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The ultimate guide to using SOLO Taxonomy in science

May 10, 2018 | Solo Taxonomy

Melting chocolate and creating foaming snakes are both strategies to build science students’ observation powers in Pam Hook and Willem Tolhoek’s latest book.

It presents simple experiments from familiar contexts to guide science students as they investigate the increasing complexity of gathering and interpreting data, and simultaneously develop their powers of observation.

“By unpacking the ‘gathering and interpreting data’ capability into curriculum levels we provide a scaffold that progresses and deepens both students and teachers’ understanding of the capability over time,” Pam says.

“Through ‘common’ experiments, we re-affirm that science educators can take existing resources and modify them to change an activity’s purpose and students’ learning focus.”

With SOLO taxonomy (structure of the observed learning outcome) as a base, the book progressively leads students through relevant curriculum learning levels: learning to observe carefully, measure precisely, observe indirectly and to make choices about observations.

Yet these experiments are not only learning opportunities, they are also fun. What student wouldn’t want to observe the melting point and changes in the structure and shape of chocolate, create a vinegar volcano or a foam snake?

Creating practical science experiments that engage students in the thrill of exploration – or observing science experiments that capture student curiosity – about an everyday event is important when designing learning experiences for (or to prompt) deep learning outcomes.

“We’ve designed these experiments to be engaging and align to students’ experiences in the ‘real world’. Using SOLO levels to observe the experiments ensures that students are prompted to shift their observations and thinking from surface to deep outcomes.” 

This series shows how to develop curious minds with the science capabilities. It combines SOLO Taxonomy, as an accessible, robust way of making learning visible, with current theories on how students learn and effective pedagogies.

Pam Hook is an educational consultant (HookED, who works with New Zealand and Australian schools to develop curricula and pedagogies for learning to learn based on SOLO Taxonomy. She has published articles on thinking, learning, e-learning and gifted education, and written curriculum material for government and business. She is author and co-author of many books on SOLO Taxonomy including titles translated into Danish, and is co-author of two science New Zealand textbooks.

Willem Tolhoek has been a science educator in New Zealand secondary schools since 2005. He has a passion for developing literacy and engaging students in science. While in an acting HOLA Science role over the last four years, he has worked with Pam Hook to further integrate the use of SOLO in the science curriculum to develop students’ surface level of thinking to a deeper level of understanding.


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