Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Secret SOLO'ist Part 1

A few years back I undertook a whole load of reading and research to develop the quality of my teaching.  I was introduced to a number of different strategies and teaching methods.  I am very confident in the fact that if I don't believe in something or can't see it having an impact, I won't add it to my teaching repertoire.  One thing I did come across via Geoff Petty which really caught my interest was SOLO taxonomy.  I really liked the principles behind it and knew it meant adapting the way I approach teaching.  At that point, I was still fresh into the job so I decided to take a smaller step and introduced a combination of the revised Blooms taxonomy and the Alite Accelerated Learning Cycle.  Both have served me well but I now feel ready to take another step up.

I have decided, thanks to all of the interesting posts by Tait Coles, Paul Mcintosh, David Didau, Darren Mead and Ben Horbury, that I am now ready to start introducing SOLO Taxonomy into my lessons.  I have already identified that I will run it with my GCSE PE Theory classes and this will commence from September.  This allows me a good amount of time to get up to speed with it.  At present, although I understand the idea behind it and the depth of learning it promotes, I still need to read up on it a lot more to fully ensure I am using it correctly.  One of the main things that I definitely need to do is get my head around activities that promote learning at the various SOLO levels.  I have therefore gone covert and slowly tried new SOLO styled activities to see how much of an impact to learning they have.  I ultimately would like to share the principles of SOLO with learners so they can gauge levels and progress, but will wait until September when I should have a better understanding myself.

The first attempt
Through Twitter I got in contact with Ben Horbury who is a PE teacher, also looking to develop his use of SOLO.  He initially gave me some PE specific examples of how he had used it and some activities that we could use with specific topics.  This was really beneficial as it allowed me to join the dots between what I had read, and what I could actually go away and do.  I would really encourage anyone reading this to get on Twitter, connect with people and see how much information, ideas and support is shared.  With this new inspiration, I trialled some SOLO stuff with my Year 11's during an Easter revision session.

Easter revision solo learning
The Easter revision session we ran that had a loose SOLO structure.
The session was loosely based around SOLO and used some slides that Ben Horbury had shared with my.  We started by getting them to mix and match a number of definitions that we had covered over the 2 years but were not directly linked.  I'm not an expert yet but I guess this is working at a multistructural level. 

We then went on and got the learners to start thinking about linking these (and other PE topics) to the subject of our pre-released material (a young sprinter called David).  We gave them one of three stimulus image sheets that had elements of David's story included.  This was very effective as learners identified a number of topics and linked them directly back to him and were able to link a number of similar topics together.  I would say we have now moved up to relational.

We then passed these around and asked other learners to peer assess them and add any relevant pieces of information that the previous person may have missed out (as seen by the blue annotations on the above image).  Finally, we handed out some Hexagons.  A number of them had key words on them which were from topics we had identified might come up in the exam (linking to the pre released material and David).  These were colour co-ordinated so the same topics were in the same colour.  We explained that they needed to create chains of information that linked back to the needs of David.  Every side of a hexagon that touched another one must relate.  The more links the better.  We promoted the use of blank hexagons which they could add their own notes or key words to.  We also stressed the importance of being able to identify overlaps between topics and encouraged them to find links between them.

After the allocated time was up, learners rotated around so they joined another group, leaving a spokesperson behind.  This spokesperson had to explain their thought process and all of the links/connections they had made.

This was our first loose attempt at SOLO.  The power of using this came at the end when learners were clearly explaining links between similar topics whilst searching to overlap others.  Everything was linked back to David and every connection was clearly explained in detail.  We hope that at this stage we have moved learners to extended abstract as they have made links to other concepts.

The buzz that both the learners and teachers got after this first attempt has made us catch the bug.  So much so that we have continued to trial it in GCSE PE Theory lessons.  Reflections of these are to follow.  This is not a fully finished attempt at SOLO but the first step along the ladder.  I probably have got the different SOLO levels wrong and have missed a few tricks but this is all part of learning.

In the meantime, if you are interested in SOLO at all, head to the sites that I have found most beneficial:

As usual, any help or guidance would be very welcome!!


  1. A brilliant post Dave.

    I have only recently started to follow you on Twitter, following the big virtual PE group hug!

    I love the way you have had a go at SOLO. I have seen it mentioned on twitter, but have never taken the time to look into it.

    Would love to get a more detailed plan of the lesson, if you are happy to share. Is it the AQA pre release material?

    Look forward to your next SOLO post.

    1. Hi Simon. I've tried a number of different things over the years with my GCSE groups including the Accelerated Learning Cycle, Blooms taxonomy etc, and SOLO (in my personal opinion) seems to have had a very real and obvious impact. I'm still a novice but would happily share resources etc. Yeah it was for the AQA pre-released material based on the Athlete called David. Did some more yesterday using SOLO (which I will write up soon) and learners are really beginning to map out much more developed answers, especially for the 8 mark questions. DM your e-mail and I'll share what I have.

  2. I am really excited by SOLO and what you have done. I am a Learning & Skills Specialist for an organisation and I am currently studying for a DTTLS qualification. I came across this method in Geoff Petty and it really resonates with my experience in workshops. Like you I won't use a method if I don't believe in it myself. I also like the concept of 'Bridging' a central plan in Feuerstein’s teach methodology. I wll research Alite Accelerated Learning Cycle, so thanks for that reference. I'll be following you and hoping to pick up more practical application ideas around each stage of SOLO, thanks to your work.

  3. Thanks so much for your humility and for sharing the context of your lesson. It's really encouraged me to give it a go.

  4. Hi,
    I am really hoping that you can help me. I have recently been introduced to SOLO Taxonomy and am interested in doing some further research around how useful it is within primary schools for the “listening and talking” aspect of the literacy curriculum in primary schools. With your knowledge of SOLO are you aware of anyone who has used this framework specifically for this subject area? If so did they find it useful? Can it reliably used as a measure of change over a longer period?
    Best wishes,