MPA 630 - Organizational Theory and Human Behavior

Course Syllabus

Instructor Information | Course Information | Course Materials

Course Activities and Design | Grading and Evaluation | Course Policies

Instructor Information

Instructor: Jason Stilwell, Ph.D.

Contact Information:


Daytime Phone Number: (303) 902-3190 (for emergency use only)

Instructor Accessibility: Please do not hesitate to e-mail me with any questions you may have. I can also be reached at the phone number above if you are unable to access e-mail. If you ask me to call you back, please include days and times best to call you, along with your full name and a phone number.

E-mail will be responded to as promptly as possible, usually within twenty-four hours from Monday-Friday. Weekend response times may be longer. Please use the above e-mail address to contact me unless otherwise instructed. This helps keep me organized and responding to you as quickly as possible. Please put the appropriate subject of your message in the subject line (e.g., Exam question; discussion grading question).

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Course Information

Course Title:Organizational Theory and Human Behavior

Course Description:This course gives students an historical perspective on organization theory and examines contemporary approaches to the study of organization. The concepts discussed apply to public, private and nonprofit organizations. Students take an active role in bringing their own observations to the discussion of topics such as decision-making, power, conflict, communication, leadership, motivation, group effectiveness, organizational change, personal and organizational autonomy.

Credit Hours: This course carries 3 semester credits. You can normally expect to put in 8-10 hours per week on this course.

Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites for this course.

Schedule: The course is organized into eight course meetings with three sessions per night. Each session will be approximately one hour in length. During Fall 2009, the class meets on Thursday nights from 6:00 to 9:45 p.m. The final fifteen minutes of the course will be set aside for discussion of assignments.

My approach: Cogent discussion and presentation of complex topics is an imperative skill for graduate students to demonstrate. This course will significantly focus on both areas as students become exposed to the concepts of organizational theory and human behavior. Students are required to complete assigned readings to be able to discuss the concepts during class. Student presentations will focus the discussions on specific topics each week.

Graduate school, besides exposing students to the substance of the course material, is designed to have the students become expert communicators (both orally and in writing) and qualified researchers. My focus is to help you achieve these high standards within the context of the theories associated with organization and human behavior.

Student Learning Objectives:

This course is an opportunity for students to combine the major perspectives of organizational theory with a comprehensive understanding of theories of human behavior. The educational goals of the MPA program focus on the skills, abilities, and habits of mind that a public and non-profit sectors professional would need to act in a leadership role in public sector and non-profit administrative service. This class is a key component of these goals.

The student successfully completing this course should be able to:

Acquire the foundation knowledge needed to understand the distinctive character and responsibilities of public sector administration in a democratic society.


  1. Discuss accurately and in details the theories in public administration and policy and their relevance to the real world policy and organizational problems (level 1).
  2. Use public administration concepts in meaningful and accurate ways to analyze distinctive character and responsibilities of public sector administrators (level 1).
  3. Discuss the specific public administration value conflicts and dilemmas that administrators encounter in decision making (level 2).
Develop the skills and theoretical knowledge needed to redesign public sector organizations, staff and delivery systems; as well as develop an understanding of the importance of cooperative and collaboration across unit lines and with external and community partners.


  1. Use various models and theories in organizational leadership to analyze effective management of a public sector organization (level 1).
  2. Show that you can identify specific public sector issues and problems across units (level 1).
  3. Show that you can link and interconnect these problems across different units and problems/issues (level 1).
  4. Show that you can develop specific solutions to these problems through cooperative and collaborative strategies across various organizational units and policy domains (level 2).
  5. Apply organizational management principles and models to develop a plan for managing small, midsize and large public and non-profit organizations (level 2).
Both of these SLOs will be measured using the presentations. The measurement of the SLOs is not a component of assessing your grade for the presentations nor course, it simply is a tool for allowing MPA faculty to assess the extent to which the MPA program is meeting its overall programmatic objectives.
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Course Materials

Required Textbook:

textbook image Classics of Organizational Theory, 6th Edition, 2005. Jay Shafritz, J. Steven Ott, Yong Suk Jang; ISBN: 0534 631 568, Wadsworth.

Compiled by the most influential authors in the field, CLASSICS OF ORGANIZATION THEORY is a collection of the most enduring works in organization theory. Designed for those new to the field, the text helps students grasp the important themes, perspectives, and theories of the field by describing what organization theory is, how it has developed, and how its development has coincided with developments in other fields. This text is not simply a retelling of the history of organization theory, its evolution is told through the words of the distinguished theorists themselves.

Your primary resource is the text. Be sure you have the 6th edition. I recommend you spend some time looking over the text to see how it is laid out. As you have undoubtedly noticed there is a lot of reading and much information to absorb in graduate school. My suggestion is to read the textbook thoroughly prior to the exam. As we work our way through the course, we will build on the concepts discussed in the text. If you have questions, please ask me about them. One recommendation on how to be successful in this course is to READ THE TEXT.

Shafritz Textbook Web Site:

web site icon Shafritz Textbook website. The website features an overview of the text, information about the authors, and a summary of the table of contents.

Recommended Textbook:

Hall textbook image Organizations: Structures, Processes, and Outcomes, 10th Edition, 2009. Richard H. Hall and Pamela s. Tolbert; ISBN: 978-0132448406, Prentice Hall.

Based upon classical and contemporary theory and empirical research, this book forms a sociological analysis of organizations, focusing on the impacts that organizations have upon individuals and society. Chapter topics include the nature of organizations, organizational structure, power and power outcomes, leadership, decision making, communication, change, organizational environments and interorganizational relationships, organizational theory, and organizational effectiveness. For individuals and industry professionals interested in the sociology of organizations and organizational behavior.

Hall Textbook Web Site:

web site icon Hall Textbook website. The website features an overview of the text, information about the authors, and a summary of the table of contents.

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Course Activities and Design

Course Outline:
The course is divided into 24 one-hour units (3 per evening) with the remainder of each evening's class being devoted to discussion of assignments. The goal of this session structure is to add variety and breadth to the discussion of organizational theory and human behavior. There will generally be two types of sessions: 1) key concepts of organizational theory and human behavior, and 2) student presentations with class discussion of the readings as they relate to the week's topic.

Student Responsibilities:

Participation in Discussions is Critical:
A significant portion of your course grade will be based on your participation in discussions through Blackboard and each evening. You will be familiar with the text and grading, in part, will be based on your ability to relate the discussion topics back to the concepts discussed in the text and other course materials. An MPA program such as this with night and weekend scheduled classes tends to draw practitioners. As such the class greatly benefits from our collective insights and experiences into the practical side of the organizational theory and human behavior.

Communications About Difficulties/Absences:
It is your responsibility to contact me in a timely manner if you become ill, or have scheduling or computer problems that would keep you from participating in the course.

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Grading and Evaluation

Summary of Grading: Evaluation includes a combination of discussion participation, an exam, and presentation assignments.

There is an online exam available during the course based on the material in the Shafritz, Ott, and Jang textbook and the lectures. The exam consists of 3 parts: Multiple Choice Questions, True False Questions, and Short Answer Questions. There is a 55 minute time limit for completing the exam. On the Multiple Choice questions, be sure to pick the best answer from those available. Also, be sure to answer the complete question on the Short Answer questions.

The exam requires you to demonstrate your understanding of the terms, concepts, and information presented in the textbook and lectures. Questions for the exam will come from information presented in the textbook, posted readings, and lectures. The exam is worth up to 85 points of the total possible points.

Presentation Assignments
There will be two presentation assignments to complete. These presentations are required to be concise and are limited to ten minutes in length. Presentations will address specific topics listed on the Blackboard assignment page and discussed on the first day of class.

I will grade these presentation assignments for clarity of concept, explanation of topic, and adherence to the ten minute time limit. Strong verbal communication skills are a positive byproduct of a college education and something that distinguishes you from others. The presentations are worth up to 200 points each.

On the days you are not presenting, you will be required to submit a short write-up to specific discussion questions. These write-ups are graded and are designed to spawn discussion and further elaborate on the information in the class presentations. These write-ups are worth up to 35 points each.

Discussion is a required element of this course. There is an online discussion the week preceding class (except for the first week) and in-class discussion each week.

Discussion is both an opportunity to share your knowledge and understanding of the subject and to provide a more dynamic environment. Both of these enhance the learning experience. I will seek to keep the discussion focused on the topic or concept at hand, respond to a particular point, or ask additional questions for clarification or further class response.

You will be graded on your level of participation as well as the content of your comments, including your responses to the question(s) posed, and use of textbook, supplemental readings, and course material to support your comments.

I will look for the following in our discussions:

Discussions are designed to create a dialog between students. You will be graded on participation and the quality of your responses.

Classroom discussion will be worth up to 140 total points for the seven discussions and 35 additional points for referencing course material

Online discussion will be worth up to 175 total points for the seven discussions

Grading Scale:

Grade Equivalent
1129 - 1255
1004 - 1128
878 - 1003
753 - 877
752 or fewer

% Total
Exam 1 Exam @ 85 points
Presentations 2 @ 200 points each
Verbal Discussion 7 @ 25 points each


Online Discussion 7 @ 25 points per day


Write-ups 12 @ 35 points each


Total Points
1255 points

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Course Policies

Mutual Respect in Communications: A very important aspect of learning is respectful communication. The classroom is based on the value of mutually respectful communication. Students assume responsibility for respectful communications with other students and with course instructors, including communications which do not disrupt the classroom environment.

Disruptive Communications

• communications which disrupt the learning environment
• use of profanity and/or insulting or harassing remarks in class, email, discussions, chat or telephone communications.

A student who participates in disruptive communications forfeits the right to further class participation and is subject to removal from the course for the given term.

Plagiarism and academic dishonesty: The CSUN catalog defines plagiarism as "intentionally or knowingly representing the words, ideas, or work of another as one's own in academic exercise." Any idea or words that you use whether from a book, an article, the internet, or elsewhere must be cited appropriately. I do not tolerate plagiarism or academic dishonesty of any kind and I will, at a minimum, give an F for the course to any student guilty of plagiarism or academic dishonesty. The CSUN catalog also authorizes me to refer the case to the appropriate University officials and seek expulsion of the student from the University. I will exercise that option if I feel it is warranted. Make sure all your work is properly cited and do not represent the work of others as your own.

Plagiarism Policies are adhered to in this course. Ask your instructor or click here if you do not know what is or is not plagiarism.

Late Work: Late Assignments will not be accepted unless prior arrangements have been made with the instructor.

Incomplete Grades: The "Incomplete" grade is a temporary grade indicating that the student has a satisfactory record of work completed but, for exceptional reasons, was unable to complete the final assignments. If circumstances beyond your control prevent you from completing an assignment at the end of the term, consult your instructor, immediately. The instructor will determine whether you have a reasonable chance of satisfactorily completing the remaining activities without online access to course materials. Your instructor must work out a way for you to complete the course without benefit of the course Web site. The "Incomplete" grade is designed for students who, because of documented illness or circumstances beyond their control, are unable to complete their course work within the semester but have completed a majority of the course work (75-85% of the course assignments and tests) in a satisfactory manner. The student is responsible for initiating the request for an "Incomplete" grade from the instructor. In requesting an "Incomplete" grade, the student should email the instructor the following information for evaluation: Documentation of Circumstances: Evidence of completion of 75-85% of the semester course work.

A Work-Completion Plan Needs to Include the Following:

What and how assignments and tests will be submitted to complete the course.

The time period in which the work must be completed, not to exceed 15 weeks from the end of the on-line semester.

The grade to be assigned if the work is not completed.

Both the instructor and the student must acknowledge this written email and keep a copy of the acknowledgment as documentation.

NOTE: You are encouraged to let me know as soon as possible if you are having difficulties with any part of the course. At no time will the "Incomplete" grade be used as entrance into another current or future course section for completion of the work. In the unlikely event that you and I cannot reach some resolution, please contact the Vice President of Instruction.

Academic Integrity: Plagiarism is the act of using words and/or ideas from another person or source without acknowledgment of debt to that person or source and is a serious academic crime. Students are expected to do their own work. Students are expected to follow Academic/Plagiarism policies.

Special Services: If you have a learning or physical disability that will require special accommodation, please notify your instructor immediately upon enrollment.

Notice of Nondiscrimination: California State University at Northridge is an equal-opportunity educational institution and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. Reasonable accommodations will be provided upon request for persons with disabilities.

Disclaimer: With the exception of the stated competencies for this course, this syllabus may be altered during the semester by the instructor as the learning environment requires.

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