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Developing a rhizomatic

Dr Eileen Honan
The University of Queensland
Session Overview

• Overview of the research project

• Overview of rhizomatic methodologies
• Applying rhizotextual analytic techniques to data
Project aims

• Investigate the teaching of digital literacy

practices in one school in Brisbane, Queensland,
• Apply the Four Resources Literacy Framework
(Freebody and Luke, 2003) as a mapping tool to
investigate the types of resources being
encouraged by teachers in their literacy teaching
practices around digital texts
• Engage teachers in self-reflexive work that
would encourage the development of new
pedagogical practices to improve the use of
digital texts in their literacy classes

• Participants
– Four teachers
– Classroom release
• Data collection
– Audio taping of conversations on release days
• Data analysis
– Discursive analysis using rhizotextual
techniques – (Honan 2007)
Overview of a rhizomatic methodology using
Deleuze and Guattari‟s (1987) thinking about

What is a rhizome?

What does an educational methodology look like

using rhizomatics?
First, using the figuration of a rhizome involves
paying self-conscious attention to the writing of
any text.
Second, understanding texts as rhizomatic enables the
production of an account of the linkages and
connections between discursive plateaus operating
within a text.
Third a rhizotextual analysis involves mapping the
connections between these plateaus and those
operating within other texts, including the textual
representations of stories told by researchers and
research participants.
What is a rhizome?
• Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1987) A
Thousand Plateaus
• “One day, perhaps, this century will be called
Deleuzian” Foucault, M, "Theatrum
Philosophicum", Critique 282, p. 885
What is a rhizome?
Sellers, W. (2006). Review of technology, culture, and socioeconomics: A rhizoanalysis
of educational discourses by Patricia O¹Riley, Transnational Curriculum Inquiry (Vol. 3).
Sellers, M, (2009) ‘Re(con)ceiving children in curriculum: Mapping
(a) milieu(s) of becoming’ Unpublished PhD Thesis, The
University of Queensland (url for eprint)
• Any point of a rhizome can be connected to anything
other, and must be… A rhizome ceaselessly establishes
connections between semiotic chains, organizations of
power, and circumstances relative to the arts, social
sciences, and social struggles (Deleuze & Guattari,
1987, p. 7).
Thinking rhizomatically

• Poststructural understandings of subjectivities

• “the possibility of encompassing the apparently
contradictory with ease – even, on occasion,
with pleasure” (Davies, 1992, p. 59).
• Discourses as linear and/or layered
• the “plane of immanence and univocality”
(Deleuze and Guattari, 1987, p. 294) forms and
Writing a rhizome
• pay particular attention to the linguistic devices
and structures used,
• follow lines of flight that allow transgressive
blurring of generic boundaries,
• write one‟s multiple contradictory selves into the
• make visible the embodied experiences and
their affects on the writer and the text
I was a teacher. I never wanted to be, and now I've
stopped, I never will be again, but for several years
it took my heart. I entered a place of darkness, a
long tunnel of days: retreat from the world
(Steedman, 1992, p. 52).
These words of Steedman‟s rattle around my mind
I wept when I first read them
They echo the darkness of my teaching days
When I tried, I struggled to be some person I could not be
Teachers tell each other success stories
Of children who love them
Of ex-students meeting them years later and thanking them
When I listen to these stories I remember
Standing on a street corner in a busy city
Waiting for the lights to change
A truck speeding up as it approached the crossing
A young man, almost his whole body leaning out the window
He screams, he bellows, he yells, so all can hear
You bitch, you fucking bitch, yeahhhh, you bitch
I have tried to turn this memory into a story that can be shared with other teachers,
amusing and touching stories about ex-students
But every time I tell it, I remember, I feel the pain, the tears, as I think
Yes, this is how they remember me
Understanding texts as rhizomes

• Discursive plateaus
• Mapping connections between these plateaus
• Analysing the provisional linkages that provide
these connections
Thesis as Plateaus

Sellers, M, (2009) ‘Re(con)ceiving children in curriculum: Mapping

(a) milieu(s) of becoming’ Unpublished PhD Thesis, The
University of Queensland (url for eprint)
Applying rhizoanalytic techniques
Follow the plants: you start by delimiting a first line
consisting of circles of convergence around
successive singularities; then you see whether inside
that line new circles of convergence establish
themselves, with new points located outside the
limits and in other directions. Write, form a
rhizome, increase your territory by
deterritorialization, extend the line of flight to the
point where it becomes an abstract machine
covering the entire plane of consistency (Deleuze
and Guattari, 1987, p. 11).
Rhizotextual analysis

• Looking for the connections and linkages

between various discursive themes
• Map connections between discourses used in
different places, e.g. teachers‟ talk; policy
documents; professional development texts.
Teachers’ work
• Teachers as professional experts
• The relationship between policy discourses and
teachers‟ classroom practices
• Policy discourses [...] organise their own specific
rationalities, making particular sets of ideas
obvious, common sense and „true‟” (Ball, 2008, p. 5).
• The more a practice is mastered, the more fully
subjection is achieved. Submission and mastery
take place simultaneously, and this paradoxical
simultaneity constitutes the ambivalence of
subjection (Butler, 1997, p. 116).
Two discursive plateaus

• Operational dimension of using new

• Emphasis on production of digital texts
English and Literacy Policy context-
State level

• Queensland Studies Authority

– Years 1-10 English Syllabus
– cross-curricular priorities
– Literacy-the Key to Learning: Framework for Action
– Queensland Curriculum, Assessment and
Reporting Framework
– „essential learning‟ statements about English
English and Literacy Policy context-
National level
• Teaching Reading (2005)
• ACARA – Australian curriculum, assessment
and reporting authority
– Australian curriculum – English (draft)
ICT Policies

• Smart Classrooms initiative

– Professional development for teachers
– Blackboard
– ICT Pedagogical licence
Policy context
• “the literacy crisis” Snyder, I. (2008).
• PISA 2006: In reading literacy in PISA 2006
Australia was outperformed by five countries:
Korea, Finland, Hong Kong-China, Canada and
New Zealand.
• Dusseldorf Skills Forum (2005) alert Australia to
the need for a post-industrial workforce
• 21st Century jobs -creative thinking, problem
solving and personal collaboration (Gee, Hull
and Lankshear, 1996),
Technical/Operational Approach

• How to operate the

language system and
how to operate the
technology system –
handwriting and
keyboarding, spelling
skills and saving skills
Operational dimension

• 3D model – operational, cultural, critical- each

alone is necessary but not sufficient
• “knowing the technology is the first step in the
process of using it effectively” (Sandholtz and
Reilly, 2004, p 488)
• “Applying ICTs as a tool for learning assists
students to become competent, discriminating,
creative and productive users of ICTs”
Operational dimension

ANNE: they‟re being asked to type, select

different fonts, forward a clip art sort of thing,
open and close files to get their work. So it‟s
keyboard slash handwriting and they‟re doing
keyboard skills to familiarise themselves with
where the keys are and the functions and then
they have to save that work into their own
LILY: So in order to play the games the children
have to be able to turn the computer on, log on
as a year 2 student, and navigate the desktop in
order to find the game or the internet whatever
they‟re doing. If playing the game from the
server, the children log into the game using their
username and password - … some of the games
require to know who you are. And not all of
them do that. And if using games on the internet
the children must find the game in the favourites
• E: Pedagogy is important here – aren’t we talking about the
teaching not the tool the computer
• Lily: but the tool still comes into it because without
the tool you can‟t.

• Lily: What I‟m saying is there is a limited amount of

• Anne: it‟s more time efficient to use a tool you‟re
familiar with

• Lily: But I think that‟s why I maybe don‟t use it as

much or other types – use the fastest most efficient
tools to get what you need to get done.
Lily: there‟s a lot of pressure, it comes back to the pressure from
out there of well why are you wasting time. You say that
you‟ve only got this much time to get all through this stuff
why are you wasting time. Why aren‟t you getting all these
things done that you say you don‟t have enough time to do.
(someone else).. But as a teacher
I know teachers don‟t. But
Well who does?
I feel that, well what we were saying before. government policies
and media and parents and I don‟t know why they have such a
huge impact on me but they do. I think it‟s because I care, I
really care what other people think. And that‟s something that
gets me into a lot of trouble sometimes
Operational discourse

• Transfer skills from home to school

– LILY: So I was overall pretty impressed with

what they can do. But I thought it was very
different type of technology that they‟re using
at home and what we‟re using at school.
• Skills taught over and over again
– LILY: I‟ve got year 2s and some of them
aren‟t very familiar with using a computer, we
did the whole how do I get onto the internet
to start with, so we turn the computer on, so
can you find the icon ok which one, e, and
what does the e stand for?
– AUSTIN: I‟ve got a 3\4 class and I could be
wrong but definitely I think the Year 4
students are a lot more confident with digital
technologies in general so the capacity to
extend them and involve them in a lot more
of the other areas is possible. I don‟t get the
same feeling about the Year 3s.
Operational discourses

• Text codebreaking
• Standardised testing of skills
• Easily identified, measured and assessed
Operational discourses in literacy policy
The national English curriculum aims to develop, students’
knowledge of language and literature and to consolidate
and expand their literacy skills. More specifically it aims to
support students to:
• understand how Standard Australian English works in its
spoken and written forms and in combination with other
non-linguistic forms of communication
• learn Standard Australian English to help sustain and
advance social cohesion in our linguistically and culturally
complex country
• respect the varieties of English and their influence on
Standard Australian English
• appreciate and enjoy language and develop a sense of its
richness and its power to evoke feelings, form and
convey ideas, persuade, entertain and argue
• understand, interpret, reflect on and create an
increasingly broad repertoire of spoken, written and
multimodal texts across a growing range of settings
• access a broad range of literary texts and develop an
informed appreciation of literature
• master the written and spoken language forms of
schooling and knowledge
• develop English skills for lifelong enjoyment and
Operational discourses in NAPLAN

• Institutional and societal discourses

• Role these discourses play in teachers‟ work
• Mastery/submission
And, and, and....

• Provisional linkages between and across

discursive plateaus within a text
• Mapping, following the lines of flight, between
and across this text and other texts that form
“circles of convergence” (Deleuze and Guattari,
1987, p. 22).
Rhizomatic insights (so what?)
• Production of plausible (mis)readings of policy
• Exploring agentic positions for teachers made
available in policy texts
• We tend to begin by assuming the adjustment of
teachers and context to policy but not of policy
to context. There is a privileging of the
policymaker's reality (Ball, 1994, p. 19).
• Positioning teachers as agentic and professional,
constituting them (im)plausibly as experts
Honan, E., (2010) Mapping discourses in teachers‟ talk about using digital texts
in classrooms, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 31(2)
Honan, E & Sellers, M (2008) (E)merging methodologies: putting rhizomes to
work, In I. Semetsky (ed) Nomadic education: Variations on a Theme by
Deleuze and Guattari. Rotterdam: SensePublishers, pp 111-128
Honan, E (2007), Writing a rhizome: an (im)plausible methodology. International
Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 20 (5), 531-546
Honan, E, (2004). „(Im)plausibilities: a rhizotextual analysis of policy texts and
teachers‟ work‟, Educational Philosophy and Theory, 36 (3), pp267 - 281
Honan, E, (2004). „Teachers as bricoleurs: Producing plausible readings of
curriculum documents‟ English Teaching: Practice and Critique September,
2004, Volume 3, Number 2, pp. 99-112.
Sellers, M. & Honan, E. (2007) Putting rhizomes to work: (e)merging
methodologies. New Zealand Research in Early Childhood Education, 10 (1),
• What are the discourses about language present in
South African educational policy documents?
• What is it important to say about language? What is
left unsaid? What is implicit? Taken for granted?
• Are there discursive connections or disconnections
between and across the policy documents?
• Are there contradictions?
• What are some (im)plausible readings of these