Solo Taxonomy – Extended Abstract

I’ve had some thoughts. Had some thoughts about an issue with solo that was concerning me. Solo has a structure that moves from minimal knowledge and understanding to generalised, conceptual cognition. I have no difficulties with the first four levels; prestructural, unistructural, multistructural and relational. These take the learned from knowing nothing to understanding some ideas that are linked, related, in some way.

The difficulty I have been struggling with is the move from relational to Extended Abstract, (EA). It seemed to be just too simple to reach EA by going through the solo stages. It’s not that I want to make learning difficult, per se; far from it. I want students to do as well as possible, as quickly as possible, so we can do even more learning. But I do want the learning to be valid, powerful and valuable.

Depth is what I am aiming for and depth requires the learner to explore around the current knowledge, to link it in as many ways as possible to create a brain map of the learning. It is the “as many ways as possible” which was blocking my attempts to being able to be work further with solo. I knew I did not understand solo in some fundamental way. As a learner I need to be sure I have a good understanding of ideas to be able to start to confidently then use that idea. I recognised that solo was a potentially very powerful learning tool and I was willing to keep thinking.

In my educational consultant role I do tend to do a lot of driving from my home in beautiful, but remote, North Wales to almost anywhere in the UK to work with schools and teachers. So I have a lot of time to think. I’ve done the journey from Llangollen to anywhere on the M5 so many times I can almost drive on autopilot. And at 5:00am there are not a lot of other road users about.

My thinking started at the relational level. Hexagons allow links to be made easily and that was part of the issue I had. If links were easy to make would students do enough thinking about those links? Was it hexagons that were the problem or could I cause students to think harder about the links that they had created or were going to create? Links would appear just by placing hexagons that touch. How might I make that extra, overt and, hopefully, deep thinking more likely to happen? How could I get students to have an appropriate focus on the links as well as having enough thought about the content on each hexagon?

That led me to thinking about whether producing one set of linked hexagons was enough to have met the relational level and to then be able to move, successfully, onto work on the EA level.

Then, a word from the verbs list rang in my ears. Generalisation. Clarity rose as a Kraken … no, don’t go getting all metaphorical… Clarity appeared. To generalise one needs *several* examples, several sets of hexagons or several links that formed a set. Did a concept such as liked links exist?

So the answer, or at least an answer, is that when making links between the pieces of knowledge on each hexagon the nature, number, variety and other features of the links would decide whether or not the student could truly go onto EA. If their links did not, themselves, lead to the ability to generalise, or they did not include some knowledge that could provide that move to a new domain then more relational work was required. Could students recognise this or did it need more teacher input? Any thoughts?

Happy guy… The issue now is what structures, questions, provocations etc will be useful in prompting the move from the new, greater exploration of the relational stage to the Exploring Abstract stage. What kind of learning outcome would students use that would allow them to see that they had to do more work on the relational stage to then be able to work at EA, so that they could meet the learning outcome well.

Needs a few more 5:00am excursions along Britain’s motorways to ponder that matter.

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