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Hey! Ho! Let’s learn!: Is punk learning the way forward?


The Punk Learning Manifesto states that WE as Punk Learners take risks, do things differently, think for ourselves and decide how we want to learn – this is DIY Learning!

The amount of maths lessons I struggled to stay awake through are too many to count (possibly because I wasn’t paying attention in my maths lessons). What’s the point in teaching children information they have no interest in, and no use for? Chances are they’ll not take any of it in, wasting both theirs and the teacher’s time.

That’s the view taken by Tait Coles, the Malcolm McLaren-style Svengali (alright, he’s the Assistant Principal for Teaching and Learning at Temple Moor High School in Leeds) behind ‘punk learning’ – a new and creative model for education.

Coles’ manifesto stresses that ‘it’s fundamentally wrong’ for teachers to choose or even guess how they want their students to learn. The only people who know what’s best for them are the kids themselves – so, this is all about DIY learning. That is, children deciding how they want to go about learning certain topics, not being taught how to put up a bookshelf.

Coles puts it to teachers this way: ‘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!’

It’s a nice idea, and one he backs up with the theories of experts, but it’s not something that’ll work for everyone. Sure, there are kids who learn more through doing than being told, but that’s not to say there are no children who are receptive to traditional teaching (otherwise, y’know, there’d be no schools). He does acknowledge this – not everyone is a ‘punk learner’.

In the long run, Coles hopes that this style of teaching – which is more like guidance, and talking through things, than traditional planned lessons – will benefit the children as they grow up into inquisitive, thoughtful, pragmatic and sharp adults. Whether they’ll have mohawks or not is another thing.

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