Transforming taxonomies into rubrics: using SOLO in social science and inclusive education
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Designing assessment rubrics has become an important pedagogical practice for lecturers in the Wits School of Education (WsoE) in the recognition of writing as a valuable tool for teaching and learning across disciplines. This paper describes and reflects on the process of adapting the SOLO taxonomy (Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes) devised by Biggs and Collis (1982) into assessment criteria for two assessment tasks in Social Science Methodology and Inclusive Education (Learning Support 1) courses. Through a collaborative relationship between the course presenter (Rembach1) and the WSoE teaching and learning advisor (Dison) over a four-year period, a number of rubrics based on the SOLO taxonomy were created, revised and refined for specific tasks in order to determine how students were responding to the set tasks at different levels of cognition. The paper demonstrates several learning benefits that emerged from the process of adapting the SOLO taxonomy for different task requirements, such as better scaffolding of tasks, enhanced student learning, collaborative professional development and better modelling. Given the diverse student population in the School of Education, there is a strong need to establish a deeper and more nuanced understanding of how course and assessment tasks influence student learning. As assessment plays a fundamental role in shaping student learning in a course (Biggs, 2011), we need to understand how it can contribute meaningfully to promoting higher order thinking outcomes in education courses. The paper illustrates the central role of assessment criteria in strengthening the relationship between lecturer and student development in designing assessments for these two courses in the Wits School of Education.