Punk Learning – fear is just another commodity

Posted: December 11, 2012 in Punk Learning
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“To me, punk is the freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom to not be successful, freedom to be who you are. It’s freedom” Patti Smith

Billy Bragg recently talked about the impending loss of creativity in schools due to the EBacc reform; the video below is taken from his John Peel Lecture in November of this year.

Now, I love Billy Bragg and hang on his every word but I think he’s wrong here, sorry Billy!

Creativity shouldn’t be reserved for certain subjects. We shouldn’t talk about specific subjects being creative. Students should be encouraged and allowed to think creatively in all their subjects. For me, a subject like Science can be just as creative as a subject like Art…but only if we allow our students to truly create their own learning and have the freedom and confidence to be creative.

“We’re challenging complacency” Mick Jones 

We need to create opportunities for creativity. Creativity isn’t just making a stunning picture, or an amazing sculpture, or a beautiful piece of work, though it can be. Creativity can also be the way that our students think, how they organise their learning, how they look at things differently and how they learn.

It’s fundamentally wrong to say ‘that as a Maths teacher, I don’t need to be creative’ or ‘I’ll leave that to the Drama teacher’. In many schools in the foreseeable future there may be a lack of the so-called ‘creative’ subjects in Key Stage 4 due to the aberration that is the EBacc. Doesn’t this mean that we need to model, inspire and generate student creativity in all of our subjects?

“At its best New Wave/punk represents a fundamental and age-old Utopian dream: that if you give people the license to be as outrageous as they want in absolutely any fashion they can dream up, they’ll be creative about it, and do something good besides.” Lester Bangs

Below is a small selection of how the Punk Learners are being creative in their lessons, you can read more about them here.

Punk Learning isn’t about following guidelines and rules but here is a list of strategies and mind sets that we have developed that allows my students to become more creative:

  • Allow complete control of learning; student ownership is a powerful thing and if harnessed, encouraged and expected can lead to creativity and creative students.
  • Never simply let students “get on with it”. This is not “Free Form Jazz” this is Heavy Duty Learning where every students knows what they are learning, how they are learning and most importantly, why they are learning.
  • Do not be afraid to create opportunities for creativity – fear is just another commodity.
  • Model creative thinking, be creative in your approach to teaching; do things differently.
  • Be supportive of students’ ideas, even if you know it won’t work or there is a high probability that it will go wrong. This is a key part of learning and must be encouraged. Students need the confidence to try different ideas; they also need the confidence to know it’s OK if it goes wrong.
  • Support certain students that need more help in finding their creativity. Provide them with examples or suggestions of ways to do things. Don’t tell them; give them options. Also, encourage that they look and speak to other students. Punk Learners don’t copy; Punk Learners steal and make it their own.
  • Believe in what you are doing every single second of your lesson because…

“Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.” Georg Wilheim Fridrich Hegel (I think he may have been a Punk Learner!)

And you know, sometimes that’s all we’ve got…sometimes that’s all we need.


I was lucky enough to be invited to talk at the Pedagoo Xmas Party recently, where I talked about Punk Learning and the need for creativity. I also cobbled together a little something for the evening TeachMeet about the need for awe and (Stevie) wonder in our lessons. Below is the Prezi I used; it might not make much sense, but the images are good!


  1. […] – Tait Coles’ punk learning approach […]

  2. […] https://taitcoles.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/punk-learning-fear-is-just-another-commodity/ An inspired approach to expeditionary learning and a student centred approach to learning. Tait’s ‘Punk Learning Manifesto’ is a brilliant synthesis of ideas to convey an original and exciting approach to Science teaching and learning. […]

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