To get the ball rolling…..rhizomatic learning to OU policy rigamortis?

The concept of rhizomatic learning is an interesting one in the context of OU pedagogy – defined here by Cormier:

A botanical metaphor, first posited by Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus (1987), may offer a more flexible conception of knowledge for the information age: the rhizome. A rhizomatic plant has no center and no defined boundary; rather, it is made up of a number of semi-independent nodes, each of which is capable of growing and spreading on its own, bounded only by the limits of its habitat (Cormier 2008).

This isn’t a term I have been familiar with or heard discussed in the OU context but it has some connections with Wenger’s communities of practice, which we are all familiar with. It also connects with conversations I have heard increasingly in the OU about the shift from content to  – something else which includes:

  • student directed learning
  • self assessment
  • peer assessment
  • collaborative learning
  • interactivity
  • active learning
  • design over content

Some of these ideas  / intentions have found their way into policy documents / guidance, for example:

  • learning design – to build interactivity and cut content
  • Assessment Policy – self / peer assessment
  • Group Tuition Policy – not sure about this but certainly one of the aims is to improve the participation levels in interactive learning

What worried me here is that these are all changes to systems and not to pedagogy – and when they are communicated and implemented I think they become increasingly procedural and we lose the essence of what we are trying to achieve?

I think one of the really, really big challenges we have is that our educators are so massively divorced from the student that they teach – dialogue between student and teacher (if it happens at all) is slow, cumbersome and often becomes heavily focused on assessment rather than on constructing teaching….and does it involve the people who are designing the teaching? How do we understand the AL / academic relationships with students? There has been much talk for several years about increasing the student facing role of academics – but I’m not sure we have made much progress? How can we apply rhizomatic learning to our current model of academic – tutor – student ? Or maybe we can’t?


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