How Solo Taxonomy Facilitates Higher Education Learning Outcomes?

14 Sept 2023
Learning Management System

What is the objective of education? Is it just to impart subject-based knowledge? Is it merely to study, go to school and pass the exams? These questions have become increasingly relevant in recent years, wherein the inefficiencies of the academic structure have been brought into question.

Therefore, aligning learning outcomes with the in-demand skills and knowledge is the most critical part of the educational process. That is where pedagogical frameworks and models such as the Solo taxonomy come into use, enabling teachers to effectively strategise the learning and teaching process.

Hence, it is only fitting to take a look at how Solo taxonomy facilitates learning outcomes and fits well in an ideal pedagogy of higher education.

What is Solo Taxonomy?

Solo Taxonomy is an instructional framework that John Biggs and Kevin Collis developed to design and assess learning outcomes. It is an acronym for Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes(SOLO), which enables teachers to classify understanding and comprehension levels.

Furthermore, it provides a reference point for categorising learning material in elaborate stages of structural complexity. These stages represent the subsequent progress of understanding and competence in an individual’s learning process.

The Five Levels of Solo Taxonomy

Five Levels of Solo Taxonomy

1. Pre-structural

The pre-structural is the initial level, wherein an individual has little to no understanding of the topic/subject. At this stage, he/she receives fragmented or unconnected information that makes no sense to them.

2. Uni-structural

At this stage, the individual gets a basic understanding of the concept/subject, enabling them to recall and identify facts and information. However, they encounter difficulty in applying the knowledge in practical situations.

3. Multi-structural

This is the stage where individuals gain a comprehensive understanding of the topic/subject and learn to connect multiple facts and information. However, despite the ability to understand the relationship between multiple factors, they fail to transfer their knowledge to different contexts.


This is a crucial stage wherein individuals can combine different ideas, concepts and domains; they can analyse and explain their relationships with each other. Besides, they understand how different parts or components contribute to making the whole of something.

5. Extended Abstract Level

This is the highest level of the Solo taxonomy that indicates a learner’s deeper and more meaningful understanding of concepts or subjects. This is similar to the highest level of Bloom’s taxonomy, which reflects the learner’s ability to evaluate and create something new.

Designing Learning Outcomes with Solo Taxonomy

Solo taxonomy includes several elaborate steps, enabling teachers to establish clear educational goals. The steps are as follows:

  • Identify the Subject or Topic

The first and foremost step necessitates determining the subject or topic for which they will develop the learning outcomes. Besides, it can be a specific skill, concept, or area of knowledge.

  • Understand the Five Levels

It is impossible to implement the framework unless and until the teacher familiarises themselves with the five levels of Solo taxonomy. They need to have an accurate understanding of what each level represents.

  • Establish the Desired Level

Teachers must assess the understanding levels of the students and establish the desired level of understanding and competence for their learning outcomes. Consequently, they need to consider the subject matter’s complexity and the cognitive demands they want to implement on students.

  • Write Learning Outcomes

They must write clear, concise and measurable learning outcomes according to each level of the Solo Taxonomy. Furthermore, they can start from the lower levels and gradually progress towards the higher levels, helping to establish well-structured learning progression.

  • Use Action Verbs

Action verbs are key to writing accurate indicators; hence, ensure to choose the words carefully. For instance, verbs like identify and define are appropriate for the pre-structural level and verbs like synthesise and evaluate are perfect for the extended abstract level.

  • Align with Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom’s taxonomy is an excellent pedagogical structure, so teachers can align the learning outcomes according to the various levels of the hierarchical system.

  • Communicate and Share

Including parents, colleagues, and institute leaders in the educational process is beneficial in the long run. Therefore, teachers must share the learning outcomes with the primary stakeholders, helping to create a supportive environment both at the institute and at home.

  • Include Varied Assessments

Examinations are vital for assessing progress so teachers can develop varied assessments using a learning management system. However, they need to plan and draft the exams as per the desired levels of Solo taxonomy.

As a result, it will help evaluate students' progress and identify the areas that still need improvement.

  • Reflect and Iterate

Implementing a strategy or learning plan is not nearly enough to bring out the desired changes in the teaching and learning process. In fact, it is vital to check whether or not the learning outcomes are working.

In addition, they must make necessary adjustments as per the student performance and feedback. At the same time, they must continuously improve the learning outcomes, which help to improve student learning and achievement.

Advantages of Solo Taxonomy

  • Clarity

The pedagogical framework helps to establish clarity in terms of educational objectives; teachers establish goals that students must achieve by the end of the course or term. As a result, they can create measurable objectives and desired levels of understanding.

  • Learning Progression

Solo taxonomy’s five levels lay down a structured path for students to follow, enabling them to develop knowledge and skills effectively. Besides, the five levels help to track the learning progress of students.

  • Better Assessment Mechanisms

Teachers can design and draft level-wise assessments for students, helping to analyse the understanding levels of all students. In fact, that is where ERP in higher education finds its optimal usage. Teachers can use the tool to design varied assessments and align them with the learning outcomes.

  • Personalised Learning

Students are different, especially in terms of comprehension level, skill and knowledge level; an exam-centric and teacher-centred system is not ideal and beneficial. Therefore, the Solo taxonomy is a unique way to implement personalised learning.

As a result, teachers get the platform or medium to figure out solutions that are appropriate to solve individual issues.

  • Transferable Skills

The higher levels of the framework, such as extended abstract thinking and relational thinking, boost critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Consequently, it contributes to their ability to apply relevant skills in real-world scenarios.

Let’s Wrap it Up,

Solo taxonomy is a unique pedagogical framework that enables teachers to design clear and concise learning outcomes. Furthermore, it clarifies the educational goals, helping teachers plan and implement better assessments and improve learning habits.

Prashant Borkar Author:

Prashant Borkar,

Academic Consultant

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