Publication Date

Fall 2017


Existing research reveals too little about how elementary-level students make sense of their teachers' and others' interpersonal communication with them, particularly regarding how it impacts students' identity development and engagement in teaching-learning relationships and instruction. Addressing this timely exigency, this study applied a cross-disciplinary conceptual framework to examine identity aspects of elementary school students· interpersonal and relational communication experiences in and around their literacy learning classrooms. Guided by Hecht et al. 's (2005) communication theory of identity (CTI) and examining themes that emerged among 103 faceto-face interviews with second- through fifth-graders, this paper reports key findings related to four interpenetrating identity layers, as well as identity gaps these young students reported experiencing among those layers. Interpersonal findings are explained and instructional principles discerned in light of CTI and research in second-language learning and multi-cultural pedagogy.


Teacher-student relationships; Education, elementary; Interpersonal communication; Interaction analysis in education

Publication Information

©2017 Ilosvay, K. & Kerssen-Griep, J.

Archived version is the final published version.



Document Type

Journal Article