Never Mind the Inspectors Here’s Punk Learning by Tait Coles – a review

Punk Learning – something I had seen mentioned on Twitter and had heard mentioned at some of the conferences I have attended but knew little about. Tait Coles, the creator of Punk Learning, has assembled a philosophy and a vision that (rightly) rejects the constraints placed upon teachers by a whole variety of sources using the ideas of the punk movement as a vehicle to put across a compelling series of ideas.

Punk Learning puts students at the centre of their learning and allows them to take control of how and what they learning. In many ways this vision offers the purest form of independent learning and allows genuine creativity for the students. Here the teacher relinquishes control and allows students to explore any given topic. The most interesting element of this vision is how students formulate their own questions which they then have to research and answer. Although, you will have to read the book for the full details on this, what Coles offers is a template which can be used for any topic for any lesson and firmly hands control over to the students. So often, students do not get the opportunity to set their own questions until they are approaching A level study. Here allowing students to set and assess their own questions clearly prepares them effectively for higher level independent study.

There are elements of Punk Learning which ring true to my thinking. The rejection of the real value of work scrutinies and the questioning of the uses of exercise books as an indicator of holistic learning really tapped into my experiences and epitomises the Punk Learning rejection of many of the creativity limiting process within education today.

Although the book cleverly taps into popular culture as a vehicle to put across its vision and there are some brilliant quotes peppered through the book, the philosophy is rooted in educational research and theory, which it wears lightly. One of the highlights of the book is its coverage and application of the SOLO taxonomy. Quite frankly, this is the clearest and most accessible overviews of SOLO taxonomy I have read and how Punk Learning utilises this certainly gives food for thought and areal path to follow.

If you are looking for a series of teaching ideas and strategies then this book is not for you, although there are a few strategies that can be stolen in true punk fashion. The heart of this book is that it offers a new approach that challenges and can take you out of your comfort zone – never a bad thing in my view.

Highly recommended.

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