If you haven’t read Chris Harte’s first blog post on SOLO Mysteries then click here “Brains on the SOLO Table – Part 1”
Relational and the Mystery “webbing’ and “sequencing’ stage
When students reach the webbing and sequencing stage the responses are qualitatively different (just like the huge jump of student understanding and thinking from multistructural to relational). The students are now linking the cards together in a coherent manner that will enable them to reach a conclusion that is consistent with the data. Here the student teams are moving towards theories and explanations. For me, this is the most fascinating stage as students’ reasoning skills are at the forefront – and if the mystery has been launched and devised appropriately the webbing and sequencing stage will promote effective social constructivist learning. There is a distinction both in the structure and cognitive difficulty of the two stages – the ‘sequencing’ stage will mean that students are finding and articulating linear connections between cards while “webbing” and ultimately more conceptually difficult, is where students are creating multiple connections between the cards.
Using hexagons as your card templates can certainly make the idea of making multiple connections clearer; Chris explains more about this here (hyperlink to http://chrisharte.typepad.com/learner_evolution_chris_h/2011/04/solo-im-ridin-solo.html) .
Leat and Nichol explain from their findings that “In some instances these are linear, representing the construction of a causal explanation (sequencing), whilst in others these are non-linear patterns, representing multiple inter-relationships (webbing). Inference is common in the production of these patterns. This stage coincides with the first appearance of an explanation or coherent hypothesis and reflects an ability to synthesise, building on the establishment of plausible relationships.”
Extended Abstract and the Mystery “reworking’ and “abstract” stage
The Reworking Stage can be radical or modest and can take many forms. It may start with students moving one card from a set to another, but can go on to include cards which were previously thought to be not useful being worked into the understanding or sometimes it can be wholesale movement and regrouping of the cards. These reworkings appear to represent the establishment of new sets of relationships, which are increasingly abstract and likely to include the background data items. Both Chris and I have found that their findings agree significantly with the research from Leat and Nichol that “…that the more the data is rearranged, the better the quality of any subsequent written work. High ability groups show little reluctance in breaking their original sequences and webs, whilst other groups may be very frustrated by having to do so. Many groups do not rework.” The Abstract Stage is where the physical manipulation of the cards ceases but the discussion continues. It is possible that they have internalised the data to a point where they can explore new relationships and hypotheses without recourse to the concrete format of the cards. Leat and Nichol’s findings from this stage were that “…when pupils tackle new problems they do not automatically switch into high order thinking, using formal operations in Piagetian terms they start with comprehending or making sense of individual data items. It is only from this foundation that they proceed to relational or extended abstract thinking. Some pupils falter early on in this sequence. Secondly these stages are evident in the physical manipulation of the data and the associated talk. This allows the possibility that teachers both identify the level of thinking being used and can intervene when they judge that pupils cannot proceed unaided.”
So, as Leat and Nichols so aptly named their paper, mysteries allow learners to put their “brains on the table” in the most literal non-gore sense, demonstrating their understanding in a concrete way. If we then use SOLO as a way of accurately describing the levels of understanding being demonstrated, we have a language that can help learners not only articulate where they are in their understanding of a concept but as importantly, be used to give effective feedforward and further deepen their learning.
Mysteries and Literacy
One of the numerous advantages of using mysteries (and something which Chris has fully exploited in the MFL/LOTE classroom) is the fact that longer texts, which can sometimes seem very daunting to learners, are literally chunked down into bite size pieces so the comprehension of each card is made easier. Moreover, being obliged to make connections between each card forces the reader not only to focus on the meaning of the information, but also the need to make inference between disparate pieces of information, a highly cherished literacy skill.
After sharing the idea of using hexagons as a way of promoting multiple connections betweens bits of information, it was fantastic to see that Triptico (hyperlink to http://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/2012/jul/11/teacher-survey-schools) developed a wonderful tool in the form of thinklink (hyperlink to www.triptico.co.uk/thinklink) which allows the creation of online hexagons (with a limited length) to be created and manipulated by students.