What is our BEST Taxonomy?

Peter DeWitt, Ed. D published a great article “What’s Our Best Taxonomy? Bloom’s or SOLO?”.  He does a great job at explaining both Taxonomies while providing you insights as to how each can be and is used.

This article address a topic that I was first taught in college at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania: Bloom’s Taxonomy.

The 6 stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy are:

Blooms

  1. Knowledge
  2. Comprehension
  3. Application
  4. Analysis
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluation

The idea of Bloom’s is to make sure that you are hitting all the levels of cognitive thought and if you are then you truly testing for mastery vs. memorization.  However, once I started to teach, I learned how difficult it is to assess students at a high level and then also judge where they fell in their understanding based on the taxonomy.  I found myself looking to other methods to assess my students level of understanding of the content.

According to Mr. DeWitt, “The criticism with Bloom’s is that it seems to focus on regurgitating information, and that anything goes. A student can provide a surface-level answer to a difficult question, or a deep answer to a surface-level question.”

Let us now turn our attention to the SOLO Taxonomy that was created and developed by John Biggs and Kevin Collis in the 1980’s.  Biggs describes their taxonomy as, “SOLO, which stands for the Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome, is a means of classifying learning outcomes in terms of their complexity, enabling us to assess students’ work in terms of its quality not of how many bits of this and of that they got right.”

The 5 Stages of the SOLO Taxonomy are:

SOLO

  1. Prestructual
  2. Unistructual
  3. Multistructual
  4. Relational
  5. Extended Abstract

So the purpose of the SOLO Taxonomy is to reach even past assessing and judging the value of materials that are learned to developing theories and applying their knowledge to explore new ideas.

The most powerful piece of the article, for someone who was brought up on Bloom’s Taxonomy, was this quote from Mr. DeWitt “Through reading blogs and research, one of the positives sides to SOLO is that it makes it easier for teachers to identify the levels, and therefore help guide students through the learning process.”

I always found myself just looking at the verbs of Bloom’s and incorporating them into my assessments to reach all the levels of the Taxonomy but found it so hard to make judgments on how my students were progressing.  With the SOLO Taxonomy you could consider reducing it to a much simpler scale of I statements…

  • I do not understand what just happened – Clueless
  • I sort of understand what you are saying – Somewhat understands
  • I am on the same page but not connecting the pieces – Moderately understands
  • I am on the same page and explain it to my neighbor – Fully understands
  • I understand and feel that this concept applies to another idea I had in mind – An extension to what I have learned.

So after reading the article and my thoughts on what I have experienced during my teaching career, which side to you stand on?  Bloom’s or SOLO?

Images are from the Centre for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning.  

 

 

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