Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


Accounting for Student Voice Within Critical Communication Pedagogy: An Ethnomethodological Exploration of Student Perceptions and Expectations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

John Warren (Advisor)


This study, through critical communication pedagogy and an ethnomethodological lens, explores the ways in which student identity is produced through ranges of power, voice, and agency. From student voice, participants share how they understand, see, describe, struggle, succeed, and develop their identities, both individually and as part of an academic community. Further, participants’ dialogue illuminates how the intersection of communication and education identity is undertheorized as a socially constitutive act upon the body. Specifically, this study consisted of four focus group interviews with a diverse set of undergraduate students, within and outside the discipline of Communication Studies. The participants in this study spoke to the construction of an educational identity as a process that is comprised of maintaining institutional realties, understanding how they, as students make and negotiate educational and social choices, and then demonstrate a sense of belonging through their actions. Participants’ conversations foreground individuals’ education actions as constitutive acts that serve to move them toward recognition that student identity is an act of performative possibility. Because participants’ expectations are built on the perception that individuals choose to comply with or resist institutional moments, they were very critical of students who neglect the ways in which individuals’ actions (or inactions) help to continually create and reify the educational struggles they are defining themselves against. Most intriguing is the empirical evidence that shows participants are far more aware of how critical discourse can create relationships between individuals and educational institutions, and how those same dialogues can hinder those relationships from ever coming into being. Furthermore, participants made it very clear that they are not apathetic to their educational situation; they are not judgmental dopes. As students, they make decisions that demonstrate their choices and inform a process that makes them part of very particular educational and social communities. With participants viewing education as an extension of the self, the scholarship of communication and education and critical communication pedagogy scholars now have new context to explore and deconstruct structures of power and privilege that serve to maintain the status quo, while working with students during that process.