Planning for Progress

Resources, ideas and prompts for discussion related to Challenge and Engagement

How this might look

Our planning should consider how learning can be ‘scaled up’ over time. There is no single prescriptive approach but one way this can be considered is looking at the ideas behind SOLO (Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes) taxonomy as a basic framework for thinking in considering the progression we are looking for. At this point it is worth acknowledging that observing progress, and indeed true learning, in lessons is incredibly difficult if not impossible. Instead this is about framing our approach to ensure we are advancing the use of knowledge over time, but for that to be successful the quality of the base surface knowledge must be as good as possible to begin with.

Level of Learning – see references*SOLO TaxonomyWhat it might mean?
DeepExtended AbstractLearner can extend and apply knowledge. Extended thinking.
DeepRelationalLearner can link and relate knowledge. Strategies for thinking and reasoning.
SurfaceMulti-structuralLearner has acquired many items of knowledge. Basic skills and concepts.
SurfaceUni-structuralLearner has acquired a key single idea or item of knowledge. Recall and reproduction.
Linking the ideas of surface and deep learning to SOLO (Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes) taxonomy when considering progress in planning.

Planning for the transition between surface and deep learning – when to take the ‘plunge’?

There are many approaches that we as teachers can use in our assessment models and mechanisms to ascertain when learners are ‘ready’ but some techniques could include:

  • Hinge Questions (covered in the Questioning Principle): A check for understanding at a ‘hinge-point’ in a lesson, so-called because of two inter-linked meanings: 1) It is the point where you move from one key idea/activity/point on to another. 2) Understanding the content before the hinge is a prerequisite for the next chunk of learning. See Harry Fletcher-Wood’s blog on the design and use of these.
  • Extension tasks that promote the ‘relational’ or ‘extended abstract’ type thinking. So rather than the extension being inherently very ‘hard’ it is more about the depth of knowledge and skills that are needed.
  • Plan assessments or assignments so that questions incrementally move from a more factual recall basis to an application or inference based task. For example “What item is the character carrying?”, “What word is used to describe the mood?”, “Find two examples that show the character was feeling anger”, and finally “What overall impression or feeling do you think the writer was trying to create through their descriptions”?

Associated further reading and references: