Applying Solo to RE

I have recently been trialling solo in my RE lessons. Having read various blogs (e.g. it I thought that the next thing to do was to take the plunge and develop some materials.

I have placed the materials that I have trialled so far in my drop box and they should be accessible at

I am not certain whether my application is as it should be but I have certainly learned a lot from the planning and delivery of these lessons. I also tied one of the lessons on the cosmological argument in with a piece of flipped learning, creating an animation for students to access at home as their first exploration into this argument.

What have I learned;

1. Share what solo taxonomy is with the students

I explained to the students what a taxonomy was, how it is applied in education and why it may well help each of them make fantastic progress.

I also helped the students to understand that the key to their success was not speed but competency and confidence at each stage. There was no expectation that all students would complete all tasks in KS3. At KS4 with my top set RE group they did all have to progress through and complete every task over two lessons and homework time.

The students were also told at the start that they could choose the level they began at based on prior knowledge and learning. I think I became better at writing tasks which could only be done if the lower levels were known and understood.

2. Create starters that allow the students to become very aware, very quickly, of what they do and don’t know on that particular lesson/topic.

They need to be equipped to choose the appropriate starting point for themselves. Some students know more than they first realise!

3. Give guidance related to the levels in marking

When I marked students work I encouraged them by noting progress from unistructural to multi structural. For some students I encouraged them to take a few more risks in order to ‘level up’ (I like using the language of computer games where levelling up is something they are comfortable with). In practice this meant suggesting to some students that they really focused on getting beyond relational, I also made references to the impact such attempts may have on their attainment.For example “If you can complete some extended abstract work you may well tip into a level 6 next lesson”

4. Prepare resources throughly

I worked hard in preparation for these lessons but once they were underway I was free to talk to students about their learning choices and engage with the more able in some discussion that helped them formulate their thinking for the extended abstract tasks.

5. Use your students to facilitate learning

At times I had students who struggled understanding a philosophical argument either at unistructural or multistructural level. However in the class I knew which students had moved beyond this already. So I equipped some relational students with board markers at their desks and they did a 5 minute intensive one on one teaching session with the student who was struggling. There instructions were simple ‘explain it as best as you can and if once you have explained it student x still doesn’t understand send them to me.’ Each time the students did not need me – their peers did a fine job! Their learning reinforced and their confidence boosted. A win win situation.

6. Relate progress back to attainment

I ultimately took all the work on the philosophical arguments that we covered via solo with my year 9 and used their work to produce a current level of attainment. The students generally all went up in attainment but what I most noticed was the extent to which students progressed. i don’t think I have employed any other strategy which has generated such rapid progress by some many students in such a focused period of time!

The RE GCSE work I did was on good and evil. For this I realised that solo levels link quite easily to questions a to e on the OCR spec. The students were quickly challenged in this work and again we covered a large section of work effectively.

I now refer to the levels even when not using them on worksheets. So I may say to a student “wow! that comment really is hitting multistructural level” They know what I mean and they know that there is room to push on.

I’d really encourage every teacher to trial solo taxonomy and reflect on the results it has, my experience has been so positive. In the drop box file I have included two extended abstarct essays produced by two ear 9 girls. This perhaps will give a sense of what can be achieved. I have so many examples of this level of work but most importantly ALL my students made progress and that has got to be the best reward for any teacher.


About Learning to Teach Lorraine Abbott

Deputy Headteacher in a Surrey School Author for Hodder Education
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