Monthly Archives: October 2013

SOLO and the NZ Geography Curriculum

This is a very quick post in reply to a tweet that just so happened to appear top of the list when I was getting ready to do some house work and something I also wanted to get down on paper (in electrons). It is very abbreviated, written in a hurry and may have errors or not full info (a bit of a disclaimer)

Assessment In New Zealand senior high school is based around Standards. Student results fall into one of four categegaries: Not achieved, Achieved, Merit, Excellence. While some might say that the marking schedules for external exams are possibly tweaked so that results nationwide fit the old bell curve, if we look at the standards themselves (both internal and external) they are actually written  against SOLO Taxonomy as a way of differentiating levels of achievement. I may stand corrected but I believe Pam Hook may have had some influence either directly or indirectly during the formation of standards based assessment in NZ.

Anyway, for the teacher, if you apply a SOLO framework to how you think about course planning, delivery and how you are equipping your students for success, using a SOLO framework and SOLO aligned effective strategies is a no-brainer.

The standards in brief.

Our Senior qualifications begin in yr11 at Level 1 NCEA, yr12 is at Level 2 NCEA and yr13 (the year before university) is at level 3. Note this is an over simplification as the New Curriculum allows you to move beyond age discriminated course planning if you want.

If we look at the standard for examining a Geographic topic at a Global scale, you can see how SOLO fits through the levels. All of the following comes from here http://www.nzqa.govt.nz/qualifications-standards/qualifications/ncea/subjects/geography/levels/ but if you don’t know what you are looking for you could spend ages trolling through stuff so I’ll use screen captures.

Level One NCEA
L1 1

At first glance, it looks like all the student has to do is describe which you might think will only allow them to show evidence up to a multistructural level. However if you look at explainatory note 2, you can see that they can describe up to an extended abstract level. If you are familiar with Pam Hooks Describe++ map you will see how perfectly this fits the standard.

L1 2 L1 3

As you can see, for achieved it is multistructural describing, For merit, you can see that it is more detailed description but it also has the phrase “significance of the topic to peoples lives” which clearly indicates that relational, or linking thinking (huh – it  rhymes – might use that) is required. Then when you get to the Excellence level, students have to show insight. I think this may still freak some NZ teachers out but if you and your students understand that insight is about linking to bigger concepts like culture, change, making predictions into the future and stuff like this, it is extended abstract thinking.

As you go up through the yr levels, a simple way of thinking about it is that the starting position for achieved gets shifted up. Below is the same standard but for level three. Just to confuse you, this standard is being fine tuned and next year the achievement criteria will be slimed down to one bullet point as for Level One and the explanatory notes will be clearer(ish). It will most probably be pretty much the same stuff though (last year of the re-alignment process – yippee)

L3 1 L3 2

As you can see, at level 3, the requirement for achieved has jumped up to relational thinking with the need to do simple analysis. From Memory, the wording at level two is Explain or Examine – a step down from Analysis in the taxonomy. The Explainatory notes then give the teacher/student the ability to code the required level to SOLO – next year, I am pretty confident that they will include the words “Analyse showing Insight” to the requirement for excellence.

That was it pretty quickly done. If you want to look at the level 2 standard, it is here http://www.nzqa.govt.nz/ncea/assessment/search.do?query=Geography&view=all&level=02 standard 91246.

As a teacher, I like this because when I am planning, or working with students I can make the thinking visible to them so they are not simply doing their best, but purposefully applying strategies and specific thinking for excellence. If they have to explain, lets use the HOT parts whole map (I have blogged on that somewhere) If they have to evaluate, there are thinking maps for that, if they have to show insight, well that’s using a describe++ map and linking back to the work we (as a class) have done on concepts and big ideas and how they are linked to your thinking in this new context.

Hope this helps. Feel free anyone to correct me or ask questions