SOLO Taxonomy and E-Learning: helping students to improve their thinking and understanding


This year we have introduced SOLO Taxonomy across the school in an effort to get our students to change the way that  they think and to better understand the way they learn. More information about SOLO can be found here.

I did some analysis of how my Year 10 (New Zealand 14/15 year old) Social Studies class in Term 1 (February-April) understood SOLO Taxonomy and surveyed them as to how they understood it to help improve their learning. The results were quite impressive.

Among other class references and tasks, I introduced SOLO into three specific larger tasks across the same Causes of WWII topic, two of which have already posted about:

The FIRST task was a Group Collaboration Inquiry Research Task presented in Lucidchart

The SECOND task was an Individual Research Assignment Task presented in Lucidpress

The THIRD was an End of Topic Moodle Forum Debate using students rating each others entries as described below:

Moodle LMS Forum Topic Debate using Student Ratings

First of all I prefer using Moodle Forum discussions as opposed to Facebook, Twitter or other formats of student topic discussion & debate. The reason for this is that, in my experience, students feel safe in this environment and it is clearly under the management of the school where we can set our own guidelines. That is, the Facebook “standards”, or in many cases lack of, can be left at the door and the students clearly understand this. Secondly, Moodle has many inbuilt tools which can be used in the forums which I will now explain.

I set up a some earlier forum discussions, leading up to the final forum, getting students to discuss/debate questions such as:

1. Who was to blame for World War One? (This was a good question because the students had already researched and built a diagram with lucidchart)
2. Was the Treaty of Versailles Fair or Unfair on Germany?

By the time of the 3rd Question, upon which the students had gained a better understanding of SOLO Taxonomy in the class/school, I added the TEACHER RATING ONLY function into the forum using SOLO Grading and enabled it so that all students could view what I graded each of them. I challenged the students to improve the quality of their arguments. Here is the question that I rated their arguments on:

3. Should/Could Hitler have been stopped at the Rhineland?

Students who received Multistructural were motivated to improve to a Relational argument. Those that received Relational were motivated to write an Extended Abstract argument. Everyone in the class were out to avoid a Unistructural argument. What I clearly observed, as compared to previous discussion entries, was a clear motivation by the students to research and write a better argument when debating online with each other. They were also looking at the merits of each others arguments more closely and better challenging each other

The next stage was to raise the stakes in the the final debate – Student Ratings:

I added the functionality for the students to be able to rate each others. I explained that it was a real privilege and took them through their understanding of what the SOLO ratings meant. To help, I placed the scale below in the debate instructions alongside the forum debate question (q.4 below). They were instructed to rate at least 5 other entries before they made their 2nd entry and they had to rate an entry before they replied to it. They were clearly instructed to rate the quality of the argument, whether or not they agreed or disagreed with it:

4. A simple question: “What caused World War Two?”

cause ww2

The students really responded and took the debate seriously. I have never seen such a high quality of analysis, debate and level of understanding from a Year 10 class of what essentially is or has been a Year 11 topic. Using SOLO Taxonomy, from my point of view, really did raise the level of motivation and understanding to new levels. BUT, enough of what I think, let us hear from the students…

Results of class student survey at the end of the topic using Google Forms

The students were asked to complete an extensive (up to 20 minute) survey on there understanding of SOLO Taxonomy.

One of a range of questions asked them to rate how useful SOLO Taxonomy as a tool had been for each of the three tasks mentioned at the beginning of this post. ie the group charting task, individual research task and the forum rating task. Here is a summary of their answers:

Solo Rating Usefulness Graph

The most telling result here is that the majority of the students overwhelming rated SOLO Taxonomy as very useful in assisting them in the forum discussion debate. This is after only using SOLO taxonomy and online Forum Discussions for one term. That SOLO can be extended across to in class debates, and other in class or online activities is very powerful not to mention that it is a cross-curricular tool for teaching and learning.

Here is a link to my full report on the findings from my Teacher Inquiry into the impact of SOLO Taxonomy using a range of Blended E-Learning tasks in Year 10 Social Studies.

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