Punk Learning – Hey Ho Lets Go!

Posted: November 3, 2012 in PBL, Punk Learning, SOLO

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This is the plan – launch Punk Learning with my two Year 8 classes after half term.

As students enter with a cacophony of punk music they are asked to make a link between the three images on their tables. The pictures are of: George Orwell, Jessie J and Charles Darwin. My students will be left for a moment to allow them to respond to the images before  the three famous people are identified.

Each group will then be given a short biography of the three and a few more minutes to see if they can decide on what they have in common. Finally a short excerpt of their lives will be given, detailing how they have all been successful and achieved in a controversial, unique and anti establishment way – they are all Punk Learners. Highlighting the power of DIY learning and constructivism I want my students to ‘get this’ on their own. I’m confident that they will – I know my kids! We will be using this document Punk Learners for the “spitting” starter.

“What did you learn at school today? Jack shit. The minute the teacher turns away. That’s it. How many times were you truly intrigued? Not any. Is boredom a symptom of mental fatigue? Not many” Jack Shit George, Ian Dury and the Blockheads

To crystallise what we have just learnt, a brief introduction of what the punk ethos is will be shown using this;  http://www.tubechop.com/watch/626585  This will explain the youth culture, the impact it had on music, fashion, imagery and importantly the very real idea of a DIY ethos. SMSC and exploration will be at the heart of this opening lesson. We are then going to answer this question; “What do you think we need, to be a Punk Learner?” – in groups we’re looking for ideas about taking risks, thinking for themselves, having a choice, doing stuff that they’re interesting in and learning about things differently.

I’m confident that one class will come up with these ideas as I have taught them all of last year and we worked on PBL together – the other class however, may come up with far more pedestrian ideas such as listen to the teacher, always raise hands, underline the title etc – only time will tell! All of the brainstorms, thought showers and punk pourings will be displayed in our room; I want my students to own their learning space. We will cover an entire wall of all our work, thoughts and ideas as a constant reference and also to show progress across the lessons.

We will then discuss what skills and attributes a Punk Learner needs – reminding them of Orwell, Darwin, J and any others we have agreed upon. These skills will underpin (or safety-pin) the successful learning that will take place. I will also articulate and clarify our manifesto: encouraging my students to endeavour to follow this throughout this experience, reminding them that they have made it their own. This is fundamental to Punk Learning being different and memorable. We’ll consolidate with a “Pogo” plenary.

“I was taught that to create anything you had to believe in failure, simply because you had to be prepared to go through an idea without any fear. Failure, you learned, as I did in art school, to be a wonderful thing. It allowed you to get up in the morning and take the pillow off your head.” Malcolm McLaren

Students will be given various scenarios to consider – such as: if we could design a classroom – what would it look like? If we had to set up a business – how would we do it? If we had to create a new language – what would it sound like? The question will be asked; how would a Punk Learner go about dealing with these? Leading nicely onto, how would a Punk Learner go about learning some Science…

My students will need to learn about Food and Digestion (one group will look solely at the digestive system while the other will look at that plus what is a balanced diet and where do we get it from). The next part I’m really excited about; this is where we are going to create the driving questions (or the punk questions) for the learning. We will be using Question Formulating Technique or QFT, I have written about this before here.

Using the first four stages of QFT, my students will have created a single, indeed several questions that they will want to answer that encourages curiosity and discovery and has potential for experimental, hands-on exploration. This is the key to the success of Punk Learning; the buy in from the students, the constructivist approach, this is the COMPLETE CONTROL that I am passing over to my students. QFT works, I know this because I have used it on numerous occasions and the reason I like it is because of the first stage – ‘the anything is possible stage’. When you ask students to list as many questions as they can about a certain topic or subject there is no ceiling; their imagination and creativity runs a mock; they get excited. They get worried in case their questions are seen to be silly; they get passionate about things that they’ve just thought about; they now have a desire to answer these questions – why? Because they’ve just come up with them.

The QFT idea reminds me of Egan’s Skilled Helper Model where a new scenario needs to be created to change a current dispersion, for me the creative part is the free-form stage of creating ideals and possibilities without worrying or taking into context practicalities, logistics or barriers – we have too many of them in learning, Punk Learning eradicates these.

“Penetrating voices going through my head, I haven’t listened to a thing they said, Always they removed the answers, I won’t suffer the consequences. Torn between the two, Right or wrong there is no answer, Don’t tell me what to do, It’s my choice I’m taking a chance yeah, Don’t dictate” Don’t Dictate – Penetration 

We will be using SOLO Taxonomy (both groups are experts in SOLO) to create our learning. Basically, my students will tell me what they will need to know, find out, remember, use and need to understand to answer their Punk questions. In essence I am asking them to write their own scheme of learning – detailing what knowledge and content they need to help them link and connect ideas in turn to create a new piece of learning that will answer our driving questions.

And what will I be doing? Do Punk Learners need a teacher? I know they do – based on my experience with PBL the teaching comes in the form of developing workshops in response to what I will notice in student work. This organic teaching will come in the form of mini-lessons, guided practice, application, sharing and critique. So I won’t be planning my ‘direct instruction’ monologues; instead, they will be delivered to groups and individuals when they require it – and if I can’t teach students “off the cuff” KS3 Science without the assistance of a PowerPoint behind me then I shouldn’t be bloody teaching!

“It’s a thing that’s worth, having yes I would. Buys you your life sir if it could. I…I want you. Autonomy. It leaves us all wondering and it should. On risking something for the good. I…I want you. Autonomy.” Autonomy – Buzzcocks


  1. srcav says:

    You have set out some superb ideas on your posts on punk learning, thanks. I’m going to investigate ways to incorporate them into my own lessons.

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