Today I moved to the next level in my implementation of SOLO (see what I did there?). In my Year 9 class we were revising the concept of food chains and webs, which they covered in Year 8 but now with the Australian Curriculum has become a topic for Stage 5.
We’ve recently introduced SOLO, developing a familiarity with the five levels and completed a survey on attitudes to learning and intelligence and the growth mindset. It was now time to start to introduce the concepts of learning intentions and success criteria.
Learning intentions are a way of articulating to students the purpose and goals of the lesson. I realise that having goals for a lesson isn’t a new concept, but it is an important part of using SOLO in the classroom. They allow students a clear point of comparison at the end of the lesson when they reflect on their learning. If the students know at the start what they are setting out to accomplish, then they can more effectively gauge where their understanding is at at the end.
Success criteria are a way of outlining to the students what success looks like at each of the levels of SOLO, i.e. what does a relational understanding of a particular learning intention look like? Alice puts it really well when she describes them as follows:
…success criteria are what students have to do to be successful in that lesson. The success criteria are classified by the SOLO taxonomy, which lets both the student and the teacher know how the student is progressing and adjust the teaching and learning process accordingly.
Here are my success criteria for this lesson:
The students really seemed to respond to the clearly articulated learning intentions and success criteria. They had a clearer idea of what was expected and what level of understanding they were working at. They were still a bit unsure of what to do – it’s all still very new and there were a number of new factors today – but overall it was very positive.
I definitely need to improve on articulating the strategies that the students can use to achieve success and I think I assumed that they had too much knowledge already. Many of the questions and problems that arose related to knowledge that I had assumed the students had and so I had to backpedal a few times to address this. Nevertheless, the students had a much clearer idea of how to improve and make progress and we’re definitely making positive moves towards adopting the growth mindset. Here’s a sample of one group’s effort that is working at the relational level for this lesson:
Definitely lots to celebrate here!
The new school term started back today, and so I’ve decided to start implementing SOLO into my everyday practice. At the moment I feel rather unprepared for it all, so I suspect that I’ll just have to feel my way through for a time.
Over the next few days I will be introducing SOLO to my students in a more explicit sense, discussing the levels in the taxonomy and what each one represents with some scientific examples. I have an introductory PowerPoint based on one that Alice posted that I showed to my Year 10 class today and will roll out to the others over the next little while (I’ll endeavour to put it up if I get the chance).
Tomorrow I’m also going to start giving my students a survey to find out their attitudes about intelligence, effort and scientific ability. I plan on using this as a way to introduce the concept of the growth mindset, which I see is crucial to success using SOLO.
Watch this space!
I know it’s probably getting a bit repetitive all of these posts on about SOLO, but I’ve really been impacted by a lot of the ideas from that workshop and it’s really gotten me thinking.
I’ve wanted to find out more about how to develop a growth mindset in my students, as this is something I see to be a key idea to help make SOLO work. I found some great resources that I want to take the time to explore.
Alongside these thoughts, I’ve also been developing a new skill of my own – riding a motorcycle. Or a scooter, to be more precise. I’ve been wanting to take up the hobby for some time now and I finally acted on it a few weeks ago, booking into the pre-learners riding course that the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS – the new RTA) makes novice riders complete before they can get their L’s. I’ve been completing this course yesterday and today, and it’s been a whole lot of fun, as well as a steep-ish learning curve.
Interestingly, I’ve found that my developing ideas around SOLO helped me a lot in my attitude to learning this skill. In the past, when learning new things I’ve tended to have very high expectations of myself and assume that I should be awesome at it from minute one. Clearly these expectations are unrealistic (duh!) but I’ve always found that I put that sort of pressure on myself, even if it’s subconscious.
But I found myself using the levels of SOLO when analysing my own developing skills.
- At the start of yesterday, I knew nothing about riding a bike beyond what I’d seen in movies and watching others ride (prestructural).
- After learning some fundamentals (how to mount and dismount, learning the controls etc) I knew how to do some things but only with specific guidance and instruction one-on-one (unistructural).
- As I practiced manoeuvres over and over again, I found myself getting it right more often than I got it wrong, but I still made mistakes. I was improving but still with a way to go yet (multistructural).
Now I certainly haven’t reached anywhere near relational or extended abstract (not without a whole lot more practice and experience), but using these SOLO concepts and terms I could definitely see how my skills were progressing. Most interestingly, I found that my attitude towards my rough skills was far more positive than I might have felt in the past. I was able to give myself permission to be rubbish at it much more easily than I would have. I saw where my skill was at, and rather than feeling frustrated at not being an expert from the start, I felt more satisfaction at my progress from one level to the next. I could also see strategies that were helping me to move up through the levels – repetition, visualisation, modelling the expert (I.e. the instructor), positive self-talk, and so on.
I really feel like I myself moved more towards a growth mindset in this totally un-school related activity, and I was really happy with that. I felt excited, positive and could readily accept that I’m still a novice, knowing that I’m simply not there yet.