Research School Network: Deeper Thinking: A Case Study Rachael Hardcastle, of Carmel Research School, reflects on the progress SOLO taxonomy has had in the classroom


Deeper Thinking: A Case Study

Rachael Hardcastle, of Carmel Research School, reflects on the progress SOLO taxonomy has had in the classroom

by Carmel Research School
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In my previous article, I talked about the need for students to be more reflective in their learning and preparing them for a more blended learning approach. Through the use of metacognition, I explored the practical techniques and programs offered at Carmel Research School. For this article, I wanted to demonstrate just how effective this approach was, especially for one particular student.


*John, who was one of my separate science students and also from a disadvantaged background, was according to progress scores one of the weakest students I had; he averaged around 40% on small assessments, achieving a grade 4/5. It was clear John showed promise and willing though, so we began using regularly spaced interventions using SOLO taxonomy. This was to firstly build connections between subject content and then eventually progressing to more complex longer answer questions.



The class was subject to a trial run of Deeper Thinking. It was a program that used SOLO Taxonomy to scaffold metacognition. There are three main steps: 1. basic linking of subject knowledge; 2. progressing to using the hexagon to scaffold answers to 6‑mark questions; 3. using the hexagons to plan and predict practical science questions.

Due to his determination and willingness to learn, the results of the intervention were astounding. In his first assessment, only one-half term after starting the intervention, he managed to increase his score by on average 25% which put him closer to a grade 6/7 boundary. This progress continued and by the end of year 10 John was achieving 80 – 90% on all tests, which put him firmly at a grade 8.

Many students have really started to engage with this way of working, but initially couldn’t quite see how it can be applied outside of science. As a result, we spent two lessons swapping topics during year 10 summer mocks and students quickly became more confident in its application outside of science.

John commented: Once you get the hang of using the hexagons to link ideas together you can do it for anything really. I used it to help scaffold longer answers for history, but also to just help me organise my thoughts. Finding links between concepts meant I could look at things from lots of different angles”

He also had this to say about the use of SOLO Taxonomy and metacognition: I felt more confident being able to prioritise and set smaller goals. I was able to look at work and assess what I should be learning from it and how it connects to what I did last year in my lessons. It’s really helped me organise my timing and work, as I can think more on my toes now.”

Seeing this progress, after implementing the intervention, affirmed the improvement which can be made with students who are not reaching their full potential. The increase in John’s performance from grade 5 to grade 8 in such a short space of time shows just how effective it can be with consistency and support from teachers.

John is now in Year 12, having progressed into KS5 at such a difficult time. He is much further ahead of his peers in his transition into sixth form and is able to study more independently, using the technique he learned during his GCSE’s. John is so confident in the technique that he has now started to share his ideas with others: I know people are struggling, especially after lockdown, but we have a little study group now and we like to try and do the hexagons together to recap thoughts, as its always better in groups. We then move on to do the homework.”

For a technique that started as part of the Deeper Thinking programme, to see how students are using it to guide their learning for their other subjects is phenomenal. I think this last quote really sums up why this way of learning is so beneficial to students: I just don’t think people know how to study.’ It sounds stupid but we had so much time off and we forgot a lot of it. This technique just sticks in my head though, probably because I can do it with all my subjects.”

*The student’s name was changed to protect their identity.

Find Rachael Hardcastle on Twitter @MissRHardcastle or via email Hardcastler@​carmel.​bhcet.​org.​uk

Co-written by Callum Wilkinson (freelance copywriter)

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