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, encourages self-reflection and student agency. 

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

Inside the primary school resources, you will find examples of SOLO Taxonomy verbs and questions. There are also SOLO-levelled graphic organisers, templates, writing frames and hexongonal thinking. The SOLO differentiated rubrics (success criteria) to 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 of understanding. Students progress through the levels of understanding by engaging with increasingly complex learning experiences. 

How many levels are there in SOLO Taxonomy? 

There are five distinct levels of learning outcomes. As described by Pam Hook in her resource, First Steps with SOLO Taxonomy, these are the SOLO Taxonomy levels: 

  • 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.  

How can SOLO Taxonomy enhance student engagement? 

SOLO Taxonomy enhances student engagement because it makes their learning visible to them. It offers a distinct way of identifying the level of cognitive complexity of understanding that, in turn, improves the quality of feedback. 

Pam Hook says in SOLO Taxonomy: A Guide for Schools, “Feedback prompts students (and teachers) to engage with the content, processes and/or self-regulation needed to meet an identified learning outcome.” 

Students can more easily monitor and reflect on their understanding, which enables them to: 

  • clarify the purpose of learning intentions 
  • explain the selection of strategies 
  • self-assess learning outcomes 
  • create the next steps for their learning. 

Additionally, when teachers use SOLO Taxonomy, they can design learning experiences appropriate to students’ level of understanding. This can lead to more effective and engaging learning experiences for the students, which encourages them to delve deeper.