Using SOLO to develop a scheme of work

This guest post was written by Chris Bailey @MrCwBailey.

I have this year taken on the responsibility of organising and teaching Level 2 BTEC Sport within my department. The summer was spent rewriting the schemes of work, ensuring that they had learning objectives, key words, homework tasks and assessment dates that were more suited to the Edexcel changes that have taken place. They were well received by the head of department and have been used as a template for other areas in the department. However, I felt they were still limited in terms of their easy application to differentiated planning. Then I read “Using SOLO as a Framework for Teaching” by Steve Martin, and it has completely changed the way I approach writing my schemes of work.

In his book Mr Martin explains how he has used SOLO Taxonomy in science, and the first chapter is using SOLO during the planning of units of work. The way he explains it is really simple but extremely effective. Instead of using all five stages of SOLO, he uses three; 1. Uni/Multistructural, 2. Relational and 3. Extended abstract. This simplifies the application to lessons and has allowed my students to grasp and apply the concept to our BTEC Sport course.

Three phases of scheme of work development are identified;

Phase one

Identifying, classifying key facts, ideas and concepts within the topic, and making connections to other relevant topic areas.

This is a routine that I am sure a lot of people use when designing a scheme of work after reading the specification, however for me, simply having all relevant information in front of me allowed me to see possible connections to other topic areas, which would have otherwise been overlooked or identified once teaching had already began. Below is an example of how I have applied this first phase to the planning of my Anatomy and Physiology unit (fig 1-3).


Figure 1: List of key facts, ideas and concepts


Figure 2: Classifying the content into the 3 stages


Figure 3: Making links to other contexts for extension

Phase two

Grouping the content into what would be individual lessons or weeks and assigning learning verbs to each stage. Attaching the verbs at this phase has made it so much easier for me to ensure all content is appropriate at the three stages, and that I have differentiated learning intentions and success criteria (Phase three). Below is an example of grouped content that would be taught over a couple of lessons (fig 4).

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Figure 4: Content grouped with assigned verbs and differentiated learning intentions and success criteria

This whole process has enabled my schemes of work to be more differentiated and my lessons to have a greater focus on students being more independent in assessing their own progress. Below is an example of what my schemes of will look like from now on (fig 5).


Figure 5: Snapshot of SoW for Unit 7 Anatomy and Physiology for Sports Performance

Since redesigning the scheme of work to include the learning logs, as seen above, my students have been accessing deeper learning experiences and been able to make more connections within and between topics. I have been using hexagons to allow students to describe and explain connections between key words in a visual way (this is since reading a blog by @lisajaneashes). These connections have served as a base for planning long answer questions in the external assessment. The students used their plan to complete a scaffold learning mat (idea I got from @MrGoldmanPE via @PE4Learning) that progressively increased their level of understanding on the chosen topic and eventually led to them piecing all of their information together to answer the long answer question more effectively. Their extended writing ability has improved and will continue to improve as we move through the scheme of work and more connections become available. Below is an example of the aforementioned process (fig 6).


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Figure 6: Use of hexagons to make connections and complete learning mat

If you are interested in using SOLO Taxonomy in your lessons, I highly recommend reading Steve Martin’s book. It is a fantastic introduction to the effective application of SOLO Taxonomy, starting with the design of units progressing through to planning and assessment.