Daily Archives: April 11, 2012

Can SOLO and hexagons help students improve their grades?

I have been using SOLO with my top set Year 11 classes for about a month so far, obviously not in every lesson. We have experimented working in groups and individually, using the hexagons to explore specific exam questions in preparation for OCR A664 section A on ‘Animal Farm‘.  The question is, has using SOLO and hexagons helped the students improve their grades?

Targeting A/A*

I have had some success in the past moving students towards the A* grade, but at times this has felt a little hit or miss, one of the difficulties is often explaining the difference between the top grades and, more importantly, how to achieve this.

In my recent series of lessons, I used the SOLO grid (thanks to Tait Coles @Totallywired77) to explain that, while a strong relational answer may well hit the top of a B, or even an A grade, to hit the A* there needs to be more evidence of independent understanding and interpretation – an extended abstract response. I also tried to encourage students to experiment with their interpretations, using the hexagons  independently, explaining their choices to their partner. The aim was to foster independent understanding and enquiry, but also to encourage the thinking skills needed to express their ideas in writing.

Analysing the Outcome

I have selected 2 pupils, in this very unscientific study, and looked at their work before using hexagons:

Student 1 – extract from C grade essay

Student 2 – extract from B grade essay

and after a specific higher grade, A/A* focused lesson:

Student 1 – second essay extract – a high B grade

Student 2 – second essay – a high A

Now, I am not saying that this is a scientific exploration. The sample I am looking at is not statistically significant, nor can I exclude the possibility that the pupils would have made these improvements without using SOLO. However, both students managed to improve their work by at least a grade. The second essays showed more thorough understanding of the text and a better grasp of characterisation and Orwell’s purpose. This is the case across the group and throughout the ability range. Certainly interesting results!

Next Steps

Having experimented with the use of hexagons and SOLO taxonomy with my Year 11 classes, I have decided to try it with my Year 10 class as part of their preparation for their controlled assessment on ‘Of Mice and Men‘ – for previous pieces, they have been anxious about planning their work under exam conditions. I’m hoping that this will improve their confidence. I am also planning a SOLO intervention session with Y11s who need to redo a piece of controlled assessment.

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