Combined Taxonomy and Levelled Success Criteria

In 2011 I attended BioLive and one of the most influential talks I listen to was on SOLO taxonomy Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes.


I had come across this before at a professional learning conference at my previous school, but I hadn’t seem it used this way. Unfortunately I cannot find the name of the teacher who was presenting, but all credit to him. He took SOLO and used it to design 3 stage learning intentions and success criteria:

  1. Uni/mulit -> list, (eg. forces in every day lives)
  2. Relational -> explain (eg. how we make use of forces in our everyday lives)
  3. Extended abstract -> theorise (eg. design a method of preventing an asteriod colliding with Earth)

His students would then be given all three success criteria at the beginning. When they felt they had successed with the forst level they could move on to the next. The teacher could give time to students in groups or one-on-one knowling that the rest of the class were being productive. Student who quickly understood new concepts were challenged to use their understanding to solve problems in new situations and those who struggled achieved real success by seeing at least some success criteria ticked off.

To expand the lists further at each level I went back to Bloom’s Taxonomy and split it along similar divides:

The first unit I tried this for was with my Year 8s doing Diet, Health and Drugs. High abiblty student informed me that the higher level success criteria really interested them as evidenced by the dicussions that were had. The lower ability students started to develop more intrinsic motivation as they could see clearly what task had to be completed at each level. 

As a teacher it made sure that my tasks were not all lower level tasks with a few level two thrown in. In fact I was quite suprized how little level 3 tasks were explicity planned before introducing the levelled success criteria.

One of the presenter’s key points was that students needed to be given time to go back over success criteria and reflect on or revise their answers. It was suggested that half an hour be given over every couple of weeks for peer/self assessment and as a chance for the class teacher to check understanding. This initially seemed like a lot of time to lose, but what were they really losing? This reflection time is fundamental to the learning process and crucially it ensures that misconceptions are identified early on before becoming truely embedded. 


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