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The SOLO taxonomy (Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome)

The SOLO taxonomy (Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome), which is based on the study of outcomes in a variety of academic content areas, was used to classify the student learning outcomes for the student work gathered, as well as outcomes and activities observed during the classroom observation. “As students learn, the outcomes of their learning display similar stages of increasing structural complexity. There are two main changes: quantitative, as the amount of detail in the student's response increases, and qualitative, as the amount of detail becomes integrated into a structural pattern” (Biggs, 2003). The SOLO taxonomy thus provides a means of evaluating at which level instructors and students were operating.

SOLO category


Type of outcome

Unanticipated Extension
(Extended Abstract)

extended conections

Create                        Synthesise
Hypothesise               Validate
Predict                        Debate

Logically Related


Apply                         Outline
Distinguish                 Analyse
Classify                      Contrast
Summarise                Categorise

Multiple Points


Explain                       Define
List                             Solve
Describe                    Interpret 

Single Point


State                  Recognise
Recall                        Quote
Note                           Name


Note: The terms in brackets are the original nomenclature used by Biggs (Biggs, 2003).

Adapted from: Center for Learning Enhancement and Research (CLEAR), The Chinese University of Hong Kong (n.d.). The SOLO taxonomy as a guide to setting and marking assessment .

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