The Structured Overview of Learning Outcomes, SOLO Taxonomy (Biggs & Collis, 1982), provides a common understanding of the learning process through an overview of cognitive learning outcomes. We have introduced this taxonomy to schools with students from 5 to 18 years of age.
SOLO provides criteria that identify the increasing complexity of student performance for understanding when mastering new learning (Biggs 1999, p.37). It is content independent and thus is useful as a generic measure of understanding across different disciplines. In our experience teachers using SOLO can easily, and reliably identify ascending cognitive complexity in individual and collective student learning outcomes.
SOLO describes five levels of student understanding, Refer Figure below.
At the //prestructural level// of understanding, the student response shows they have missed the point of the new learning. At the //unistructural level,// the learning outcome shows understanding of one aspect of the task, but this understanding is limited. For example, the student can label, name, define, identify, or follow a simple procedure. At the //multistructural level,// several aspects of the task are understood but their relationship to each other, and the whole is missed. For example, the student can list, define, describe, combine, match, or do algorithms. At the //relational level,// the ideas are linked, and provide a coherent understanding of the whole. Student learning outcomes show evidence of comparison, causal thinking, classification, sequencing, analysis, part whole thinking, analogy, application and the formulation of questions. At the //extended abstract level,// understanding at the relational level is re-thought at a higher level of abstraction, it is transferred to another context). Student learning outcomes at the extended abstract level show prediction, generalisation, evaluation, theorizing, hypothesising, creation, and or reflection.
Using visual symbols to represent levels of understanding in SOLO means that coding for complexity of thinking can be undertaken by both student and teacher, allowing “where should we go next?” decisions and thinking interventions to more accurately target student learning needs.