Objectives Taxonomies, part 2 of 4: SOLO Taxonomy

In the world of learning, a taxonomy is a framework that provides guidelines on how to plan, organize, and assess/evaluate learning experiences so they have the best educational effect. SOLO Taxonomy is not the only one, oh no! There are other taxonomies as well (Bloom’s Taxonomy, Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning, and Six Facets of Understanding; all links to posts on this blog), but SOLO Taxonomy is the only one that engages learners in the planning!

Developed by a Tasmanian educational psychologists John Briggs and Kevin Collis in 1982 as an alternative approach to Bloom’s Taxonomy (cognitive domain), SOLO stands for Structure of the Observed Learning Outcomes and focuses on analyzing the results of learning. This framework focuses on the outcomes of work and enables the assessment of students’ work, in terms of quality and not in terms of how many answers they got correct.

In other words, SOLO illustrates the qualitative differences between student responses by describing the levels of understanding, and classifies outcomes in terms of their complexity. This allows the analysis of the students’ level of comprehension of a given task. The taxonomy is divided into five levels, and there is a pictogram linked with each level:



+ Prestructural level represents the „I don’t know anything” stage when the learner doesn’t really have any knowledge of the subject or any understanding of the topics. At this level, the topic is inappropriately attacked, and the learner has missed the point or needs help to start with the topic.

+ Unistructural level represents the „I know very little, but something” stage when learners have limited knowledge of the topic, they may know one or two isolated facts and understand simple ideas. Only one aspect of the topic is picked up, and learner understanding is disconnected and limited.

+ Multistructural level represents the level when several facts are known and some understanding of few concepts of the topic is available in the learners’ minds. But, at this level, they are still unable to link those facts together and form opinions.

+ Relational level represents the „I can see the links between the information I have about this topic” when learners connect the dots and move towards the higher-level thinking. They can explain several ideas around the topic, link them together and express the deeper and more coherent understanding of the whole.

+ Extended abstract level represents a new level of understanding when the ideas are re-thought to a new conceptual level, looked at in a new way. Learners are able to use the topics to hold a conversation, form a prediction, generalize, reflect on it, or create a new topic.



As with any learning taxonomy, using SOLO provides guidance on how to thoughtfully shape learning intentions and learning experiences. Like with Bloom’s, there is a logical and pedagogical path in how to structure materials using SOLO Taxonomy, so they have an educational impact. That part is logical, I assume.

However, the additional „why” might lie in the fact that SOLO Taxonomy is, or should be, used with the learners. It was designed to support their learning, as well as the structuring part done by the teachers. When following the levels, students can categorize their own understanding of the subject they’re working on, they spend the time to assess themselves first, to later move up in their knowledge. The taxonomy provides a structured path that they can follow, they know what is expected on the next level, and what to strive for. In addition, knowing the above, learners become aware of why the topic is taught in a certain way, and why they do what they do during the lessons/projects.



+ „Using SOLO Taxonomy to Develop Student Thinking & Learning.” Class Teaching Blog. https://classteaching.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/using-solo-taxonomy-to-develop-student-thinking-learning/. Accessed 29 Mar, 2019.
+ Biggs, J.B., & Collis, K.F. (1982) Evaluating the quality of learning: The SOLO taxonomy. New York Academic Press.
+ „SOLO Taxonomy„. www.johnbiggs.com.au. http://www.johnbiggs.com.au/academic/solo-taxonomy. Accessed 29 Mar, 2019.