Communities of practice as purveyors of instructional communication during crises

America L. Edwards, Timothy L. Sellnow, Deanna D. Sellnow, Joel Iverson, Adam Parrish, Steve Dritz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


This study focuses on the critical role instructional communication plays in effective risk and crisis communication. More specifically, we examined efforts made by the United States’ swine industry to teach biosecurity practices in response to the African Swine Fever virus, a highly contagious novel disease. To do so, researchers interviewed 14 research, veterinary, and extension specialists to assess the swine industry’s capacity to function as a community of practice (CoP). Strategies were coded under the three major functions of CoPs: mutual engagement, shared repertoire, and joint negotiation. Respondents indicated that the industry was successful primarily because they engaged in effective instructional communication as a learning CoP to create a clear shared repertoire and negotiate consistent messages to teach better biosecurity practices among diverse people and facilities. Although the goal of biosecurity remains the same—maintaining a line of separation between infected areas and uninfected areas—the means for achieving it may differ among locations and the instructional strategies for achieving it must be tailored for diverse populations to achieve the desired affective, cognitive, and behavioral learning outcomes. Implications for instructional communication research to address other risk situations and crisis events are also proposed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-70
Number of pages22
JournalCommunication Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • communities of practice
  • crisis communication
  • health communication
  • instructional communication
  • risk communication


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