I acknowledge my potential bias regarding praise for SOLO Taxonomy as a framework for learning. I was fortunate enough to be able to present twice on SOLO. Firstly, using SOLO as a framework for learning in the Social Sciences and then on facilitating SOLO as a whole school framework for learning.
Having said that, throughout ICOT13, I strived to be open to having my values and beliefs about a SOLO framework for learning being challenged. What happened, as I listened and engaged with a wide variety of educators, is that my views were reinforced time and time again.
In David Perkins key-note on the history of teaching thinking, he talked about one of the paths forward for thinking being that “Thinking Organisers” (TOGs) need a control tower. Up to this point during the conference, my thoughts had been heading in a similar direction and in my mind, SOLO is a simple framework that does this. For example, what ever learning strategy or intervention you are using, you can share with students, is this effective strategy about bringing in ideas (multistructural thinking), making links (relational thinking) or using information in a new way (extended abstract).
When I listened to Edward De Bono’s presentation, my mind was immediately classifying his thinking strategies against SOLO. In his Cort program thinking tools, a CAF (consider all factors) is about bringing in ideas, OPV (other points of view) – brings in ideas, making links or meaning and it also allows for extended abstract thinking. Random Word allows new patterns or ideas to surface (bringing in new ideas). Six Hats – different Hats attend to different levels of thinking – bringing in ideas, making links or using ideas in a new way.
The same thing happened when I participated in Dennis Hodges workshop on creativity. He presented a cool spin on mind mapping that was new to me. In essence, it was about bringing in ideas, making links and clarifying until at the end, you have a map that insightful thinking can come from – booyaa – this is SOLO.
Prior to 2006 when I was first exposed to SOLO, I had been heavily involved in professional learning and I saw many great learning strategies emerge in the school that I taught in. Some stuck around, but many of these ideas sort of came and went. Then when we started learning with SOLO and Pam Hook (around 2006/7), a critical mass of staff and departments saw the potential of SOLO. We kind of narrowed or consolidated our focus around SOLO and in particular, using the HOT thinking maps. This was a good strategy and enabled us in 2011 to state that we used SOLO as a whole school framework for learning (pretty much anyway). For my own teaching, I now feel the freedom that given a SOLO framework, with any teaching intervention I use I/and my students could articulate which level of SOLO it attends too. In the workshop I co-presented on facilitating a whole school framework for learning, I used the visual rubric below. It was kind of just for a bit of fun but I think it captures the essence of our learning journey. We were never really at pre-structural or uni-structural I should add.
To conclude, the irony of all this is that I remember receiving a hand out from Pam Hook and Julie Mills back in 2006 (a ULearn conference I think) that showed how lots of different tools and thinking strategies aligned with SOLO. At the time, my thinking was “right – that’s interesting” but I didn’t connect or make links to a deeper meaning behind this. ICOT2013 has joined the dots and confirmed that a SOLO framework for learning does indeed make an excellent control tower for anything a school does. And it’s one that puts the learner centre stage in their learning journey.