The SOLO taxonomy , first described by John Biggs and Kevin Collis in Evaluating the Quality of Learning: The SOLO Taxonomy (New York: Academic Press, 1982 )may be an older form of assessment rubric but that does not mean it is irrelevant. Some things stand the test of time. New Zealand schools seem to be using it still because it can demystify easily what is being achieved in terms of learning outcomes. Current assessment rubrics and assessment criteria can be complex and even though they can identify performance standards and achievements , they can also confuse and corrupt thinking so the assessor is no longer sure what they are talking about. I have been in that situation myself as a teacher. You look at the assessment criteria which can be long lists of long sentences and then you look at the work. You can discuss it with others and, because it is language based, it can then become a discussion on meaning , semantics and interpretation. In the end you are no further along the path to knowing how you should assess that piece of work. I have also been in the situation where assessment criteria are so vague you are not sure how to award the mmm…ok or the mmm,yes, well or the mmm, that looks pretty good to me. SOLO keeps it simple. You can use those rubrics to work out whether the understanding and ingestion of knowledge has occurred and then whether it has been moved forward by the learner. As John Biggs says on his site:
SOLO can be used not only in assessment, but in designing the curriculum in terms of the learning outcomes intended, which is helpful in implementing constructive alignment. SOLO can also explain why those who use low complexity arguments in political or marital disputes usually win – in the short term. But in politics that’s all you need.
Image:Myross bush school
Solo is how you keep the picture straight when you feel you are trying to process other ways of assessing work , learning or you are mapping out learning tasks and units and you have lost clarity. It would also be a good way to discuss assessment with parents because it is a clearer model than others . Starting with SOLO would clarify issues before you move on to more complex discussions. It is not just that, though. SOLO is a quick way of noticing whether someone is on the learning continuum or not. Can they use a smartphone? Do they know how to use iMovie? You can quickly work out whether you or anyone else needs help in learning.