Author ORCID Identifier


Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Robin Hurst, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Sharon Zumbrunn, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

William Muth, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Rosalyn Hobson-Hargraves, Ph.D.

Fifth Advisor

Frank Bosco, Ph.D.


Woven within the pages of HRD’s historical literature, a variety of scholarly voices can be found drawing attention to the increasing inconsistency in the language of the field. Within the literature, we also find evidence of a long-standing discord and debate regarding the field’s definition and identified boundaries. This is the first study that attempts to elevate the conversation of HRD’s definition to that of an exploration of what is shared, and what makes the discipline’s members unique. Utilizing Li’s (2009) lens of disciplinary identity and elements of Gee’s (1999) theory of Discourse, this study presents a concept of what HRD’s disciplinary identity may look like at the macro level. This study also investigates the construct from both the academic and practitioner lens, in an attempt to include perspectives and influences at the micro level regarding the discipline’s enacted identity in both scholarship and practice, which may aid the relationship between theory and practice.

Embedded within the larger aim of this study was the goal of revealing current similarities and differences in academic and practitioner labels-in-use within the field of Human Resource Development. To that end, this study employed an explanatory sequential mixed methods design that began with a quantitative collection and analysis of text from the Association for Talent Development’s (ATD) website and the Academy of Human Resource Development’s (AHRD) website. A second, qualitative phase was then conducted consisting of interviews of a diverse group of academics and practitioners from institutional/organizational contexts that were believed to provide greater insight into the potential contextual nuances behind the quantitative results. Mixed analyses of the quantitative and qualitative findings found a variance in the language-in-use, as well as indications that the discipline’s espoused identity may not reflect what is actually lived. These findings also suggest insights into the discipline’s social actions and interactions at the micro level, providing support for a proposed cultural model of HRD at the macro level. Although this study is a first step in trying to better understand HRD’s language-in-use and overall disciplinary identity, it also provides evidence that viewing HRD’s language-in-use in this way warrants further investigation.


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