Theses Doctoral

(Re)Imagining Possibilities for Youth in Schools: a Rhizomatic Exploration of Youth’s Affective Engagements With Literacy

Johnston, Kelly

The purpose of this post-qualitative study was to examine the rhizomatic functioning of youth’s engagements with literacy in a 7th grade English Language Arts classroom. I argued normed expectations of students’ engagement with literacy in schools imposes hegemonic control over students’ literacy learning, thus devaluing students’ in-the-moment, affective engagement. Rhizomatic theory was used to explore the ways students aligned to or veered from expected literacy norms as conceptualized through schooled literacy.
The study took place during one academic semester between January-June in a New York City public middle school in Harlem. Data was produced through observations, exchanges (informal and formal interviews; verbal and written conversations), artifacts, and a researcher journal. A rhizomatic analysis was conducted to first identify the ideal expectation for literacy learning in the classroom as established through national, state, and local entities and then to follow deviations, or lines of flight, from these expected norms. Particular attention was paid to networked assemblages of participants (human and non-human) and the affective intensities, or desires that produce changes to an event or interaction, produced through these networks. The analysis was extended to consider these assemblages and affective intensities in light of the normed expectations for literacy learning, thus moving the rhizomatic analysis to what might become possible by examining difference.
Findings are presented through the lines of flight and affective intensities that were produced through students’ engagements with literacy learning. These included forms of play, spontaneous peer-to-peer assistance, visceral response, and enacted agency. I discuss these intensities as unsanctioned engagement and explore how sanctioning such engagement provides more equitable opportunities for students to actively interact and achieve success as literacy learners. I argue such engagement is inherent to who youth are and who they are becoming. Because of this, how educators and researchers understand literacy learning and one’s engagement with literacy is extremely important for youth’s experiences and success in schooling. I conclude with implications for practice and research that work to actively transform conceptions of literacy instruction, theory, and research.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Siegel, Marjorie
Paula Ghiso, Maria Paula
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
March 2, 2018