top of page

Rhizomatic Learning for Beginners for All Ages

Updated: Sep 30, 2023

The underground sprout of a rhizome does not have a traditional root. There is a stem there, the oldest part of which dies off while simultaneously rejuvenating itself at the tip. The rhizome’s renewal of itself proceeds autopoetically: the new relations generated via rhizomatic connections are not copies, but each and every time a new map, a cartography. A rhizome does not consist of units, but of dimensions and directions. (Inna Semetsky, 2006)

A rhizome is an unusual form of root that Deleuze and Guattari believed formed a potential model for a new style of education. This idea was detailed in a book called A Thousand Plateaus. (, 2021)

Inna Semetsky explains that a rhizome is not a root, in the expected style, instead the original root dies off as it rejuvenates itself from the growing section. In the same way the rhizome is an image of thought for assemblages that organize themselves in non-hierarchical lateral networks that experiment with new and heterogeneous connections that may mix "words, things, power, and geography” (University of Notre Dame, 2016)

Over the three decades I have taught learners from every sort of background you can imagine. Every person has a different reason for learning, an individual method and a personal goal. Additionally there are problems which are unique to every person, multiple people with the same issue will experience it differently.

Teaching from the same book for everybody will produce a variety of results, some will enjoy, find difficult, or even hate it. The last two will leave eventually. By teaching each individual using their preferred direction of growth not only will they remain learning with the tutor for longer but they will enjoy, appreciate and applaud said teacher's educatory style. For many years every time I asked a sponsor to purchase a new book I felt guilty, especially if there were three learners who had different requirements (like my own children did). Eventually a line had to be drawn, instead of purchasing someone else’s work I will write my own, one thing I remember that my old professor, Dr Winterbottom, said to me was “read six books and write the seventh.”

Browsing the internet I stumbled across a site by Dave Cormier which states

“In the rhizomatic view, knowledge can only be negotiated, and the contextual, collaborative learning experience shared by constructivist and connectivist pedagogies is a social as well as a personal knowledge-creation process with mutable goals and constantly negotiated premises. The rhizome metaphor, which represents a critical leap in coping with the loss of a canon against which to compare, judge, and value knowledge, may be particularly apt as a model for disciplines on the bleeding edge where the canon is fluid and knowledge is a moving target.” (Cormier, 2008)

Music can be discussed and practised in the learning environment using the learning tools that are appropriate for that learner to have the best learning experience. Connectivist, in the learning experience can be defined as “insight into learning skills and tasks that are needed for learners to flourish in a digital era” (Siemens, 2019) This may mean having access to a video, a podcast or digital flashcards, equally it may mean using physical or tactile learning resources. A story can be read, heard or watched, what the educators preferred method is may not be the best way for the learner. Constructivism is ‘an approach to learning that holds that people actively construct or make their own knowledge and that reality is determined by the experiences of the learner’ (Elliott, 2000). As discussed on the website Simply Psychology the first understanding is that knowledge is built on the foundation of previous learning. The second notion is that learning is active, a learner is not a jar which requires filling with knowledge but rather the learner constructs meaning through being involved with the learning process. Each learner will develop understanding within a view point from their knowledge and social expectations. Constructivist learning theory underpins a variety of student-centered teaching methods and techniques which contrast with traditional education, whereby knowledge is simply passively transmitted by teachers to students. (Mcleod, 2019). Within the music lesson this means that the student is involved with the choice of music, being aware of why something is chosen and for what skill focused reason and how they can use it.

The awareness of what the learners requirements are are as vital to the learning process as the educators intentions. Using the I CAN DO model will assist in ascertaining the information required. I CAN DO is an acronym, that when applied to a music lesson works as follows (Lee, 2012)

Investigate – Look at the various areas of the learner’s life and what is important to be achieved in the music lessons.

Current – Ascertain the current level of knowledge and experience.

Aims – Ask what is the musical aim and what are the overall goals and dreams.

Number – Explore a number of methods to reach the aim.

Date – Set the deadline by when, ideally, the goals should be attained.

Outcome – To distinguish how the learner will know that the outcome has been successfully achieved.

The initial paragraph stated “The underground sprout of a rhizome does not have a traditional root. There is a stem there, the oldest part of which dies off while simultaneously rejuvenating itself at the tip.” By learning, the original need to learn will eventually be forgotten and will change, as the learning process is fluid, it is open to change. An educator needs to be aware of this change and be prepared to move accordingly as required.

Reference list (2021). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitaliism and Schizophrenia (Bloomsbury Revelations): Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari: 9781780935379: Books. [online] Available at:

Cormier, D. (2008). Rhizomatic Education : Community as Curriculum – Dave’s Educational Blog. [online] Dave’s Educational Blog. Available at: [Accessed 24 Feb. 2021].

Elliott, S.N. (2000). Educational psychology : effective teaching, effective learning. Boston: Mcgraw-Hill.

Inna Semetsky (2006). Deleuze, education and becoming. Rotterdam ; Taipei: Sense Publishers.

Leeアインシュタインから学べる人生で大事な3つのこと|KURASHIRU (2012). “I-CAN-DO” Model. [online] Coaching Journey. Available at: [Accessed 24 Feb. 2021].

Mcleod, S. (2019). Constructivism as a Theory for Teaching and Learning. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Feb. 2021].

Siemens, G. (2019). Jan05_01. [online] International Technology and Distance Learning. Available at: [Accessed 24 Feb. 2021].

University of Notre Dame (2016). Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus: A Critical Introduction and Guide // Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // University of Notre Dame. [online] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. Available at: [Accessed 21 Dec. 2019].


Chris Caton-Greasley LLCM(TD) MA (Mus)(Open)

Ethnographic Musicologist, Teacher, Researcher

bottom of page