Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Marybeth Gasman


In traditional academic instruction, the classroom may be viewed as a kind of speech community composed of an expert (the teacher) and those who are at various stages of socializing into the cultural models and norms of that community (students), although this is an overly simplistic and unilinear view. In executive development programs, students are already socialized into a professional community of importance to them, and many are pursuing learning to further develop skills to be applied in the organizational contexts in which they are already embedded and deeply invested. This dissertation begins with the conceptualization that a classroom is essentially a transient social network with multiple functions, and one of these functions is to create or facilitate student access to resources that generate social capital in other networks. Additionally, a classroom is structurally a type of organization and socially a type of community. As an organization, the classroom confers identities to its participants. As a social network, the classroom can be characterized as a type of speech community. Trust is “an extensive co-belonging in a social category” (Agha, December 6, 2010, personal communication)—or community—that is represented linguistically through co-constructed and mutually-enforced social and professional registers. This dissertation argues that trust and the co-construction of a classroom register are in a reflexive relationship. Together, they form the dynamic processes of social positioning and interactional footing, ideally leading to register-mediated alignment among students and instructors. It is this register-mediated alignment that I refer to as “common ground.” Thus, the overarching question this dissertation has sought to answer is: How does the enactment of certain practices move a classroom from being simply a transient social network of diverse individuals to becoming also a speech community? Findings indicate that training and development professionals facilitate the co-construction of a learning community first by dedicating an extended period of time to get to know participants. This period of building the learning community also introduces and establishes a communicative norm of recontextualizing participant speech and reframing contexts over an extended period.