What is Learning?

When first asked this question by my lecturer (Wheeler, 2016), I instantly came up with the definition of ‘To study, be told or experience something that makes you retain new knowledge or skills’. Over the following two hours I realised how big this question actually was, despite the fact that I have been learning throughout my entire life.

There are three behavioral techniques which break apart my simple definition of learning. To explain this in its most basic form; Behavioural, Cognitive and Constructionism all share the idea of having a stimulus and a response (Pavlov, Gantt and Folʹbort, 1928). In my interpretation, the stimulus is a book, teacher, webpage or a life learning experience and the response is new understanding in either skills or knowledge. However, by only looking at these three theories, it is possible to create an abundance of different ways learning can be explained. Therefore making my initial definition too basic yet transferable to all three theories.

The concept of learning can be expanded through the Rhizomatic viewpoint. A rhizome is a plant that has a vast network of roots underground that spreads as far as it can (Cormier, 2011). This can be transferred to the idea of learning by interconnecting understanding, using multiple resources and ability to be modified according to needs (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987). I found this an entrancing idea with the added wonder of no boundaries and no one starting point of where the learning could begin or end.

To conclude learning is an unmistakably huge topic with different techniques and variations that all have their positive and negative attributes. Learning is also adaptable. Adaptable through time. Adaptable to the teacher. Adaptable to the learner.


Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1987). A thousand plateaus. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Wheeler, S. (2016). Pedagogy.

Cormier, D. (2011). Rhizomatic Learning – Why we teach?. [Blog] Dave’s Educational Blog. Available at: http://davecormier.com/edblog/2011/11/05/rhizomatic-learning-why-learn/ [Accessed 1 Feb. 2016].

Pavlov, I., Gantt, W. and Folʹbort, G. (1928). Lectures on conditioned reflexes. New York: International Publishers.


2 thoughts on “What is Learning?

  1. Hiya!

    I would say ‘no boundaries’. We are always bounded by the person that we are, by our access, by our language etc… The design of a rhizomatic course involves providing ‘some’ boundaries. I like to think of it as building an garden where the rhizome can grow. Now… being a weed, it will often jump the boundary and wander off… 🙂


    1. The idea of having a garden to grow in is an inspiring idea. To create a safe environment for children to explore and learn in is profound. They will always push their boundaries and my own! As a teacher it should be my job to merely steer them in the right directions and not confine them to the conversations of the classroom.


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