What is Rhizomatic Learning?

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Rhizomatic learning is a perspective on learning that has been promoted in the past few years by Dave Cormier, a teacher at the University of Prince Edward Island.

In botany, a rhizome is the term used for the stem of a plant, usually found underground, whose roots spread out in many directions. With this image in mind, supporters of rhizomatic learning believe that learning is a multi-dimensional process that has no defined beginning or end. Learning is a complex, chaotic process, in which each student independently chooses his or her own path.

The rhizomatic learning perspective is based on the premise that teachers cannot possibly know or cater to students’ individual needs, interests, and contexts.

As Dave Cormier explains on his blog about rhizomatic learning: “the whole idea of rhizomatic learning is to acknowledge that learners come from different contexts, that they need different things, and that presuming you know what those things are is like believing in magic.” Rather than providing a defined set of course materials in a predetermined order, teachers who support rhizomatic learning strive to create a context “within which a conversation can grow,” much as a garden provides the space for a plant to take root and flourish.

Furthermore, as Dave Cormier points out: If teachers want their students to ultimately surpass them in knowledge, why limit the students to a predetermined set of material? Students should be encouraged to engage in active learning, embrace the learning process, make their own connections, and form their own understandings.

For more information about Rhizomatic Learning, see Dave Cormier’s blog.