SOLO Taxonomy Resources for Primary Schools

SOLO Taxonomy is a powerful model for learning. It makes student learning visible. Shifts their understanding from surface to deep. Plus, it encourages self-reflection and student agency. 

Here at Essential Resources, we provide a series of SOLO Taxonomy resources to support primary school teachers in using this model. Many of these have been written by Pam Hook, the “best implementer of SOLO.” 

You will find examples of SOLO Taxonomy verbs and questions in primary school resources. There are also SOLO-levelled graphic organisers, templates and SOLO hexagonal thinking. The SOLO differentiated rubrics (success criteria) help students reflect on ‘what is going well’ and ‘where to next’. 

Start exploring our SOLO Taxonomy resources today! 


What is SOLO Taxonomy? 

SOLO Taxonomy is a model of learning. The full name is the Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes Taxonomy.  

SOLO was first developed by John B. Biggs and Kevin F. Collis (1982) in Australia by analysing the structure of student responses to various tasks in poetry. Their findings showed thinking followed a common sequence of increasing structural sophistication.  

It is a simple yet robust way to describe student learning outcomes as they grow in complexity. First from surface understanding, then to deep and conceptual levels. Students progress through the levels of understanding by engaging with increasingly complex learning experiences. 

What are the stages in SOLO Taxonomy called? 

As described by Pam Hook in her resource, First Steps with SOLO Taxonomy, the five stages of SOLO Taxonomy are: 

  • prestructural – no idea where learning outcomes show unconnected information 
  • unistructural – one idea where learning outcomes show simple connections, but the importance is not noted 
  • multistructural – many ideas where learning outcomes show connections are made, but the significance to overall meaning is missing 
  • relational – related ideas where learning outcomes show connections and parts synthesised with overall meaning 
  • extended abstract – extended ideas where learning outcomes go beyond the subject and make links to other concepts. 

The SOLO Taxonomy levels represent two changes in learning outcomes.  

Firstly, a quantitative increase in understanding, in other words, knowing more. This is seen when students move from unistructural to multistructural.  

Then, a qualitative change in understanding. For example, a deepening understanding is seen when progressing from multistructural to relational to extended abstract.  

What is the difference between Bloom’s Taxonomy and SOLO Taxonomy? 

Professor John Hattie explains the difference between Bloom’s Taxonomy and SOLO Taxonomy: 

  • Bloom’s Taxonomy presents a six-level hierarchy of knowledge and is more content-orientated, whereas SOLO Taxonomy aims to measure the learner’s quality of understanding.  
  • Unlike SOLO Taxonomy, Bloom’s Taxonomy has been subject to little research and evaluation. 
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy distinguishes “knowledge” from the intellectual abilities or processes that are involved in utilising that knowledge. On the other hand, SOLO Taxonomy is based mainly on the processes of understanding used by students. As a result, knowledge is present at all levels of SOLO Taxonomy.  
  • In Bloom’s Taxonomy, questions and answers must all be at the same level. SOLO Taxonomy allows for differing levels. 
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy lacks criteria for judging outcomes. SOLO Taxonomy provides an explicit means for assessing learning outcomes. 

Additionally, Bloom’s Taxonomy tends to be used more by teachers, whereas SOLO Taxonomy can be taught to students. This encourages students to write progressively more complex answers.