Rhizomatic Learning


Restructuring formal education to mimic the emergence of collective knowledge

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … scope of possible actions and interpretations
  • Knowing is … networked understandings
  • Learner is … a node (individual) in/and a network (collective)
  • Learning is … quasi-random network growth
  • Teaching is … permitting, encouraging




Rhizomatic Learning draws metaphorically on rhizomes, plants that propagate by continuously growing underground stems that put up shoots and put down roots at different intervals. This image of adventitious spreading is offered as an alternative to the popularly assumed images of orderly, linearized modes and structures associated with goal-directed theories of learning and models of education. Subverting traditionalist emphases on pre-determined objectives and designed lessons, Rhizomatic Learning asserts that learning is most effective when it evolves continuously with the tasks and interests at hand. There has been a recent surge in interest in Rhizomatic Learning associated with the affordances of information and communication technologies.


Rhizomatic Learning is seen by some critics as an attack on or rejection of formal education. While the rhizome is generally acknowledged as a useful metaphor to illustrate and interpret the emergence of collective knowledge and the structure of personal understandings, it is not clear that a descriptive metaphor (that highlights chance) can be used as a basis for restructuring formal education (that is defined by intention).

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Gilles Deleuze; Félix Guattari

Status as a Theory of Learning

Rhizomatic Learning is not a theory of learning, although it is developed around a visual metaphor (the rhizome) that is presented as interruption and alternative to the interpretations of learning that tend to dominate discussions of formal education.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Rhizomatic Learning is principally a theory of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Rhizomatic Learning is not associated with a formal research program or a body of evidence.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2020). “Rhizomatic Learning” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.

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