The Structure of the Observed Learning Outcomes (SOLO) taxonomy offers a way of describing the growing complexity of a learnerís activity. It is based on the work of John Biggs. It can be used in two ways.
When writing your course objectives ensure that the verbs you use correspond with the level of cognitive engagement appropriate for your students. The SOLO taxonomy lists levels of understanding and the indicative verbs associated with each level.
Level of Understanding: Pre-structural
No understanding demonstrated and approach involves acquiring disconnected bits of information. Student misses the point.
Level of Understanding: Uni-structural
Student shows concrete, reductive understanding of the topic. Simple and obvious connections are made but broader significance is not understood.
Indicative verbs: identify, memorise, do simple procedure
Level of Understanding: Multi-structural
Student can understand several components but the understanding of each remains discreet. A number of connections are made but the significance of the whole is not determined. Ideas and concepts around an issue are disorganised and aren't related together
Indicative verbs: enumerate, classify, describe, list, combine, do algorithms
Level of Understanding: Relational
Student can indicate connection between facts and theory, action and purpose. Shows understanding of several components which are integrated conceptually showing understanding of how the parts contribute to the whole. Can apply the concept to familiar problems or work situations.
Indicative verbs: compare/contrast, explain causes, integrate, analyse, relate, apply
Level of Understanding: Extended Abstract
Student conceptualises at a level extending beyond what has been dealt with in the actual teaching. Understanding is transferable and generalisable to different areas.
Indicative verbs: theorise, generalise, hypothesise, reflect, generate
The verbs you use in constructing your assignments can indicate the level of engagement you are requiring of your students.
(all links below open in a new window)
Biggs, J (1999) Teaching for Quality Learning at University, Buckingham: SRHE and Open University Press
Biggs, J. and Collis, K. F. (1982) Evaluating the Quality of Learning - the SOLO taxonomy, New York: Academic Press
University of Queensland Teaching and Educational Development Institute handout on SOLO (.pdf file 72KB)
For further assistance in developing your program or courses in relation to graduate qualities, please contact the Academic Development team.