Just the previous week I had launched SOLO with my Y12s in a lesson where I got them to highlight their A2 mark scheme for AQA Sociology according to SOLO taxonomy (see my post 'Keeping up with the Soloists'). The results were crystal clear; that extended abstract was the top band, relational the top half of the middle band, multistructural the bottom half of the middle band and so on. This was a powerful lever for me in getting students to appreciate the value of SOLO.
And so, being a fan of serendipity, I decided to use the Middlesex university mark scheme for Masters level dissertations to mark my AS Sociologists' essays, rather than the A-Level mark scheme to see if it would work as well. The results were amazing.
The first of the essays I marked was a real mixed bag, which using a traditional mark scheme would have been really difficult to evaluate. Because I would have been looking at a number of the different mark bands I would have had to cobble together a best fit statement that would have offered little to the student. Instead I am able to point out where she is prestructural, but also where she is multistructural and, at her best, relational. My concluding comments are therefore far more effective at giving her feedback, feed up and feed forward: a proper evaluative response for her to draw strength from and use to identify improvements.
The difference that I have noted from this first foray into using SOLO taxonomy for written evaluation (notice I am not using the word assessment as it seems too shallow for the feedback, feed up and feed forward I have given) is that I am able to evaluate each paragraph and even sentence independently of the whole. This precision of evaluation has allowed me to really accurately pinpoint which concepts they have not grasped, or where they have not applied theory to sociological contexts, or where they have failed to evaluate sociological theories effectively. In doing so, it has helped me to promote the importance of consistency across the essay to them and they were quick to identify sections where they needed to go away and revise concepts or rewrite essays. If I had had more time with them I would have asked them to rewrite the section they felt most able to improve, perhaps after having spent time getting ideas from their peers based upon my evaluation.
I told the students afterwards that I had marked their essays using a Masters level mark scheme. What amazed them most was that SOLO taxonomy could be used to evaluate their work as well as mine, as well as GCSE coursework and as well as KS3 portfolios. It was clear that they realised that thinking about levels of understanding (as exemplified by the SOLO concepts of Extended Abstract, Relational, etc) was something that could connect them to their studies beyond A-Levels, and the fact that they were realising this in our last lesson before their UCAS preparation week was not lost on them, or me.
And what surprised me most? The fact that not one of them asked what grade they had received. And the fact that none of them asked what grade I had received. SOLO was enough for them. And that's enough for me.