Rhizomatic Learning: “Don’t worry ’bout the mess”

If you believe that health and social care is linear, predictable, neat and tidy, then you’ve more than likely struggled with the School for Health and Care Radicals.  If, like me, you have direct experience of the chaos, uncertainty and general ‘messiness’ that often comes with these complex, intertwined systems, then the SHCR probably touched upon something very deep.

When change agents come together through the School, we begin to realise that whilst our perspectives may be different the problems we are encountering are similar.  Similar but not static.  Because how we care for people is so integral to society and culture that it could never remain constant.  Why then do traditional educational and change management programmes seek to create a certainty that is little more than an illusion?  And if we accept this ever-changing landscape, how could we ever keep up (and stay sane)?

The answer may lie in the natural world.  The SHCR’s network is growing organically, modulated by the environment.  It is flourishing where conditions are favourable for change, new shoots are emerging and some are even bearing fruit.  Some need a little tending from change agents and even when damaged we can make new connections or activate weak ties to create new and stronger hybrids.

Photo courtesy of Hedwig Storch (Wikimedia commons)


This is more than a botanical metaphor – it is rhizomatic learning.

Dave Cormier was one of the first educators to innovate by exploiting the disruptive potential of digital and participatory (“web 2.0”) technologies.  Rhizo 14, the massive open online course (MOOC) that he led is beginning a revolution where “the community is the curriculum” – but what, exactly, does this mean?  Well, in Rhizo 14 students chose the content of modules and organised themselves once the core curriculm was over, based on the subjects they were discussing in their networks.  This wasn’t planned for – it emerged as the community realised it was connected, creative and empowered.

The SHCR is good root stock, with great potential for rhizomatic learning.  As this haiku (by NomadWarMachine) puts it:

What’s rhizo learning

A chance to play with new things

Don’t worry ‘bout the mess


Cormier, D. (2016) ‘Rhizo 14 – The MOOC that community built’, Dave’s Educational Blog 13 April [Blog]. Available at http://davecormier.com/edblog/2016/04/13/rhizo14-the-mooc-that-community-built/ (accessed 24 August 2016)

Cormier, D. (2010) ‘Community as Curriculum and Open Learning, Dave’s Educational Blog 17 June [Blog]. Available at http://davecormier.com/edblog/2010/06/17/community-as-curriculum-and-open-learning/  (accessed 24 August 2016)

Rhizomatic Learning: “Don’t worry ’bout the mess”

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