What is the SOLO Taxonomy?

SOLO stands for Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes.

It was developed in 1982 by John B. Biggs and Kelvin Collis to outline a hierarchy with 5 levels that attempts to assess the students learning based on the quality of their work.

With SOLO taxonomy, teachers and students are able to:

  • thoughtfully design learning intentions and learning experiences
  • identify and use effective strategies and success criteria
  • provide feedback and feed forward assessment of learning outcomes
  • reflect meaningfully on what to do next

Here’s a simplified version of SOLO taxonomy:

Here’s the technical version:

Let’s break it down to understand what each level means:

  • Prestructural – Lower Order
    • Students acquires unconnected information.
    • The information is not organised amd makes no sense.
    • Students respond with “I don’t know, I’m parroting what I am supposed to say”, or write an irrelevant comment.
  • UniStructural
    • Simple connections are created between ideas.
    • Students may be able to give a vague or general answer, know some terms relevant to the topic, not able to explain the terms in depth when pushed.
    • Keywords: Identify, name.
  • MultiStructural
    • More connections are being created, but lacks the meta-connections between them.
    • Students’ knowledge remain at the level of remembering, memorizing and parroting what they have learned.
    • Students have surface level understanding. They are like builders without their tools – all the pieces are there, but they don’t know how they connect.
    • They cannot use a concept in new and innovative ways because they simply don’t understand it well enough.
    • Keywords: Combine, describe, list, order
  • Relational
    • Student sees the significance of the various pieces of information and can develop relationships between them.
    • Students can identify patterns, explain how parts of a topic link together, compare and contrast different elements of a topic, view a topic from several perspectives.
    • Keywords: Analyse, apply, argue, debate, compare, contrast, check, judge, critique, explain, moderate, relate, integrate, justify
  • Extended Abstract – Higher order
    • Students can make connections beyond the problem, Can generalise and apply to new situation, Can transfer learning and make links between subject areas.
    • Students may learn something in the classroom and apply it in their lives outside in a different context.
    • Students may also be able to develop theoretical ideas and use them to make assumptions about future events.
    • Keyword: Reflect, evaluate, create, hypothesis, design, invent, conceptualise, theorise, project, abstract

Here’s an example of how the SOLO taxonomy can be applied to a learning objective “Who is the best footballer, Ronaldo or Bale?”:

Like Bloom’s taxonomy, verbs are used to identify what actions take place at each level.

Here are samples to illustrate how the SOLO taxonomy can be used to create a differentiated success criteria for functioning knowledge outcomes:

Source – http://pamhook.com/solo-apps/functioning-knowledge-rubric-generator/
Source – http://pamhook.com/solo-apps/functioning-knowledge-rubric-generator/

Examples of primary school students using SOLO taxonomy:


Hook, P. (2021). Hooked on Thinking. Taken from http://pamhook.com/solo-taxonomy/

Hook, P.(2021). Hooked SOLO functioning knowledge rubric generater. Taken from http://pamhook.com/solo-apps/functioning-knowledge-rubric-generator/

Biggs, J. (2021). SOLO Taxonomy. Taken from http://www.johnbiggs.com.au/solo_taxonomy.html

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