In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Instructional Communication

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Models
  • Learning Environment

Communication Instructional Communication
Scott A. Myers
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 December 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 August 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0177


Instructional communication is a discipline that centers on the role that communication plays in the teaching-learning process independent of the type of student learner, the subject matter, or the instructional setting. Since its formal recognition as an area of academic study in 1972 by the International Communication Association, instructional communication researchers examine how several factors—such as instructor teaching strategies and preferences, student learning styles and orientations, instructor classroom management practices, instructor and student characteristics, and the development of communication relationships—not only influence how and why students interact with their instructors and their peers, but also the ways in which students respond favorably to the learning environment.

General Overviews

Several overviews provide insight into the history of the instructional communication discipline. Priess and Wheeless 2014 reviews the development of the instructional communication discipline. Staton 1989 distinguishes between the study of instructional communication and the study of communication education, whereas Nussbaum and Friedrich 2005 explains how the study of instructional communication differs from the study of developmental communication. Friedrich 1989 offers several ideas on the practical nature of conducting instructional communication research. Staton-Spicer and Wulff 1984; Myers, et al. 2016; Waldeck and LaBelle 2016; and Conley and Yun 2017 offer content analyses of the research conducted by instructional communication researchers. Beebe and Mottet 2009 introduces the rhetorical and relational perspectives to the study of instructional communication and reviews the methods instructional communication researchers employ. Engleberg, et al. 2017 identifies seven core communication competencies students enrolled in introductory communication courses should master.

  • Beebe, Steven A., and Timothy P. Mottet. 2009. Students and teachers. In 21st century communication: A reference handbook. Vol. 1. Edited by William F. Eadie, 349–357. Los Angeles: SAGE.

    The authors offer an introduction to the field of instructional communication. They preview the rhetorical and relational approaches to instructional communication, explain the quantitative and qualitative research methods instructional communication researchers use, and review several widely studied teacher communication behaviors.

  • Conley, Nino Andre, and Kimo Ah Yun. 2017. A survey of instructional communication: 15 years of research in review. Communication Education 66.4: 451–466.

    DOI: 10.1080/03634523.2017.1348611

    The authors conduct a content analysis of articles published in Communication Education from 2000 to 2016, identifying the most frequently referenced theories, data collection methods, and research topics. They also identify the most published instructional communication scholars in Communication Education during this time period.

  • Engleberg, Isa N., Susan M. Ward, Lynn M. Disbrow, James A. Katt, Scott A. Myers, and Patricia O’Keefe. 2017. The development of a set of core communication competencies for introductory communication courses. Communication Education 66. 1: 1–18.

    DOI: 10.1080/03634523.2016.1159316

    The authors identify a set of core communication competencies applicable to introductory communication courses within and across oral, written, and mediated communication contexts. These competencies are monitoring and presenting yourself, practicing communication ethics, adapting to others, practicing effective listening, expressing messages, identifying and explaining fundamental communication practices, and creating and analyzing message strategies.

  • Friedrich, Gus W. 1989. A view from the office of the SCA president. Communication Education 38:297–302.

    DOI: 10.1080/0363452890909278767

    In his role as the then-president of the Speech Communication Association, the author discusses how the practical nature of the communication discipline can be applied to the instructional communication discipline. He posits that instructional communication researchers can assist educational organizations in meeting the instructional and learning needs of K–12 students.

  • Myers, Scott A., Melissa F. Tindage, and Jordan Atkinson. 2016. The evolution of instructional communication research. In Communication and learning. Edited by Paul L. Witt, 13–42. Boston and Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

    DOI: 10.1515/9781501502446-003

    The authors present the results of their content analysis of the 1269 articles published in Communication Education from 1976 to 2014. These articles are empirical studies, commentaries/essays, literature reviews, or instructional practices, with the empirical studies articles focusing largely on instructor classroom behaviors and student classroom behaviors, characteristics, and learning outcomes. The authors also note that the dominant research methodology used in these articles is survey-based, quantitative work with samples comprised of domestic undergraduate students.

  • Nussbaum, Jon F., and Gustav Friedrich. 2005. Instructional/developmental communication: Current theory, research, and future trends. Journal of Communication 55:578–593.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2005.tb02686.x

    The authors briefly review the development of the International Communication Association’s Division 7, which was the first formal academic group established to promote the study of communication in learning environments and the life span. They then provide an overview of the research conducted by instructional communication and developmental communication scholars.

  • Priess, Raymond W., and Lawrence R. Wheeless. 2014. Perspectives on instructional communication’s historical path to the future. Communication Education 63:308–328.

    DOI: 10.1080/03634523.2014.910605

    The authors trace the origins of the instructional communication discipline. They pay particular attention to the Source-Channel-Message-Receiver model of communication that influenced much of the research conducted during the discipline’s earlier years.

  • Staton, Ann Q. 1989. The interface of communication and instruction: Conceptual considerations and programmatic manifestations. Communication Education 38:364–371.

    DOI: 10.1080/03634528909378777

    The author differentiates between the terms “communication” and “instruction”; in doing so, she provides a clear distinction between the purposes and aims of “communication education” and “instructional communication.” She explains how the then-graduate program in speech communication at the University of Washington represents the interface between communication and instruction.

  • Staton-Spicer, Ann Q., and Donald H. Wulff. 1984. Research in communication and instruction: Categorization and synthesis. Communication Education 33:377–391.

    DOI: 10.1080/03634528409384767

    The authors provide a review of 186 instructional communication articles published in communication journals from 1974 to 1982. They identify six categories of research: teacher characteristics, student characteristics, teaching strategies, speech criticism and student evaluation, speech content, and speech communication programs. They conclude by posing several questions for future research within each category.

  • Waldeck, Jennifer H., and Sara LaBelle. 2016. Theoretical and methodological approaches to instructional communication. In Communication and learning. Edited by Paul L. Witt, 67–101. Boston and Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

    DOI: 10.1515/9781501502446-005

    The authors identify and explore fifteen instructional communication theoretical frameworks and two theoretical/statistical models guiding the study of instructional communication, including the more recently developed rhetorical and relational goals theory. They then identify and review several research design and measurement issues facing the discipline and highlight some design and measurement research exemplars.

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