What follows is a series of reflections on how I have experimented with SOLO Taxonomy in Music over the past year.


Fig 1: Produced by Pam Hook (2012)

Hattie (2012) explains how SOLO Taxonomy describes increasing levels of complexity in a students’ understanding of a subject and how moving through this model allows students to progress from uni-structural/multi-structural (surface learning) through to relational/extended abstract (deeper learning).

Pam Hook, director of HookED, is widely known for using innovative classroom based approaches to SOLO Taxonomy (2011) and through much of the work Hook has produced, I have started to develop my use of SOLO Taxonomy in Music.

Over the past year and from the research I carried out, I came to see SOLO as a tool used in planning learning to ensure that there was appropriate challenge and aspiration. My first experiment focussed on a year 7 scheme of learning where students compose an Impressionist piece of music in response to a picture. I thought about the type of questions that could be asked by both teacher and student to assess which stage students were at and what questions/feedback could be used to challenge students and help them progress (fig 2).


Fig 2: V2 SOLO Taxonomy Formative Assessment Too

Looking at this tool, if a student can describe and/or show through practical music making how musical elements can be used in composition, he/she would be working at a multi-structural level. Therefore, in order to challenge this student I could engage him/her in a discussion about analysing the picture and then model how musical elements could be used to portray descriptive words developed through analysing the picture. This would hopefully encourage the student to move from shallow learning (describing musical elements) through to deeper learning (using musical elements in practical music making to portray descriptive words).

This tool is far too cumbersome to ‘carry round’ and physically use in lessons. However, using SOLO in developing this tool during my planning has led to greater clarity in understanding what learning I expect to take place in this task and the different levels of challenge. If I wanted to produce a tool/resource based on this for students to engage with, it could look like this (fig. 3):


Fig 3: V3 SOLO Taxonomy Student Outcomes

Moving away from KS3, I have also taken inspiration from Hook’s SOLO Hexagon Generator app (2011). This tool produces hexagon shapes with each one displaying a key word. What students then have to do is as follows:

Ask students to arrange the hexagons in sequences and clusters, justifying and annotating any connections made:

    Unistructural learning outcome – student identifies one hexagon

   Multistructural learning outcome – student identifies several hexagons

   Relational learning outcome – student connects hexagons and explains the connections with annotations.

   Extended abstract learning outcome – student tessellates (clusters) hexagons adding annotations to make generalisations about a vertex (intersection point).

Hook (2011)

Here is a set of hexagons based on Baroque Music:


After giving the hexagons to students, they began by defining and describing these individual terms:

Students then linked these words adding annotations:


Students then clustered these terms, making generalisations about these clusters with some students producing their own hexagons:


This one hexagon task allowed students to move from simply identifying and describing key words (shallow learning) through to linking and contextualising key words (deeper learning).

So, is it time to go SOLO in Music? I certainly believe there is a place for SOLO in planning learning and challenge at KS3 Music (I have moved forward and have begun to develop a scheme of learning built on SOLO Taxonomy), and most certainly at KS4 with a demand to learn key terms and music theory, I believe SOLO tasks such as hexagons can certainly encourage students to progress from shallow to deep learning.


Biggs, J.B., & Collis, K.F. (1982). Evaluating the quality of learning: The SOLO taxonomy (structure of the observed learning outcome). New York: Academic Press.

Hattie, J., (2012). Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximising Impact on Learning. New York: Routledge.

Hook, P., (2011). HookED Educational Consultancy: About <http://pamhook.com/about/&gt; [Accessed 19th May 2015].

Hook, P., (2011). HookED Educational Consultancy: HookED SOLO Hexagon Generator <http://pamhook.com/solo-apps/hexagon-generator/&gt; [Accessed 19th May 2015].

Hook, P., (2012). The Learning Process <http://pamhook.com/wiki/The_Learning_Process&gt; [Accessed 14th April 2015].