Curriculum Developments

Rhizomatic and Privilege; Questions and Commentary #change11

The Rhizomatic Model of Education is one of the more interesting change11 topics for me so far, appealing as a discussion of the potential of educational design with respect to the nature of various types of knowledge. In the current climate of communications, there certainly are fields in rapid change or development and in need of a way to quicker process information into accepted knowledge for that field. If this approach to education stops there, there is a potential value in the Rhizomatic idea that seems lost in the reaction to the process that lets devalued knowledge hang around past its worth.

Earlier this year I wrote some thoughts on the idea of Background Independence in Education. This perspective shares a lot in common with the Rhizomatic Model, however I am not quite sure to what extent. There may be some major differences surrounding the idea of privilege. I haven’t been able to engage Dave Cromier in any discussion, so I will post some questions here that I think are important, and the answers as best as I can hear them.

(Note that the article I refer to is the older one that can be found here. I haven’t read anything posted from this week, but look forward to doing so when I get the chance.)

Does the Rhizomatic model of education advocate solely for community-style learning?

Yes, it seems so, and the article states this at times. At other times, the presentation of the model does make me think that there are two separate points to be found in the explanation of Rhizomatic education, which are sometimes confused, or at least vague. One is the particular point of view that community is the measure for what is true or right. The other is that community as standard is just an example of one ways that education under the Rhizomatic model can play out. Clearly, the community, fast-paced, ever-changing bodies and sections of knowledge and are emphasized in the paper. Whether the model can be applied to either an example of, or a definition of Rhizomatic education, I’m not sure

This is where the idea of privilege is central. Background Independence attempts to see all educational practices as growing from a privilege-free starting point. The Background Independence approach takes such qualities as no defined center and lack of predefined inputs that the Rhizomatic metaphor unveils, and interprets these qualities as a way for all educational structure to emerge from situation alone, free of any unintentional viewpoint. Conversely, if the Rhizomatic model does in fact attempt to place special privilege on community, then the interpretation of these flexible qualities serves community based education alone, benefiting greatly this type of situation but maybe also blocking any other potential educational options that could flourish under this model. This difference in response to shared recognitions of qualities wouldn’t mean that the two theories are mutually exclusive, but it would imply that they focus on very different systematic levels of the educational process, reserving the Rhizomatic model exclusively for newer or rapidly changing fields of study.

Is Rhizomatic education solely for newer or unstable fields of study? And, if so, what happens decades later to the resulting foundational knowledge of that field?

I would guess that the Rhizomatic model would need to be dropped, in response to the second question if the answer to the first question is yes. Surely, there is room for various models of education within a single field of study, and Cromier certainly doesn’t eliminate this this option by anything stated in his article. There is something about community and organic growth and need that can bare the force of formation needed to deliver new fields of knowledge, distinguished in themselves. Once established, the weather worn accumulation of the past can share the burden of guidance, balancing the maintenance of knowledge. Under the Rhizomatic model as described, there doesn’t seem to be any consideration for knowledge that isn’t cutting-edge and isn’t valued by negotiation from start to finish. A background independent, unprivileged landscape is an ideal starting point, but if this is also the end point, then…what’s the point?

Does Rhizomatic education, much like Connectivism in practice, tend to be unconcerned with knowledge value that has been accumulated?

Well, from the article it would seem so. To dispense with external validation in the form of experts (experts as created by their experience) and in the form of non-real-time contributions, is to dispense with what has endured from the past. This is indeed a return to the early roots of knowledge, before such eras as the enlightenment and before such technologies as printed language began the increasing delay on information, allowing it to lie ever more distributed. Cromier is definitely right that our time and age can afford a return to such instant, information accessible times. Maybe some situations, and emerging fields call for this rapid formation of knowledge in such a large dose, as he points out. The article doesn’t comment too much directly on the long-standing portions of bodies of knowledge, except for that which is obviously old and marrowless. I would hope, though, that marrowless truths be tossed away whether they be old or new.

Is there anything preventing the Rhizomatic model form being applied to all educational processes, not only community based ones?

It doesn’t seem like there is inherently anything to prevent this, but it would take a significant shift the perspective that is presented in the article. In recognizing the flexible qualities of situational education starting points, the Rhizomatic model does have the potential to include all frequencies of knowledge formation. With this model we don’t necessarily need to dispense with the idea of contemplation, knowledge accumulation and the value of experts. Any points along the spectrum of knowledge formation duration can be potentially combined, using community for learning in its place and expert advice in its place. I would even dare say that something like this Rhizomatic model has actually always been in place, with the limits of our media governing its maximum speed; the wikis of this 21st century can reflect change in knowledge as it comes, where as the text books of the 20th century simply did this at their own pace.


How can I keep the curriculum relevant at a time of rapid change?

Why is this important?

Institutions are under greater pressure than ever to provide courses that appeal to a broad mix of students and equip them for future employment. Keeping the curriculum responsive to changing demands is essential to any institution’s strategy.

In a nutshell

Planning and designing the curriculum involves every aspect of an institution’s business from market research and course development to quality assurance and enhancement, resource allocation, timetabling, recruitment and assessment.

Our thinking

Our advice and guidance can help you use technology during all these stages of the curriculum lifecycle, saving you time and money.

  • Our research has identified common issues and inefficiencies in curriculum design and highlighted areas where information technology can help. For example:
        • market research before course development can help generate new course ideas; technology can enable iterative course review and improvement
        • technology can also enable open frameworks to tailor courses to employer and learner needs
        • we also found that it’s important to review your existing curriculum design processes before you change them: our Process review infoKit can help
  • A range of existing and emerging resources around curriculum design and delivery are available at The Design Studio. Drawing on the experiences of projects we’re funding, this free online resource covers a range of issues including: market research; quality assurance and enhancement; employability and responsiveness; assessment and feedback; and course information. For example:
        • New Our new guide to Transforming curriculum delivery through technology describes how 16 different organisations used technology to address a range of different challenges including increasing student motivation, improving feedback and assessment and facilitating learning during field trips
        • you can use Learning design tools to visualise and explore educational concepts, allowing you to communicate aspects of the curriculum to practitioners, students and employers in terms that are meaningful to them. Effective practice in a digital age also discusses learning design principles
        • internal approval and validation are complex and time-intensive processes, typically involving large committees and extensive paper-based documentation. Outcomes of the process are rarely suitable for direct use by stakeholders, such as students. However, standard ways of sharing course-related information can support more agile approval processes which better meet the needs of end-users.

JISC 2011


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