Sunday, 20 May 2012

From Bloom to SOLO to exam skills

Working in a school where lots of the staff use Bloom's Taxonomy to create learning objectives, the students are very familiar with the language: Know / Understand / Apply / Synthesise / Analyse / Evaluate / Create. However, recently I have introduced my GCSE C/D class to SOLO, and I wanted to get them to think about how this wasn't a complete change from everything they were used to, but simply a different way of thinking about the process of learning.

More importantly, I wanted them to understand how their AQA Foundation English Paper 1 was constructed in a similar way - the skills required building in complexity as you go through the paper: Qu 1a Retrieve, Qu 1b Infer, Qu 2 Retrieve and Infer, Qu 3 Analyse Language, Qu 4 Compare Presentation.

Not wanting to simply tell them how I think this works, I got them to do it for themselves. I gave them the bits of paper, post-it arrows and asked them to create a learning diagram. One group came up with this:

The final step was to think about how those skills can be demonstrated to the examiner. We did this by using PETER paragraphs (Point / Pattern, Evidence, Term, Explain / Explore, Relate to question):

Qu 1a (Unistructural) Retrieve (P x 4)
Qu 1b (Multistructural) Infer (PE)
Qu 2 (Multistructural) Retrieve and Infer (PEE)
Qu 3 (Relational) Language (PETER)
Qu 4 (Relational) Compare Presentation (PETER)

The different skills were reinforced with images which they really liked:


Infer (reading beneath the surface):

Infer and retrieve:

How does the writer use Language:

Compare Presentation:

The impact is hard to judge, as there are lots of other factors involved, but I gave the group a mock reading paper on Friday and 3 of the students improved by 8 marks from their previous attempt. All the others showed significant improvement on the Language and Presentation questions where the most marks are available and students struggle.

One of the key things this reinforces for me is that students, far from being put off by the seemingly complex terminology, really enjoy understanding the theory behind the way they learn. My hope is that they will then start to apply it in other subjects. Simply put, if they can understand the rules of the game properly they will become better players.

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