looking at the learning intentions in this way I feel that it has helped me to be clear about what I am teaching them and how I want to teach it to them — in this extended abstract way in which they understand it well enough to make hypotheses about the experiment and to be able to explain the results which often I feel looking at the actual arrangements doesn’t help me to do.

    I am hoping that by drawing the pupils to these intentions (in this way) it will prompt them to want to move their learning forward and take it from the rote surface learning (at level 2 and 3) to deeper learning (at level 4 and 5) and to get them to think about their learning and how they are going to move it further. Hopefully they will improve their ability to self-motivate by knowing where they are expected to go, where they are now and by thinking about how they can get there.

    I like your point about the questions and it is something I am now chewing over and could even lead me to change my learning intentions and subsequently lesson for a third time.
    The intentions could easily change to
    “I don’t know what photosynthesis is” “I know what photosynthesis is” “I can explain what structures of a plant are involved in photosynthesis” “I can describe the roles of plant structures in photosynthesis” and “I can create and experiment to show the effects of plant structures in photosynthesis”


  3. Callum Mitchell

    Best of luck! Am at the early stages of this too.

    I tend to keep it simple for Uni and Multi: “Say 1 thing about….” ; “Say more than 1 thing about….” Don’t usually bring “explain” in until Rel.

    One thing I’d say is just stick at it even if some lessons you don’t have time to put SOLO up, forget or just don’t want to. One thing I’m not great at is remembering to ask students where they think they are on SOLO, but some of them are definitely keeping an eye on them and trying to get down to Ex Ab. I’m just going to keep writing them up and then take stock a few months down the line.

  4. Pingback: A SOLO Experiment | Dáithí's Blog

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