Punk Learning – I want to be free, free to learn to be me.

Posted: November 11, 2012 in PBL, Punk Learning

“Well I hate to go to school and listen to the stupid rules. Just to keep me out of the way. So they can have an easy day. I want to be free, free to learn to be me” I Hate School – Suburban Studs

The research by George Land, undertaken way back into the late sixties is a staggering study. He used a creativity test adopted by NASA to select innovative engineers and scientists on 1,600 5-year olds; he retested the same children at 10 years of age and again at 15 years of age. The following results were obtained: 98% of 5-year olds were deemed to be creative and innovative, compared to 30% of 10-year olds and only 12% of 15-year olds. Fascinating isn’t it? So what can we do about it?

Rather than righteously banging on about the lack of creativity in student’s work, or complaining about the SoW (that we religiously follow) not allowing our students to be creative or blaming external variables for the lack of imaginative lessons that we have to deliver. Let’s do something about it…

“Something’s happening and it’s happening right now. You’re too blind to see it. Something’s happening and it’s happening right now. Ain’t got time to wait. I said something better change.” Something Better Change – The Stranglers

As an example, if you had to teach your class about George Orwell’s Animal Farm, why on earth would you just teach them (or tell them, which is probably more accurate) about the book? Wouldn’t you let them become engrossed and inspired by the author himself or what the novel has influenced? The Spanish Civil War, Northern Coal Mining, social repression, Stalin, The Russian Revolution, Big Brother, Room 101, all instantly jump out at me when I think about how I would create stimulating, awe-inspiring learning experiences.

If you’re still reading this and thinking, “yes, fair point but we haven’t got the time, we’ve got a lot of content to get through” then answer this question. Is what you’re doing enabling your students to become submerged in deep, meaningful, memorable, relational and interesting learning that they want to know and will remember for a long time? Sometimes, there is only one learner that is engaged and inspired by the lesson and that is the person that wrote the bloody lesson plan!

So, how can you quickly and genuinely get your students to take complete control of what they want to learn? I must point out here, that it’s vital that we have the structure and ethos to encourage our students to think creatively about the content that they need to learn. Tell them the topic/concept that they need to know (In my case it was food and digestion) and then get them to do some QFT (Question Formulation Technique). WARNING. Do not attempt this if your students aren’t Punk Learners.

As teachers, we tend to ask a lot of questions, don’t we? Don’t get me wrong, effective questioning is key to many successful learning experiences and underpins excellent AfL but…we tend to ask a lot of questions, don’t we?

It stands to reason that if a student creates their own question, they are more likely to take ownership of it and actually want to answer it. Why? Well, because they haven’t been told to answer it, it is their question. They’ve asked it because they want to know the answer!

Students can learn more from asking questions than they can answering them and given the chance, students will be creative in what they want to learn and therefore their questions will be little inquisitive gems of creativity! We’re turning Punk Learning from a noun to a verb; we’re coming up with questions Punk Learning style!

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My Punk Learners created these questions using QFT;

  • How long does different food take to digest?
  • What happens inside our digestive system when we get Salmonella?
  • Why do we get constipated?
  • How can not eating damage vital organs within your body?
  • Why do onions make you cry?
  • Why do you get cravings?
  • What does the stomach do and does it do it?
  • What is poo made of?
  • Which foods are the hardest to digest?
  • Why is fish called fish?
  • Why is poo brown?
  • Why are beans orange?
  • Why is bird poo white, baby poo yellow and our poo brown?
  • Is most of the American population fat and if so, why is that?
  • What is the job of the intestines in the digestive system?
  • What makes hiccups and burps?
  • How does the digestive system work?
  • Why do certain animals eat certain foods?
  • What are the stages of digestion?
  • What does the brain have to do with the digestive system?
  • What is stomach acid made from?
  • Why can’t sweetcorn be digested?
  • How and why do some mushrooms kill us?
  • What food is in the desert?
  • Why do we get stomach ache?
  • Could human poo be used as manure for farms?

In Punk Learning (Part 5) my students will construct and create how they will answer these questions and learn about food and digestion.

And they put pressure on my brain. Examinations they’re insane. Learning things I’ll never need. Yeah, I give school 50 C’s.” I Hate School – Suburban Studs

  1. Ben Pimentel says:

    I’m a new fan. I was part of the group, with Bianca Hewes who skyped you the other day. I would like to know how you break them up into groups ones you collected all the questions. Do you group the questions in some way? When students are working on answering their questions, do they always have access to a computer in class? I would like to give PBL or Punk Learning a go. But I would like to have a solid structure to follow before I jump in. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

    • taitcoles says:

      A fan? Not sure I like that! 😉
      Yes, computers are always available – but only if they order them before hand. Students are in groups for their QTF session – once Qs have been created I pin them up around room, allow students to read and discuss, they then go to their Q of choice – sometimes more Qs are adapted from that process. Punk Learning is all about structure, it’s Heavy Duty Learning!

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