There was a whole flurry of activity this week when @ThatIanGilbert retweeted a link to a site where someone had very diligently fitted a whole series of iPad apps into the various stages of the Bloom’s taxonomy

What came through was that there were some non-believers out there who dared to take issue with what so many people take as Gospel when it comes to the development of children’s thinking. They were putting forward a newer, better, approach known as SOLO (standing for Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome) developed by Biggs and Colllis in 1982.

(I’m not sure about you, but my PGCE didn’t cover SOLO. But then it didn’t cover Blooms either. In fact, looking back, I’m not sure what it covered…)

While I like the simplicity of Bloom’s, especially when explaining it to children (or governments who believe that a multiple-choice question is the best way of assessing everyone but that’s another story), I can see, based on papers such as this one from the University of Queensland, how powerful the SOLO model can be in getting the learner to think and not just regurgitate. The example the authors give is how a question on mosquitos can move from what they call ‘pre-structural’

Name four types of mosquito 

to ‘multi-structural’:

List four species of mosquito commonly found in tropical areas and outline the main health risk created by each of them

via ‘uni-structural’ to ‘relational’:

List four species of mosquito commonly found in tropical areas and discuss their (relative) importance in public health programs

or, if you are feeling really up for it, there is:

Discuss how you might judge the relative importance of similar threats to public health; in your discussion use various species of tropical mosquito as examples

I really like the way that it reinforces the notion that the power of your questions as a teacher will determine the extent (or lack of it) of their thinking. In other words, think before you ask before they think.

What should also be noted is that, through our work in 8Way Thinking and the Learning Bug, we have seen that learners can quite quickly learn to ask such higher-order thinking-eliciting questions themselves.

A quick look to me shows that both Bloom’s and SOLO are excellent tools in the classroom and, like many tools, have their place in the thinking teacher’s arsenal to choose at their discretion.

Our fellow Twitter-ers also pointed us at these two websites for more information on SOLO model so have a look, have a play in the classroom, talk to the learners and decide for yourself:

There a lot of great debate in the comments section of this last one too.