Deep and Surface: The SOLO taxonomy used in e-asTTle

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The deep and surface scores which are used in e-asTTle Reading, Maths, Panui and Pangarau are based on the SOLO taxonomy. SOLO stands for ‘Structure of observed learning outcomes’.

The taxonomy has five levels to describe the quality of student responses. In e-asTTle these five levels have been grouped into two levels – surface and deep.

Summary of the Taxonomy:

The taxonomy was summarised by Atherton (2005) as follows:

1 Pre-structural: here students are simply acquiring bits of unconnected information, which have no organisation and make no sense.

2 Unistructural: simple and obvious connections are made, but their significance is not grasped.

3 Multistructural: a number of connections may be made, but the meta-connections between them are missed, as is their significance for the whole.

4 Relational level: the student is now able to appreciate the significance of the parts in relation to the whole.

5. Extended abstract: the student is making connections not only within the given subject area, but also beyond it, able to generalise and transfer the principles and ideas underlying the specific instance.

Each question in e-asTTle has been assigned a level from the SOLO taxonomy. This has then been further classified into either deep or surface.

For example:

Question SOLO Classification e-asTTle classification
Whose house did Goldilocks go into? Unistructural Surface
What are three aspects about the way the bears live that tell us that the story is not a real life situation? Multistructural Surface
Goldilocks eats the baby bear’s food, breaks his chair, and sleeps in his bed. What does this tell us about the kind of person she is? Relational Deep
Why do nursery tales allow wild animals to act in a human fashion? Extended Abstract Deep


Looking at the surface/deep ratio in a test

When you create a test, you can see the number of questions that are surface or deep on the Test Summary. This is listed under the Cognitive Processing heading.

Image: Test Summary - Surface and Deep


Reporting on surface/deep

You can look at students’ surface/depth scores in three ways:

1)      On the Individual Learning Pathway

Image: ILP - Surface and Deep

2)      On the Console and Console – Comparisons report

Image: Console - Depth of Thinking


3)      On the Tabular report, under the Surface Score/Level and Deep Score/Level columns.


 Tab report - deep_surface