PSPA 505E: Organization Theory and Behavior

Spring 2007

Monday 6:30-9:10

DuSable 252



Kimberly Nelson, Ph.D.

Office:  211 IASBO Building                 Phone: 815-753-6146

Email:                      Office hours: Monday & Thursday 9-11

                                                                                          and by appointment


Course objectives:

This course will introduce students to the theoretical perspectives of organizational management, structure, and behavior, focusing on public and nonprofit organizations.  Developing an understanding of the theories related to organizational features, management philosophy, and individual behavior in organizations is greatly beneficial to those studying to be future administrators. 


Upon completion of this course, students will have an initial understanding of the major theoretical perspectives in the field of organizational theory such as historical management perspectives, theories of human motivation, and organizational culture. 


Required Textbooks:

Schermerhorn, John R, James G. Hunt, and Richard N. Osborn.  (2005). Organizational Behavior, 9th Edition.  Wiley and Sons Press.


Tompkins, Jonathan R. (2005). Organization Theory and Public Management, Thomson-Wadsworth Publishers.


Additional readings listed on the course schedule will be available on Blackboard.


Course Requirements:

Midterm                                                                                                                30%

Homework—exercises and case studies                                                          30%

Research paper & presentation                                                                         30%

Participation and attendance                                                                             10%

TOTAL                                                                                                                100%


Midterm Exam:

There will be an in-class mid-term examination and no final examination.  The mid-term exam will cover material from the first half of the course and will be a combination of essay and short answer questions that seek to determine how well you are able to apply theoretical knowledge from the readings to the “real world”.  Students must bring plain notebook paper to class for the exam.


Homework—Exercises and Case Studies:

The Schermerhorn book contains case studies and exercises in the workbook at the end of the text that correspond to each chapter.  Additional cases will be available on Blackboard.  Answer the questions at the end of the case studies or complete the assignment as described for submission for grading.  Due dates are listed on the course schedule at the end of this syllabus.


Research paper and presentation:

Each student is required to complete a 15-20 page research paper that relates the material from the course to a real-world situation or experience.  Choose a topic that is of interest to you and relate it to either an entire organization or a component of an organization.  You should evaluate the organization, observe the behavior of people within the organization, and relate your observations to your chosen topic. 


On February 5, a research proposal must be submitted summarizing your intended project.  The proposal should include a description of your topic, a bibliography of relevant literature, and the research methodology you intend to utilize. On March 26, class will be cancelled due to my attendance at the ASPA National Conference.  Please use that time to work on your papers.  The following Monday, April 2, you will be required to submit the typed introduction to your paper.


In order to adequately complete the assignment, you will need to interview the relevant parties and conduct a literature search related to the topic.  You should develop a good understanding of the organization’s culture, styles of the leaders, and methods used to motivate employees.  Additional sources of information related to your topic may include documents such as meeting minutes or policy statements.


Papers should be typewritten, double-spaced, and use APA style.  Include a cover page that lists the title, your name, and the course information.  Do not put your name anywhere else in the paper.


On the last day of class, each student will present their findings.  Students may select the format for the presentation at their own discretion. You should use some type of visual aid, whether handouts, slides, or PowerPoint presentations is up to you.  Presentations should be no longer than 10 minutes long.


Participation and attendance:

This course is a graduate seminar, not a lecture course.  In order for students to get the greatest benefit from the course, they should come to class prepared to discuss the weekly topics.  Therefore, students should complete the readings on time and bring notes on the readings to class.  Additionally, half of your participation grade will be determined by your attendance.



A = 90-100; B = 80-89; C = 70-79; D = 60 – 69; below 60 = F


Late assignments will not be accepted.  Division policy prohibits the submission of assignments via email or fax.


Attendance:  Everyone is expected to arrive before the start of class.   I do not distinguish between excused and unexcused absences. It is your responsibility to ask a classmate for the notes and exercises you miss.  No make-ups permitted for work missed.


Academic Integrity: Students are required to adhere to NIU’s code of student conduct for academic integrity.  Violations will result in a failed grade on the assignment and possibly the class.  If you are unclear of what actions constitute plagiarism, please see me.


You are expected to ensure that all assignments submitted for a grade reflect substantially your own work, that work submitted under your name is substantially original, and that you have understood and learned the competencies in each assignment and not relied solely on the knowledge of others.  Students whose work is substantially plagiarized from others will receive a ‘0’ on that assignment or exam. 


Students with Disabilities: NIU abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which mandates reasonable accommodations be provided for qualified students with disabilities. If you have a disability and may require some type of instructional and/or examination accommodation, please contact me early in the semester so that I can provide or facilitate in providing accommodations you may need. If you have not already done so, you will need to register with the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR), the designated office on campus to provide services and administer exams with accommodations for students with disabilities. The CAAR office is located on the 4th floor of the University Health Services building (815-753-1303). I look forward to talking with you soon to learn how I may be helpful in enhancing your academic success in this course.

Class Schedule:




January 22


Chapter 1 Tompkins

Chapter 1 Schermerhorn

January 29

Public management & organization theory

Chapters 2 & 3 Tompkins

Chapter 2  Schermerhorn

February 5

Classical & neoclassical theories

Chapters 5, 6, 7, 8 Tompkins

Proposal for research paper due

February 12

Systems Theory

Organizational structure

Chapters 4, 9 & 10 Tompkins

Chapters 17 & 18 Schermerhorn

February 19

Individual behavior

Chapters 4 & 5 Schermerhorn

February 26


Chapter 13 Tompkins

Chapters 6, 7, & 8 Schermerhorn

Brewer et al “Individual Conceptions of Public Service Motivation”

March 5



March 12

Spring Break

March 19

Participative management theory & human resources theory

Chapter 13 Tompkins

March 26

Class Cancelled—ASPA Conference—work on final papers

April 2

Group dynamics & teamwork

Chapters 9 & 10 Schermerhorn

Submit introduction to your paper

April 9


Chapters 11, 12, & 13 Schermerhorn

Van Wart, “Public-Sector Leadership Theory”

April 16


Chapters 14, 15, & 16 Schermerhorn

Sowa & Selden, “Administrative Discretion…”

April 23

Organization culture

Chapter 15 Tompkins

Chapter 19 Schermerhorn

April 30

Presentations of Research Papers—Turn in Research Papers