Students interact with one another and engage with people in local organizations as they study organizational behavior with Sawyer Business School Professor Colette Dumas.

Experiential learning is a key element in Dumas’ Organizational Behavior course, where students working in teams identify organizations that interest them and then spend time studying how people are managed in those workplaces.

By term’s end, the student teams are able to help their hosts recognize any deficiencies and how to alleviate them.

Collecting and analyzing data

Students interview people at several levels within the organization to gather perspectives about leadership, communication, teamwork, and motivation. Dumas then guides the students as they analyze the collected data.

“I help them to make the connection between what they have observed and learned from the interviews and organizational behavior concepts,” she said.

“Students learn that diagnostic activities such as observations, interviews, and questionnaires are powerful interventions that can help them understand the essential dynamics of the organizational system.”

At the end of the course, student teams write papers and present their findings. Representatives from participating organizations are invited to attend.

Suggesting improvements

Students often identify gaps between what an organization can do and what they actually do when managing people, according to Dumas. She recommends ways to close those gaps and “make improvements to manage people in these organizations more effectively.”

The course prepares students for the business environment they are training to join.

“Students learn about working as a team and networking with people in the community, which can lead to future job opportunities,” she said.