Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Julie Apker

Second Advisor

Leah Omilion-Hodges


Organizations increasingly embrace coaching as a core process to improve employee learning, increase overall performance, and develop leaders. Extant research on coaching is increasing, yet communication-based theories are underrepresented in the literature despite the fact that coaching is fundamentally discursive in nature. Further, although the coaching literature suggests that coaching conversations contribute to client identity growth and potential transformation, studies that specifically explore such activities are underrepresented in existing scholarship. Further, there lacks sufficient research examining how coaching contributes to the ongoing identity development of the coaches themselves. To fill this gap, this qualitative study explored the role coaching plays in facilitating client and coach identity development. Three professional coaches were interviewed, and themes were explored through the symbolic interactionism theoretical lens. Goffman’s dramaturgical theory and Hecht’s Communication Theory of Identity were also used to understand the complex, communicative process of identity development present in coach-client interactions. Findings suggest coaching can serve as a space in Goffman’s backstage region, which provides clients a private setting to rehearse and try on potential identities. Hecht’s Communication Theory of Identity also has value to assist in the discovery of client identity gaps and explore possible communication strategies to reduce such gaps. Conclusions and pragmatic implications are drawn to guide future theorizing and applied practice.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access

Shank_Honors_Presentation_Final 4-28-15.pdf (14364 kB)
Defense Presentation