Pedagogy Focus: Solo taxonomy

The latest instalment of our Pedagogy Focus series looks at the concept of Solo taxonomy and how is it used in lessons

Pedagogy Focus Solo taxonomy

What is Solo taxonomy?

Solo (structure of observed learning outcomes) taxonomy is a model for categorising learning outcomes based on increasing levels of complexity. 

It identifies five levels of learning, which increase in skill at each stage.


More on this: What is Bloom's taxonomy?

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Students begin at the pre-structural level, where understanding is simple or non-existent, and move to a point called the “extended abstract”, where learning is creative and conceptualised.

Where did it come from?

First proposed by educational psychologists John Biggs and Kevin Collis in 1982, the model evolved from the principles of Bloom’s taxonomy

Solo builds on the idea of pupils demonstrating skills that increase in terms of complexity as they move up the taxonomy by placing greater emphasis on the learning outcomes and processes involved in developing understanding.  

How is it used in lessons?

Solo taxonomy provides a simple model for moving students from surface to deeper learning. Teachers can incorporate this approach into their lessons by: 

  • Ensuring material and expected outcomes are suitably challenging and include differentiation.
  • Using the five levels as part of the success criteria by which students are measured (by themselves, peers or teachers). The levels are represented by symbols, offering a code for the levels of complexity in understanding within the classroom. 
  • Developing resources that mirror the taxonomy levels. The end goal is for pupils to have a conceptualised understanding of a particular topic, therefore activities and materials should facilitate this by encouraging discussion and reflective thinking, actively moving pupils towards the relational and extended abstract phases. 
  • Popular tasks include students using hexagon tiles to show links and connections between ideas, or developing mind maps and sequencing templates for students to use to depict relationships between key elements and create a “big picture” visual display.   

Further reading:

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