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Adv Physiol Educ. 2010 Sep;34(3):145-9. doi: 10.1152/advan.00026.2010.

Student perceptions regarding the usefulness of explicit discussion of "Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome" taxonomy.

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Departments of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, AIMST University, Bedong, Kedah, Malaysia.


One method of grading responses of the descriptive type is by using Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes (SOLO) taxonomy. The basis of this study was the expectation that if students were oriented to SOLO taxonomy, it would provide them an opportunity to understand some of the factors that teachers consider while grading descriptive responses and possibly develop strategies to improve scores. We first sampled the perceptions of 68 second-year undergraduate medical students doing the Respiratory System course regarding the usefulness of explicit discussion of SOLO taxonomy. Subsequently, in a distinct cohort of 20 second-year medical students doing the Central Nervous System course, we sought to determine whether explicit illustration of SOLO taxonomy combined with some advice on better answering descriptive test questions (to an experimental group) resulted in better student scores in a continuous assessment test compared with providing advice for better answering test questions but without any reference to SOLO taxonomy (the control group). Student ratings of the clarity of the presentation on SOLO taxonomy appeared satisfactory to the authors, as was student understanding of our presentation. The majority of participants indicated that knowledge of SOLO taxonomy would help them study and prepare better answers for questions of the descriptive type. Although scores in the experimental and control group were comparable, this experience nonetheless provided us with the motivation to orient students to SOLO taxonomy early on in the medical program and further research factors that affect students' development of strategies based on knowledge of SOLO taxonomy.

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