Lee Garrett

A teaching and learning journey through PE



I have been using SOLO Taxonomy since Sept 2012 and I have to say that generally it has been absolute key element to  my classroom teaching. As a PE teacher, I decided to use SOLO in my theory classes, GCSE and A Level and my first inspiration was David Fawcett (@davidfawcett27). It was after discovering his blog that I then started chasing people on twitter and people’s blogs making sure that understood the language. After reading the brilliant Tait Coles (@Totallywired77), I was certain that I was not going to visibly associate a level descriptor or grade against the learning taxonomy. I know some people do and thats fine, but I feel that with my particular students, they get too hung up on what grade or level they are currently working on and ignore the importance of utilising feedback and working towards developing that growth mindset. The students do know however that relational learning is the threshold they should at least be aiming for and to be honest without the public grades, the students use the appropriate language when using SOLO as an exit ticket.

So for those reading this, and wondering what on earth is SOLO all about, I will talk about the presentation I did at a Teachmeet that I participated in and which I ran out of bloody time!

SOLO ( Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes) Biggs & Collins

SOLO is a taxonomy for teaching and learning. It has similarities to Blooms (taxonomy for thinking) which I still use to help frame differentiated questions.

To get people to understand the SOLO taxonomy, I used the example of a sandwich. The AW Sandwich! Here goes:


Prestructural – I have no ideas about the AW sandwich, I need help to describe it.

At this level of learning, students will have no idea what it is that is being learned and therefore will need help to build the language, terminology and basic factual blocks of information in order to progress. Unless you are the chef who designed this culinary delight I am probably guessing that most people reading this will be at this level.


Uni-Structural – I have 1 idea about the AW Sandwich. I know 1 ingredient/characteristic of the AW Sandwich.

For those of you wanting to learn all about this sandwich, you now know that the main ingredient is a slice of wagyu beef tenderloin.


Multi-structural – I have several ideas about the AW Sandwich. You know the main ingredients.

As previously stated, this sandwich contains a slice of wagyu beef tenderloin, a poached quails egg, rocket lettuce, seared foie gras, black truffle mayonnaise, crispy strip of turkey bacon and finally heirloom tomatoes.

When planning the learning objectives and the success criteria, there are key verbs to help (this is where it is similar to Blooms)

For example: define, list, name, state, describe, and identify.
PE exam question: State 2 factors that will cause optimum weight to vary between between individuals in the same event (2 marks)
LG example: Describe how hungry you after after knowing the ingredients of the AW Sandwich.

The next two levels are the most important ones. For my subject, this is where the big marks are allocated and usually found in the differentiated questions. However if a student can identify a relational or extended abstract question and understand how to approach answering them correctly and recall and link the correct knowledge then they are well on their way to achieving and demonstrating their learning.


Relational: I can connect and relate relevant ideas and learning. I can explain why these ingredients are used and how they compliment each other.

In classical French cooking, the beef and foie gras form part of the Tournedos Rossini dish and are used together for texture and balance of flavour. Using wagyu beef takes this to the next level. The rocket lettuce adds a crisp texture and the peppery flavour balances out flavours of other ingredients.

The verbs to help the learning at the Relational stage include, compare and contrast, sequence, classify, explain, analyse.

PE exam: Explain the requirements of a balanced diet (4marks)


Extended Abstract: I can look at the ideas in a new way and make links to other concepts.

The AW Sandwich as described was on the menu in a hotel in the UAE, hence the turkey bacon. BUT what if we were in the Caribbean? How might the sandwich change? Would we swap the wagyu beef for Canadian lobster? The black truffle mayo for Beluga caviar? How would the sandwich fit within a dinner party? What colour wine would you use if eating at 1pm as opposed to 7pm?

As you can see this is a lot more about making generalisations, predicting , evaluating, hypothesise, create.

A2 PE Exam: Outline the possible causes of spectator violence at sporting events and explain how the law aims to protect them (14marks)


One well documented tool for using SOLO is the use of hexagons. Here each hexagon is used as an idea (uni/multi-structural). On each hexagon an idea is written down and to advance the learning connections are made (relational) by placing the hexagons side by side.

To further enhance the learning, students need to make connections to new concepts. Using different coloured hexagons which represents different concepts and making connections, students are on their way to developing learning at an Extended Abstract level.

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The Web

I have been devising other ways to engage the students into making connections and facilitating students to become more deeper learners and deeper thinkers. One way myself and colleagues have explored is the spiders web. As a revision lesson the aim was to answer this question which was generated by @revisePE on Twitter:

David is a swimmer who competes around the country. Suggest some of the influences of participation that has helped him get to this level

In groups, students worked on an individual concept. For example one group worked on factors influencing participation, others worked on Sport England, Youth Sport Trust, National Governing Bodies, and the performance pyramid, five groups in total.

Starting with a multi-structural task, groups had to write as many ideas (1 idea per piece of paper) and make Relational connections/links within that topic by drawing the connections on the table. Each group then moved around the classroom (carousel style) and contributed where appropriate to each topic.



Then armed with a load of string, new connections across the room were made to link ideas from different topics. As an extension task, students had to answer the question which was on the whiteboard throughout the lesson.



As time was running out from the lesson, each person had to think of 2 E.A connections and discuss this with a partner and then to the whole group. What came out of the whole group discussion was that even more connections and deeper thinking emerged as fresh ideas came to light.  All ideas were photographed and made into a PDF as a resource on Edmodo.

The progression from multi-structural to E.A is not an easy one and should take time to reach. I admit that I do not always get to E.A in my lessons and sometimes don’t even plan to get to the deepest level of learning (mainly due to time issues). But what I have found is that where appropriate, the E.A level creates new opportunities for learning to occur, engages the students as they are being stretched out of their comfort zone which as research has shown increases rate of learning and allows students to grow in confidence as they can connect information easily and accurately from a wider perspective.

The Power of Feedback

One of the strongest applications SOLO has is its use as a feedback tool. I have particularly found this useful in A2 PE theory lessons where students are explicitly shown via the whiteboard where they are now, where do they need to get to and how will they get there. This can be shown to the students quite easily with a rubic success criteria or simply stated on the board.


Certainly with my A-level group, we have moved up and down the taxonomy several times before reaching our final destination of learning and this is the beauty of the taxonomy. There is a saying which I really find true to its word;

feedback to feedforward

And SOLO helps you to facilitate effective feedback in order for you and the students to move forward towards deeper learning. This notion of feeding back to feedforward had really helped my understanding and use of SOLO.

And finally planning. I have already mentioned that uni and multi-structural is more quantitative and relational and extended abstract more qualitative. David Fawcett (@davidfawcett27) wrote a great piece on his blog about planning to get to extended abstract and it is something which I fully agree with. He notioned the fact that you dont have to keep to the linear path of working systematically from unistructure to E.A. Why not start from the bigger picture first? This makes perfect sense to me.  I used to plan from bottom up; uni – multi – rel, and then admittedly struggled to see how this fitted in with the bigger picture. Now I much prefer to work using the top – down approach. With the adapted 5 min lesson plan by @teachertoolkit, its far easier to plan the bigger picture first (what do you really want the students to understand) and then plan the foundation of ideas. Darren Mead wrote on his Sharing Pedagogical Purposes blog “who would buy the best high revolution precision cutter, and then decide what to make“. And this is the point I am trying to make. What is the main deep learning foci that is your target? What key ideas, learning tasks do you need to learn to understand the goal objective? As Darren calls it backfill the building blocks.

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I am certainly still a novice playing with this teaching and learning concept and there is much more I could write about but my final thought on this is that the more risk you take in being creative, engaging and ambitious in leading students to the path of deeper learning, the higher the quality of teaching and learning and the more satisfying your job becomes. Anyone for a sandwich??


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Sharpening the Swiss Army knife (ipad) for P.E – Ready for 2013

A lot has been said about the use of the ipad in the classroom. Twitter certainly helps collaborate ideas and the mass variety and uses of the apps. The ipad is like the Swiss Army knife (wiki: generally has a blade and various other tools). In this edition it generally has a 9.7 inch screen with various apps. Its versatility, creative apps and high quality output never ceases to impress me but as a tool to enhance learning and aid teaching, it has become a tool which has become an everyday item along with my keys (when I don’t lose them) and my board pen. Some of you reading this who already use the ipad especially the #pegeeks will know what I’m talking about but let me share my valuable Swiss Army tools:

The aim of this post is simply to inform and therefore the description is brief but a link to various websites has been attached for more information.

  Twitter: This is probably the most important tool. You have access to a whole community of like minded teachers from the same subject, different subject, different parts of the globe, senior management, middle management, NQT. The list is endless. And for the time you spend creating an account you get in return a plethora of ideas, strategies and some wise words of wisdom. However there are some valuable people who #sharingiscaring openly elaborate on the new releases found, new ways to use the apps. Techies worth a follow: @ICTmagic, @syded06, @mrobbo, @danielharvey9 and ICTEvangelist.

Edmodo: This pivotal learning platform has provided me an infrastructure to effectively and efficiently communicate, organise , monitor and report, give good quality feedback, engage and support. The interface is very user friendly. As a teacher of GCSE and A Level PE, it has enabled me to mark homework as it comes in reducing the pile up that has occurred in the past. Once in, I am able to annotate the submitted online homework and give effective feedback. There is a gradebook function which acts as a teachers mark book and you are able to monitor what time homework is submitted. This has been useful!

Other brilliant features include the library option where you can store resources and link to Google Docs. You can create classrooms, set alerts (reminders), connect with other teachers and communities and set quizzes/polls. For more information on this platform click here. Other teachers who have documented their use of Edmodo are @davidfawcett27 and @mat6453

 or  Ubersense / Coaches Eye: I prefer Ubersense but my colleague uses Coaches Eye. To be honest they are very similar in use and hold similar features. Once a video has been recorded, you can use it instantly and then the fun begins. You can analyse using various drawing tools, use slow motion, manually scroll frame by frame. Ubersense can compare videos side by side or overlay and finally you can narrate over the top of a video. Follow @mrbpeteacher, @mrmozely and @PEeducator,

Following on from the analysis apps is Youtube. A well known and global app which thanks to @TeamTait has a dedicated #Pegeeks channel which you can access if you contact him. Here there is a bank of skills for students and teachers to use.

Socrative: For me this is one of those apps that gets used the most. In terms of providing feedback, it allows the teacher to get an insight into the whole class. Using a device (ipad, ipod, mobile phone) the student would use this as an online clicker. Teachers can make either multiple choice questions or short answer questions which at the end of the test can be emailed directly to the teacher for instant analysis thus getting feedback from the students. If you have not seen or used this app, use it as one of your 2013 resolutions to do so. Check out the website here.

 Explain Everything/Educreations/Showme: Ive used all 3 screencast apps. Explain Everything has a lot more features and tools to create a high quality screencasts than the other 2 but I have to say that I generally use Educreations simply for ease of use and because you have an online account where you can store your presentations. Great for the flipped learning and blended learning model. @pauldavidmac has some good examples on his blog of how he uses screencasts.

Evernote: This online notebook allows you to clip and store web pages, store thoughts & ideas, photos and general notes. My students use Evernote by taking pictures and using the online storage facility which is helpful if work presentation is poor. They are then able to snyc their notebooks to their desktop/laptop or device which is useful revising or writing up notes. Evernote notebooks can be shared among colleagues via email. Students are now in the habit of obtaining evidence of anything within the lesson by taking photos and saves valuable lesson time as they dont have to copy stuff down. Click here to take you to the Evernote website.

The above are the main tools I use for teaching and learning but following this are other apps which I use:

Pocket – Place to store online blog posts and other interesting articles.

Wordsalad – Free tag cloud used to put across learning objectives in a different way.

Avid Studio – I use Avid instead of imovie.

VideoScribe – Engaging presentation app other than Prezi

Aurasma – Augmented Reality. This app has so many potential uses.

Dropbox / Box.com – Online storage

Phoster – Excellent poster app

Kagan Name Selector – Instead of using lollipops. Will start using this come the start of term for questioning techniques.

Easy QR – QR code generator / reader

Below are apps that I rarely use for one reason or another (mainly lack of time) but I will eventually get round to it.


Video in Video



Comic life

There are some excellent teachers who are using some of the above apps and more to enhance the learning of students. There is no right way or wrong way in using these tools in class as long as the purpose is to engage the student and enhance the learning.

Over the next couple of months as technology and pedagogy evolves, some of the apps listed will be replaced but part of the excitement is trying new stuff and experimenting, using the ipad creativly within the classroom. Please feel free to add to the list of alternatives or recommend any others.


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Blended Learning? I’d call it diverse teaching!

Ive recently been observed by senior management. I tried to keep the lesson as routinely normal as possible without dressing it up, so I opted for SOLO stations. why not? Students have already experienced the benefits and the challenge of progressing and seeing their own visible learning, they know and understand the language and the process involved. Done!

These are some post obs reflections.

Briefly, each station had a different activity. To start, Socrative was used to generate a hinge question and find a starting point for the students to begin working. There was a Flipped Classroom approach integrated with cooperative learning, there was peer critique on another station and finally hexagons for the Extended Abstract which was planned but not used. Students needed to pay extra attention on the relational stage.

Some may call the above a Blended Learning approach, who cares, I would just simply call it diverse teaching and learning to engage the students into personalised learning. The great @learningspy recently posted a blog called Is there a right way to teach? in which I totally agree with his sentiments. Direct Instruction has been found to be extremely effective in terms of student achievement (Hattie – 0.59 effect size). Just reflecting back to my lesson observation, did I exercise Direct Instruction? Most definitely because it was easy for me to create a success criteria through the use of SOLO levels, the students knew what had to be achieved and as the teacher I set clear learning intentions (cheers WALT) AND from time to time I was checking progress. This does not mean I used didactic teaching methods which is sometimes confused with the term Direct Instruction. No way. In fact did I mention that cooperative learning was used, the great Think-Pair-Share strategy pops up again (reciprocal teaching).

William Glasser

There were times that as a teacher, I felt that my expertise needed to interject some of the conversation. As much as I felt it would be right to allow them to explore various avenues and allow them to make the mistakes in order to learn, there are some restrictions which prevent me from allowing this to happen. Mainly TIME. We have an even shorter academic year due to the cultural environment this school is located in and time is tight to finish off the syllabus. Fortunately, formative questioning steered them back on course and the students themselves questioned me and others for their own understanding (these were duly congratulated).

Hattie’s Visible Learning is not predictive, it is evidence based on many millions of students and a synthesis on over 800 meta analyses and if you want to know what impacts on student’s learning this should be a good starting point.

The lesson showed visible learning. Students achieved set learning intentions. They demonstrated the use of various skills, interdependence, accountability, formulated questions to consolidate understanding, and made mistakes which they learned from. They received feedback in order to feedforward. They gave me feedback in order for me to gain an understanding of their actual learning.

The use of teaching strategies are an important contributing factor (0.6 effect size). One thing Ive learned is that with my expert personal learning network via Twitter and the professionally written blogs being shared, diversifying the strategies has been made easier to use and explore. The Blended Learning (BL) approach is an interesting one in that it combines face to face interaction (teacher) and online learning (screencast).

The use of the SOLO stations fitted in well with the BL model Station Rotation with a few variances to make the lesson work. I would certainly use this model again as it allows more effective use of the teacher within the classroom in other words, there is more student-teacher time making effective use of feedback. Part of the reason why I used SOLO stations was that as a whole school, we are having a drive on differentiation. Students can start at any stage and their decision can be guided by the hinge question. Students then progress forwards or backwards (consolidate) at their own pace. During the flipped approach students could watch the screencast as many times as they wish (self paced). As highlighted, the BL model allows for differentiation.

Call it what you want but this lesson was filled with a variety of different tasks and activities pinned against learning criteria. The fact that I used a potential BL model is irrelevant. Diverse, specific and engaging teaching and learning tasks for me is a successful recipe in the classroom. I will however pay a little more attention on Blended Learning to see exactly what it can offer.