My first PE SOLO experiments…

After reading David Didau’s The Perfect Ofsted English Lesson and scouring the world wide web for teachers using SOLO, including Tait Coles, David Fawcett and Darren Mead to name but a few, I have finally started experimenting with utilising SOLO taxonomy in my GCSE, BTEC and A level PE classes.  The next few paragraphs will just explain, step by step, the process so far…

Step 1

I introduced the 5 levels of understanding and the language and verbs associated with each through a Tait Coles poster with supporting information from Pam Hook and Julie Mills’s great introductory SOLO book. Essentially, I explained that SOLO provides the students and the teacher with a ‘common language of learning’ so both understand the quality of learning that students are producing.  A great starting point can be found by watching David Didu’s explanation at a TeachMeet Clevedon earlier this year which can be found here:

Step 2

I created 3 rubrics for GCSE PE,  A Level PE and BTEC PE to give the students a clear picture of the grade equivalents and types of questions at each of the 4 levels (not including prestructural):

1. Unistructural

2. Multistructural

3. Relational

4. Extended Abstract

Step 3

Using post it notes A Level PE…

SOLO post it notes

…and hexagons for BTEC PE…



I asked the students to build up their knowledge (= uni and multistructural) first and then find relationships between these bits of knowledge and apply them in a new concept (= relational and extended abstract).

The A Level PE lesson revolved around the popular recreations of both the lower and upper classes in 18th century Britain and the socio-cultural factors that shaped them along with any common ground between the two class society.  The BTEC PE lesson involved students researching and learning the correct technique for the grip, catch and flat pass in rugby and any links between the three.

To break it down to its simplest components:

  • 1 post it note or hexagon is the equivalent of having 1 relevant idea (= unistructural)
  • 3 or more separate post it notes / hexagons represent many relevant ideas but NOT being able to  link these ideas or knowledge together (= multistructural)
  • Overlapping post it notes / side by side hexagons represent links between different relevant ideas (= relational level of understanding).  You can see lots of these in the pictures above.
  • In the future, for students to reach an extended abstract level I will ask them to find where 3 or more post it notes / hexagons met ( a node if you like  – stolen from David Didau) and create a high quality question to investigate further.  This is the deepest form of learning and extremely hard to reach.  A vital point to remember here is that once a student has generated one extended abstract concept, it is not an end point in their learning.  They must continually revisit, or LOOP back to, the multistructural phase to find new, relevant information and build the quantity of knowledge which will subsequently produce new links (relational) and potentially generate more high quality questions and concepts (= extended abstract).

Step 4

A number of students, using the post it notes and hexagons as guides, articulated their understanding verbally to the class.  Both the hexagons and the post it notes instigated such prolonged explanations that I was slightly shocked at their length and coherence given their minimal prior understanding of both subject matters.  I then allowed all students to take pictures of their work on their phones so they can use this information next lesson when we will be reinforcing their understsanding through various learning opportunities.

Hopefully all this SOLO information makes some sort of sense?  I feel, as a teacher using SOLO taxonomy, I’m only operating at a multistructural stage at the moment but with time, practice and with a lot of stealing from the SOLO community on Twitter I’ll be able to up my game for the students’ sake!