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Ngongotaha School VLN Reflection - Milestone 4


Rotorua Town and Country Cluster School - Ngongotaha use Goal 3 of their Cluster document as a vehicle for empowering their teachers to impact on student achievement in their school. 



Setting the Scene:

 Ngongotaha School is a semi-rural decile 3 school on the outskirts of Rotorua.  The school is a contributing school with a stable roll that grows to around 350 each year.

The school has a diverse school population and is representative of our community with 66% Maori, 30% European and small groups of Pacific Island, Asian and other cultures.  All socio-economic groups are represented in the school. Ngongotaha is one of Rotorua’s established schools having celebrated its centenary early 2011.  The school has many families that have had two or three generations in attendance and has a long supportive history in the community.


The Ngongotaha School Board of Trustees is committed to providing high quality teaching and learning environments that foster progress and achievement for students and is an educational environment that attracts quality staff.  The 36 staff at Ngongotaha includes full and part-time teaching staff, support staff and teaching staff.  The school has a number of ORS and ESOL children and has three rumaki classes, these classes work in Te Reo Maori and plan from Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, for all class programmes.  This is a feature of the school and has seen the strong development of links with the Maori community.  Children transition to the school from a number of facilities.  We have three kohanga, a kindergarten and two day care centres that contribute to the school.  The school has a strong partnership with Ngati Whakaue who supports the development of programmes for Maori students.


Ngongotaha School mission statement is to “Aim High, Stand Proud” – “Iti rearea teitei kahikatea ka taea” with a vision “To provide quality teaching and learning opportunities to enable our students to be confident; connected; actively involved; lifelong learners.” We strive to provide this in all we do and there are many varied activities; programmes and opportunities for staff and students to take part in.  The integration of ICT has been a focus of the school and board and we continue to grow our professional knowledge and pedagogy in this area so that students benefit and are supported in their learning.


SOLO at Ngongotaha School:

 Our journey began as a result of the professional e-learning cluster development in 2010.  As a result of self-review and professional discussions we were aware that our students needed to develop a deeper understanding of their learning and thinking and that we needed a process that was consistent across the school.  We had worked extensively on brain compatible learning and had a sound understanding of the learning styles that needed to be fostered in the classroom and school to ensure all children could succeed and access the curriculum through a range of styles and mediums.  

 As a staff we have undertaken professional reading, observation and  professional discussions to become more informed about SOLO and its implementation in the class and school programme.  We have worked as a cluster and as a school with facilitators to deepen our understanding and implementation.

 We have considered the following when implementing SOLO taxonomy:

  • Strategic Planning for future sustainability
  • Pedagogical knowledge of all staff
  • Current targets and future targets
  • Allocation of funding for ongoing professional development
  • Opportunities to share and discuss within our school setting
  • Opportunities to share and discuss across the cluster
  • The development of SOLO in a Te Reo Maori setting
  • What external and /or internal expertise was needed
  • Other competing professional development (e-learning tools)
  • The development of teacher leadership within he school


Management and the professional learning community are constantly reflecting on what teachers need to know about SOLO Taxonomy and its successful integration into class programmes to ensure student progress and achievement is evident.  Team meetings are an excellent vehicle for shared discussion and problem solving as well as full staff meetings.


Reflecting on what has been undertaken and where to next is a feature of the journey to date.

We have regular walks around our own classes so that staff have the opportunity to learn from each other and share what they have found when working SOLO at the various levels and in the different mediums.


Planning for the incorporation of SOLO has been a huge learning curve for the staff.  School wide professional development with Hook-on-Thinking facilitators, Pam Hook and Julie Mills, has been crucial to the continued development of staff.


Teams have been released to work with outside facilitators on term wide planning which comes from the year concept plan.  This was extremely beneficial and clarified a number of questions staff had after working through planning templates for term one. Having quality release time, as a team, with Pam Hook proved invaluable and continued the learning journey for all staff.  As a consequence of these sessions we reflected on current concept plan with a view to changing the structure and amount of coverage in 2011. 


During term three a planning group, representing all teams, along with the Principal spent a day working on the 2012 curriculum concept plan. This followed discussions and suggestions from staff.  Pam Hook worked with the team to assist in the development of the concept and clarify questions we had along the way.  The work carried out on our Maori dimension was incorporated into the plan and was then shared with all staff for discussion and review.  This was an excellent use of outside support as we continue our SOLO journey.


The use of rubric across the school is more evident.  These are being developed and used for a range of purposes from classroom routines to curriculum content.  The staff share their work and have developed a range of pictorial images to go with the levels and descriptors so that various learning styles are catered for.  The development of rubric in te reo Maori is also ongoing with the staff sharing their success regularly.



 Click below see SOLO examples from school


Our Journey with SOLO from a Lead Teacher’s Perspective:


  • As a staff we are working together to build a shared understanding of SOLO and how we can use it to enhance our students learning outcomes. All teachers are experimenting with rubrics at their level and sharing/reflecting on their effectiveness with SOLO.
  • Within our school there are teachers who are becoming experts. They provide support for new staff and those that are less confident.
  • On-going professional development with Pam Hook and Julie Mills helps keep the interest alive and builds on our existing knowledge. 
  • All staff had to select an ICT goal for appraisals this year.  A significant number of teachers selected goals related to SOLO indicating a high level of engagement with our journey.
  • Staff meetings devoted to SOLO sharing allowed us to see what innovations are happening throughout the school.  (video flash cards)



  • Using the SOLO concept plan is helping to develop cohesive learning programmes across the school. We found it important to select our overarching themes carefully and ensure that all staff have a common understanding. For example our understandings of Whanaungatanga varied amongst teams. Upon reflection we realised we need to communicate more effectively in this area to deepen our own understanding of concepts before teaching.
  • Overall staff like the concept plans. We are finding it valuable to plan for weekly activities within the concept plan so that momentum is maintained. 

 planning example.doc


  • With the use of the HOT maps we are seeing that the children’s depth of learning has improved. Children in some areas are becoming more adept at predictions and definitions. Children are more familiar with a variety of maps and beginning to use them with confidence. In the case of juniors they are beginning to recognise HOT maps they have used before.
  • Some students are beginning to design their own rubrics. Within the junior school teachers are using visual cues to help the children understand the different stages of each rubrics.  (student video of self-designed rubric)




What benefits have we seen, from SOLO, in our classes to date?

What the staff have to say:

  • Children are self assessing with relevant criteria
  • Children understand the purpose of a rubric
  • Hot maps are used frequently
  • Learning verbs are a part of student learning outcomes
  • Able to see where the students next level of thinking should/could be
  • Children are thinking deeper
  • Topics are smaller but more in-depth and the outcomes are more specific
  • Children are more in charge of their own progress because they can see for themselves where they need to go with their learning
  • Children are taking more ownership of learning, being more responsive
  • Can see what the next step is – where they need to get next
  • More justification of thinking
  • Scaffolding for next learning steps
  • Deeper learning outcomes
  • Creating more discussion amongst the children
  • Higher order thinking is developing
  • Using a variety of resources to enrich and analyse their understanding of new vocabulary
  • SOLO gives the class direction and visual cues to better their level of understanding.
  • Thinking skills are better.  SOLO can get them thinking outside the box (double why)
  • The start of more independence in their actions and learning by monitoring themselves on rubric.
  • Deeper thinking about topics and from different ways of thinking. Maps definitely bring out quality responses.


What further learning do we need?

What the staff have to say:

  • I have a lot of information, now need time to implement and build on my experience.
  • Getting the children up to extended abstract.
  • Using some of the higher order thinking maps with the younger children
  • Still need work on implementing the higher end maps
  • How to write effective rubric for curriculum areas
  • Time to revisit some of the maps and discuss their use
  • Collaborative planning to continue to reinforce SOLO concepts
  • Reflection and discussion time to deepen own understanding
  • Follow up where SOLO is at in other school, ideas, changes, improvements, effectiveness in student learning.
  • Sharing time with other rumaki class settings, use of te reo Maori for SOLO development
  • Using SOLO with “at risk” children to improve written work.
  • Making planning more manageable.


We look forward to our continuing journey and the development of student learning through the use of SOLO with the support of school staff, our cluster staff and outside expertise.



  • Pam Hook

    To the team at Ngongotaha -

    Thank you for posting such an effective and well detailed summary of your implementation of SOLO Taxonomy and SOLO differentiated planning, HOT Maps and self-assessment rubrics across all levels and all learning areas of the school. 

    You have made strong progress towards meeting expectations within Goal 3 for rasining student achievement through e-learning and SOLO Taxonomy - I believe the quality of the outcomes and opportunities  shared - in the photos and video - exceeds expectations.

      I am certain that other schools wishing to implement a common language of learning through SOLO and HOT Maps and rubrics will find much to inspire them - they will also pick up some valuable suggestions and strategies for their next steps.

    Great effort - effective use of strategies - strong outcomes



  • Margaret Palmer

    Thank you - your clear description and examples have helped me with some strategic planning that I am currently thinking about  - Keep up the great work you are doing, regards Margaret Palmer