describes five levels of increasing complexity in a student’s understanding of a subject.
1. Pre-structural: Students acquire isolated elements of unconnected information, which have no organisation and make no sense. Textbook “facts” about disease are examples.
2. Unistructural: Some fairly simple and obvious connections are made between the elements.
3. Multistructural: A number of connections between the individual elements may be made, but the most important connections between them, those that support a unifying picture of the process, are missed.
4. Relational level: The student is now able to appreciate the significance of the parts in relation to the whole. For instance, the student can use, analyse and evaluate elements from multiple areas – symptoms, signs, investigations, context – in order to work towards and make a diagnosis, instead of merely regurgitating a list of facts about the disease.
The following diagram illustrates how building components are progressively related to each other until a workable house in an appropriate environment results. The analogy with the progressive incorporation of individual bits of factual information into a workable schema is apt. This diagram is modified from the reference below.
The medical student who believes that one can prepare oneself for clinically-based exams (which includes written exams based on clinical material, such as MCQ tests set around clinical vignettes) offers a perfect example of this. Such swot work is entirely prestructural. Performance is hopeless; indeed, success cannot even begin to be achieved until the student moves into the relational level.
Adapted from: Atherton J S (2005) Learning and Teaching: SOLO taxonomy [On-line] UK: Available: http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/solo.htm Accessed: 5 February 2009