Wise words from the SOLO guru – Pam Hook that is

I was out running this morning (30kms in the hills) and I was reflecting upon something a student said to me the other day and where it had come from. Immediately I made the link and it was a nice affirmation of the use of SOLO and some wise words from the guru herself, Pam Hook. I thought I would blog it to keep a record of my thinking.

Anyway, my mantra for teaching and learning for the last couple of years comes from something Pam said while working with me and our school on SOLO stuff. She said;

SUCCESS = Effort + Effective Strategies

And as we all know, SOLO is all about making those strategies visible to the learner so that over time, they can identify their own next steps for learning. It is so simple and as this recent experience showed, so powerful. I now always share this equation with my students and it always comes up in the first session I run with new staff on SOLO. Even when I am being a Dad to our 6yr old it is always about “what strategies did you use, how much effort did you put in, would you use that strategy again etc. (I don’t think we’re messing him up too much).

Back to the story… So I had the joy of being able to take a yr12 Geography class the other week (their teacher was away on a yr10 camp). They were bringing in information about the geographic issue of using 1080 poison to manage Possums in our native bush (for anyone not from NZ, Possums are an introduced species that are decimating our native flora and bird life). I was lucky in that I have intimate knowledge with this topic and assessment as I had re-written it to align with the new standard over the years.

Because I had the knowledge to do it, I thought I would go off script and SOLOise the lesson a bit. Before playing the DVD I front loaded the lesson with the “Success = Effort + Effective Strategies” equation and I talked up how I knew some good strategies that meant they really would have no excuse not to get Merit or Excellence (top marks) unless they were super lazy.

So we had a quick look at the Geographic Issues standard and the success criteria for it. To pass/achieve, one of the things they have to do is describe and explain what different groups think about the issue of using 1080 poison. There is some explanation required, but it is really multistructual thinking as the links can be quite simple. eg. This group thinks this ______ because….

For Merit, there is the addition of detail and stronger linkages (definitely relational thinking). We talked about what this might look like and decided that detail meant specific facts and details and links really needed to be strong – identifying how different perspectives and values might influence peoples perception on the use of 1080.

Then we looked at what was required for excellence. The key words are comprehensive, using geographic terms and showing insight. I remember when this was first written and around the country there were Geography teachers (and some students) everywhere wondering what the hell insight might look like. SOLO makes sense of it nicely, it’s about extended abstract thinking. In this example, it is going beyond the detail and information and using it in a new way such as suggesting what might need to happen for a group to choose to change their mind or discussing the likelihood of them changing their position given their values and perceptions.

Anyway, we then watched the documentary and I stopped and started it so they had time to make notes, consider the biases of the presenters and note what was presented as fact or opinion.

It’s tough being a relief teacher, students often adopt a culture of “cool, no work today” as they see a stranger walking towards the classroom. However, on this occasion, I felt we had a productive lesson thanks to a little SOLO.

Finally, on the second to last day of term, I was in relieving again and I found myself having a not so flash lesson with a Yr12 math class that had the instructions to “do algebra practice from the text book”. Some did, but I was on a hiding to nothing as I had no idea how to do it myself and most of them had just had a chemistry test and they all new it was fill in work. So, towards the end of the lesson, I was chatting to some of the students and one of them very kindly said that he was in the geography lesson I had taken and that he had learned more in that lesson than he had all year. Now this was nice to hear but I am sure it is not true. Instead, what I think he was saying was that he really valued someone helping him to see a pathway to success and from that, he was motivated to apply himself and strive for success. Thanks SOLO and the mantra that “Success = effort + effective strategies”.

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One response to “Wise words from the SOLO guru – Pam Hook that is

  1. I have a few students saying to me ‘I’ve learned more with you/in that lesson than for X amount of time.’ And I think it’s because through SOLO and other strategies I’ve opened their minds/made them rethink/created something more interesting….So, it is good to hear they’ve ‘had fun’ or ‘learned loads’ it is about them being aware of what they’re doing and why and HOW to do it, and then finally their next steps…

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