Expanding the Scope of Instructional Communication Research: Looking Beyond Classroom Contexts

Deanna D. Sellnow, Anthony Limperos, Brandi N. Frisby, Timothy L. Sellnow, Patric R. Spence, Edward Downs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The bulk of instructional communication research to date examines communication among teachers and students in conventional classroom contexts. Although past and present research is prolific and informative, it is also somewhat limiting. With a specific unifying focus on affective, cognitive, and behavioral learning as outcome variables, we begin this article with a brief history of instructional communication research, as well as examples of research and practice in conventional classroom settings. We then outline, review, and explain four distinct contexts where we believe future instructional communication research and practice is likely to be fruitful: risk and crisis situations, technology-enhanced environments, digital games, and forensics education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-432
Number of pages16
JournalCommunication Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 8 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
A promising line of instructional risk and crisis communication research involves message design. Message design and testing research has drawn from experiential learning theory (e.g., Dewey, 1938; Kolb, 1984) to create effective instructional messages. Such messages include the essential components for garnering the attention of receivers (or learners) in ways that motivate them to attend (affect), to comprehend (cognitive), and to take appropriate actions (behavioral) during high-risk situations. Considerable research funded by the National Center for Food Protection and Defense, a Center of Excellence sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, reveals that instructional messages offering personal relevance, a brief explanation of the situation, and specific actions for self-protection result in a significant increase in (a) knowledge comprehension of the risk, (b) perceptions of self-efficacy, and (c) behavioral intentions to take appropriate protective action (e.g., Sellnow et al., 2012). Based on consistent findings across multiple instructional message design and testing studies grounded in instructional communication theory and practice, Sellnow and Sellnow (2013) devised the Internalization-Distribution-Explanation-Action (IDEA) model for designing optimal instructional risk and crisis messages. The model is being used across risk and crisis contexts and among a variety of agencies ranging from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) and the National Center for Food Protection and Defense (NCFPD) to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, n.d.) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Although a solid foundation of instructional communication research in risk and crisis contexts has been laid, much room exists for future work that will ultimately help practitioners, ‘‘quickly develop risk messages when time is of the essence— messages that will achieve their ultimate goals, that is to save lives’’ (Sellnow & Sellnow, 2013, p. 3).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, © Central States Communication Association.


  • Cognition
  • Forensics Education
  • Instructional Communication
  • Learning
  • Risk and Crisis
  • Technology and Digital Games


Dive into the research topics of 'Expanding the Scope of Instructional Communication Research: Looking Beyond Classroom Contexts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this