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Increasing Intrinsic Motivation to Learn in Organizational Behavior


Classes
Glenn M. McEvoy
Journal of Management Education 2011 35: 468 originally published online 11
May 2011
DOI: 10.1177/1052562911408098
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408098
McEvoyJournal of Management Education
The Author(s) 2011

JME35410.1177/1052562911408098

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Increasing Intrinsic
Motivation to Learn
in Organizational
Behavior Classes

Journal of Management Education


35(4) 468503
The Author(s) 2011
Reprints and permission: http://www.
sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/1052562911408098
http://jme.sagepub.com

Glenn M. McEvoy1

Abstract
This article describes my experiences redesigning a masters-level organizational
behavior (OB) course. The course was delivered to two different audiences
MBA and MS-HR studentstwo different times. The redesign employed
several unique features designed to increase and enhance student intrinsic
interest in the subject matter. Two measures of intrinsic motivation were collected along with measures of perceived usefulness of the OB course content,
student satisfaction, and student learning. Also, follow-up focus groups were
conducted with a subset of the students after the courses were over to gain
insight on student reactions. Results provide partial support for the notion
that MS-HR students were more intrinsically interested in the subject matter of the course than were MBA students, but outcomes with satisfaction,
perceived usefulness, and student learning were mixed. Results are discussed
in terms of which specific aspects of the course redesign seemed more
effective at eliciting student interest and motivation and which proved problematic. Implications for both teaching and research are provided.
Keywords
intrinsic interest, student motivation, organizational behavior, MBA education

Utah State University, Logan, UT, USA

Corresponding Author:
Glenn M. McEvoy, Department of Management, Huntsman School of Business, Utah State
University, 3555 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-3555, USA
Email: glenn.mcevoy@usu.edu

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I have been teaching the topic of organizational behavior (OB) for more than
35 years. The subject is my first love, one I remain as passionate about today
as when I first discovered OB was a real academic discipline back in the
early 1970s (I was an engineer then, so, perhaps can be forgiven for my ignorance!). And even though I steel myself every Fall Semester for the inevitable
disappointment, I continue to be frustrated anew every year when I discover
that not all my students share the same passion and interest in OB that I have.
A recent sabbatical leave occasioned the opportunity to think more deeply
about this perceived lack of student interest in the topic of organizational
behavior; the musings that follow are the result of that investigation.
I am not the first academic to comment on this issue (see, e.g., Rynes,
Trank, Lawson, & Ilies, 2003). Others have noted that there seems to be a
persistent problem with student motivation in the college classroom in general (e.g., Debnath, Tandon, & Pointer, 2007). In this journal and its predecessor (Organizational Behavior Teaching Review), there have been, over
the years, a smattering of articles related to the topics of student interest and
motivation (e.g., Hiller & Hietapelto, 2001; Levy, 2007; Robbins, 1988;
Vaill, 2007).
Some have suggested the problem is with grades and grading (e.g., Edwards
& Edwards, 1999; Levy, 2007; Van Seters & Field, 1989). Hiller and Hietapelto
(2001), for example, noted that students too often assume a performance orientation rather than a mastery orientation in class. In the former case, students focus not on learning but on earning the grades that will allow them to
maintain their images of competence (p. 661). Students with a mastery orientation, on the other hand, are more intrinsically motivated and more interested
in what they learn. Others suggest that classroom activities and approaches
need to be targeted at preexisting student interests to get them intrinsically
involved and motivated (Levy, 2007) or that we need a better balance of theory
and practice in order to demonstrate the relevance of our subject to students
(Vaill, 2007). Debnath et al. (2007) suggested designing classroom approaches
that increase intrinsic motivation by using the lessons from the Job
Characteristics Model (Hackman & Oldham, 1980). The common thread in
these articles is that student motivation and interest is low, and we need to take
a different approach if we are to enhance student intrinsic involvement and
commitment to our subjects, particularly organizational behavior.

The Peculiar Case of Organizational Behavior


Interestingly, surveys of employers typically find that soft skills such as
communication, leadership, interpersonal, and team skills (behavioral skills)

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Journal of Management Education 35(4)

are rated as very important in the evaluation of job candidates, and, in particular, in the decision to hire recent college graduates (e.g., Alsop, 2004,
Cappelli, 1995; Merritt, 2004; Porter & McKibbon, 1988). Such preferences
for soft skills would seemingly elevate the importance of OB classes in
college programs, but both students and recruiters (not to mention our colleagues in finance, marketing, operations, and accounting) seem perennially
skeptical about the value and applicability of OB courses (Rynes & Trank,
1999; Van Seters & Field, 1989).
For illustration purposes, consider a recent study by Rynes et al. (2003).
They found that although recruiters say they want to hire for behavioral skills,
they often hire students who have technical specialties in their MBAs
rather than those who have taken more organization behavior or general management courses. There are several possible explanations for this difference
between what recruiters say they want versus what they really hire. One possible explanation is that although recruiters may genuinely want to hire graduates with good behavioral skills, they may be unconvinced that graduate
schools are up to the task of actually developing these skills. Many scholars
over the years have expressed the view that genuinely changing communication and interpersonal approaches of adults is extraordinarily difficult, primarily because these approaches are deeply embedded in the behavioral and
habitual repertoires of individuals and have been practiced over the course of
a lifetime (e.g., McGregor, 1960). Compared with changing someones computer skills or knowledge of quantitative techniques, for example, changing
behavioral skills is potentially much more difficult.
Rynes et al. (2003) suggested that the credibility gap in OB courses in
business schools might be reduced by systematically evaluating and improving the quality of those courses. As part of this process, they recommended
comparing and contrasting the relative effectiveness of different pedagogical
approaches with imparting behavioral knowledge and skills to students. The
exploration reported in this article represents movement in that direction.

Background
Two years ago I decided to undertake a thorough redesign of the masterslevel OB course that I teach each Fall Semester. I teach basically the
same course to two different audiences: MBA students and students in our
MS-Human Resources (HR) program. It has been my general experience
over the years that the course evaluations are lower for the MBAs than for
the MS-HR students. (My historical average in the MBA class is 5.0 on a
6-point scale; for the MS-HR class it is 5.4.) My working hypothesis had

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always been that students pursuing a career in human resources might be


more intrinsically interested in the subject matter of OB, and that this difference in interest might account for the differences in student course ratings.
In my course redesign, I wanted to make the course as intrinsically interesting and motivating as possible to all students and then measure the differences in outcomes and reactions from the two different student audiences.

Interest and Intrinsic Motivation


There is a plethora of evidence that high student interest is related to positive
student learning outcomes (Bergin, 1999; Frymier, Shulman, & Houser,
1996; Hidi, 1990; Schiefele, 1991, 1996). Perhaps, Dewey (1913) is the
genesis of the interest in the topic of student interest among educational
psychologists. Dewey speculated that external attempts to make a subject
interesting would lead only to compliance and temporary effort (motivation)
whereas genuine internal interest would lead to internalization and identification with the material. In a series of experiments, Schiefele (1991) found
that interest was strongly correlated to time and effort invested in learning,
and that highly interested students spent more time in elaboration, critical
thinking, and seeking additional information whereas uninterested students
spent more time in rehearsal (memorizing). In summarizing the results of
his research, Schiefele argued that the causal chain he observed was as follows: Interest in a subject leads to an intrinsic motivational orientation for
learning, which in turn leads to specific learning strategies (such as elaboration, critical thinking, etc.), which, finally, lead to learning depth and comprehension. Other research supports this basic causal chain from interest
to intrinsic motivation to learning outcomes (Weber & Patterson, 2000;
Young, 2005).
There is discouraging evidence that business majors may be less interested in the content of their subject matter than other students. For instance,
DeMarie and Aloise-Young (2003) found that business majors, when compared with education majors, were significantly less likely to say they chose
their major because of interest in the area or interest in the classes and
significantly more likely to say they picked their major because it would help
them find a job easily and lead to a high salary. This suggests more external motivation than internal motivation for business majors.
There is also evidence that student motivationparticularly intrinsic
motivationis related to important learning outcomes (Love, Love, &
Northcraft, 2010; Svinicki, 1998) and that it may have a greater influence on
learning than even cognitive skills (Lepper & Chabay, 1985). In a study of

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Journal of Management Education 35(4)

grade-school students, Lepper, Corpus, and Iyengar (2005) found that intrinsic
motivation to learn dropped steadily between third and eighth grades. The
drop was dramatic enough that the authors characterized eighth graders as
having disturbingly low levels of motivation (p. 184). Lepper et al. (2005)
also found that extrinsic motivation to learn remained relatively stable during
these 6 years, but that it was negatively related to both grades and standardized test scores. A positive correlation between intrinsic motivation and
course grades and no correlation between extrinsic motivation and course
grades has also been observed among college students (Pintrich, Smith, Garcia,
& McKeachie, 1993).
Intrinsic motivation to learn is important. Such motivation increases freechoice persistence in learning and self-reports of interest in the subject (Deci,
Koestner, & Ryan, 1999). There is also some evidence that intrinsically motivated students become more fully dedicated and more genuinely engaged in
the materials to be learned (Vansteenkiste, Simons, Lens, Sheldon, & Deci,
2004), and that they report a greater sense of well-being and psychological
health (Deci et al., 1999).

Redesigning the Organizational Behavior Course


Prior to 2008, I used a relatively standard approach to teaching OB to
graduate students. I used a text and some supplemental readings, and had
developed an extensive set of discussion questions that went with the readings. Class periods consisted of asking students to reflect on discussion questions and relate the materials to their own experiences. I also used a set of
experiential exercises to gain class involvement. Finally, there were four
cases that students read and we discussed in class. All four were organizations that were experiencing serious problems with their human resources.
Students were evaluated using both a learnings paper to summarize key
take-aways from readings, class discussions, and experiential exercises, and
an in-class open-book case analysis to assess their ability to apply course
concepts to a real situation. My course evaluations had always been pretty
good (see above), but I was dissatisfied with the level of involvement I sensed
in these classes and hoped to improve it.
In the course redesign, I relied heavily on a widely cited book that reports
best practices on teaching at the college level (Bain, 2004). This book
reports the results of research that has been conducted over the years on
deep learning in college classes. Evidence suggests that students who study
only to get a good grade do not achieve as much as those who learn because
they are intrinsically interested in the topic. They do not think as critically,

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analyze problems as thoroughly, reason as logically, or synthesize data and


information as systematically. Extrinsically motivated students usually opt
for easier problems whereas those with intrinsic motivation will seek out
more challenging tasks, display greater innovation and creativity, take reasonable intellectual risks, make fewer errors, and perform better under difficult conditions (Edwards & Edwards, 1999; Lepper, 1988; Pittman, Emery,
& Boggiano, 1982). Students may become what some have called strategic
learners, focusing primarily on doing well (i.e., getting good grades) in
school, avoiding challenges that would be uncomfortable or potentially damaging to their academic reputations, and, thus, often fail to develop deep and
real understanding of the subject matter of their courses. To avoid this problem,
according to Bain (2004), the literature on best practices in college classrooms suggests the following strategies for instructors:
Create an environment where students: (a) learn by confronting
intriguing and important problems, engage in authentic tasks, and
examine their own mental models of realitytry to force students
into a significant emotional event where they disprove their own
theories-in-use (p. 18) and (b) feel a sense of control over their
education, work collaboratively with others, and receive feedback
in advance of any summative judgment of their learning (p. 18)
Make examinations comprehensive, giving students multiple opportunities to demonstrate competence (p. 36)
Help students keep the larger questions of the course constantly in
the forefront (p. 38)
Teach students how to read the materialfor example, how to
examine and analyze a book before they read it (p. 88)
Expect and assess both intellectual and personal development
(pp. 189-190): (a) intellectual developmentunderstanding a
sizeable body of material; learning how to learn, to reason from evidence, to employ abstract concepts, to engage in conversations
about that thinking (including the capacity to write about it), and
to ask sophisticated questions and (b) personal development
understanding ones self (ones history, emotions, dispositions,
abilities, insights, limitations, prejudices, assumptions) and what it
means to be human, the development of a sense of responsibility to
ones self and others, the capacity to exercise compassion, and the
ability to understand and use ones emotions.

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In addition to Bains (2004) book, I relied on other sources as I thought


about how to redesign my courses to increase intrinsic motivation. An important second source was an area in cognitive psychology known as cognitive
evaluation theory (CET). The most widely cited proponent of this theory is
Edward Deci (e.g., Deci et al., 1999; Gagne & Deci, 2005). In a nutshell, the
theory explains why three decades of research has demonstrated that intrinsic
motivation may be seriously undermined by extrinsic rewards. That is, when
extrinsics are offered up as rewards for doing something that a person was
originally intrinsically motivated to do, the person loses interest in the task
and must be further coerced through the use of more extrinsics to continue
to engage in the task over time.
From Deci et al.s (1999) work on CET, I noted the following:
As with Bain (2004), real learning occurs when students are genuinely
and intrinsically interested in solving a problem.
In terms of the extent of undermining, CET predicts that extrinsic
rewards undermine intrinsic motivation most when a subject receives
less than the maximal reward possible (e.g., if one receives any grade
lower than A).
Finally, I reviewed other research on intrinsic motivation in learning. For
example, Bergin (1999) argued that interest in the subject matter could be
enhanced by including hands-on activities, increasing novelty and narrative,
and helping students see the relevance of the material to their own situations.
Lepper (1988) offered 4Cs for enhanced student intrinsic motivation: control, challenge, curiosity, and contextualization. Young (2005) argued that
intrinsic motivation could be increased by using application-oriented exercises, high interaction, supportive feedback, and clear goals that emphasized
learning over grades. Last, Hiller and Hietapelto (2001) argued for more
student voice in the evaluation process as a way to increase intrinsic
motivation.
The flow presented in Figure 1 shows how this course redesign was
envisioned.
Specific changes in the OB course that were designed to be responsive to
prior research on intrinsic motivation are summarized in Table 1. Details on
some of these design features are provided in Appendix A.
In summary, my interest in undertaking this study was to attempt to
enhance the intrinsic interest of students in my OB courses, determineif

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McEvoy

Deci et al. (1999)


Bergin (1999)
Lepper (1988)
Young (2005)
Hiller & Hietapelto (2001)

Ken Bain (2004):


What the Best
College Teachers
Do

Significant Changes in
Graduate Organization
Behavior Courses (2)
Student
Reactions to
1st Redesign

Changes in MBA
Version of the Course

Student
Reactions to
2nd Redesign

Figure 1. Model of course redesign

possiblewhich features of a major course redesign contributed to increasing


intrinsic interest, and to assess differences in intrinsic motivation that might
be present in MBA students compared with MS-HR students.

Method
The course redesign was first implemented in both an MBA class and
MS-HR class in Fall 2008. The sample for this study was the four classes
I taught in Fall 2008 and Fall 2009. In Fall 2008, there were 35 students in
the MBA class (30 males) and 13 in the MS-HR class (7 males). In Fall 2009,
there were 48 students in the MBA class (36 males) and 25 in the MS-HR
class (15 males). Entry requirements into all graduate programs in my college are the same, and the GMAT scores and undergraduate GPAs of MBA
and MS-HR students are comparable. The average age for students in both
programs is 28 years. All four classes met for 3-hour blocks on a semester
schedule (15 class periods) and all four met in the afternoons. In Fall 2008,

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Table 1. Organization Behavior Course Redesign: Major Featuresa


1.On Day 1 add an exercise to show how graduate students should read a
textbook, another to determine student expectations of instructor; assign
students to permanent learning partnerships; identify and communicate six
major course themes (a, c, e)
2.Incorporate current, stimulating, fun readings (Harvard Business Review, Blink
by Malcolm Gladwell, 2005) to challenge assumptions and theories-in-use, and
to highlight subject relevance (a, c, d)
3. Incorporate casespositive and negativethroughoutb (a, c, d, e)
4.Require significant self-reflection. Submit a self-awareness diary that
summarizes major self-insights gained in the course and what students should
do differently going forward now that they have gained that insight. Students
are in control of what they learn about themselves and the importance of
personal development is stressed throughout the course, including on the first
day (a, b, e)
5.Require a group learning project on a self-chosen OB topic of interest and
teach the rest of the class what was learned. Groups have complete autonomy
in topic selection as long as the topic is OB-related (a, b, c, d, e)
6.In partnerships, occasionally present one-page summaries of portions of the
assigned text (a, b, d)
7.Student participation in helping the instructor design learning assessments
through the Advisory Committee on Student Assessment or ACSA. A
complete description of the ACSA process is given in Appendix A, but, in short,
it is an attempt to provide student volunteers a voice in the design of learning
evaluation methods (b, c, f)
8.Early assessments of learning count much less than later (comprehensive) ones,
so low-risk feedback occurs early in the course (at 10%, 20%, and 30%) (a, e)
a

After each course redesign feature, the major theoretical and research underpinnings that
support this revision are identified using the following key: a = Bain (2004), b = Deci et al. (1999),
c = Bergin (1999), d = Lepper (1988), e = Young (2005), and f = Hiller and Hietapelto (2001).
b
Consistent with prior research on increasing intrinsic interest, cases are a hands-on
activity that increase novelty and challenge while demonstrating the relevance of the course
materials to students. One student, on the course evaluations, referred to the SAS case as
life changingI never really understood how the way you treat people can make that much
of a difference to organization success. My earlier courses also had cases, but they were
all negative examples (unlike SAS) showing organizations with significant human resource
problems. In the redesign, an equal number (two) of positive and negative cases were included.

I taught both classes in basically the same manner; in Fall 2009, I taught the
MS-HR class the same way as in Fall 2008 but made several changes for the
MBA class based on feedback that will be discussed below.
Several different types of measures were used in this study. Measures
were developed using adaptations of the Intrinsic Value subscale of the
Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire or MSLQ (Pintrich &

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DeGroot, 1990; Pintrich et al., 1993), interest in the subject matter scales
developed by Schiefele (1991), and the Learner Empowerment Scale or LES
(Frymier et al., 1996; Weber, Martin, & Cayanus, 2005). The latter is a measure of student interest and includes subscale measures of subject meaningfulness, topic impact, and student feelings of competence.
As one measure of intrinsic motivation and interest in the course material,
I adapted five questions from the MSLQ. All five are listed in Appendix B,
as are questions for all other measures. The coefficient alpha for this scale
was .83. A second measure of intrinsic interest in the subject matter was
obtained by averaging the scores on two questions adapted from Schiefele
(1991). In a preliminary test of the scales used in this research, I had achieved
a coefficient alpha of .79 for this measure. However, with this sample the
alpha was just .33. As a result, supplementary analysis using these questions
was conducted and is discussed below.
I also measured the perceived usefulness of course subject matter using
variations of three questions from the LES (Weber et al., 2005). The coefficient alpha for this three-item scale, provided in Appendix B, was .83.
Student satisfaction with the course was measured two ways. First, the
results of five questions adapted from the MSLQ (see Appendix B) were
averaged together ( = .87). The other way student satisfaction was measured
was with the universitys standard course evaluation instrument. It has two
summative statements: The overall quality of this course was . . . and The
overall effectiveness of the instructor was . . . Students are given a 6-point
response scale ranging from 6 = excellent to 1 = very poor. The university
average on each of these scales is around 5.0. For the purposes of this study,
I averaged these two summative responses to get a measure of student satisfaction. Course evaluations were filled out independently from the rest of the
measures, and only course means were available for this measure of satisfaction. Overall evaluations of instructor and course were used to demonstrate
relative student satisfaction with the redesign of the OB course.
I also measured and compared student learning performance in three
ways. In both 2008 and 2009, I included assignments for a self-awareness
diary (see course redesign point #4 in Table 1 and the detailed description in
Appendix A). Furthermore, the final exam in both years, which was cumulative, had two components that were consistent across years and classes: a
written essay exam taken in class and a take-home integrative cases analysis.
The in-class essay questions varied but were similar in level of difficulty; the
take-home case was the same for all classes.1
Student questionnaire data were gathered at the end of both MBA and
MS-HR classes in December, 2008. After analysis of the questionnaires, the

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Journal of Management Education 35(4)

instructor conducted follow-up focus group interviews with a convenience


sample of students from both classes to better understand the nature and
meaning of the comments received on course evaluations. Based on both the
quantitative results from the questionnaires and the qualitative insights from
the interviews, the MBA coursebut not the MS-HR coursewas partially
redesigned yet again. The courses were taught again in Fall 2009 and the
same questionnaires administered at the end of the course. Results from both
waves of data analysis are reported below. After discussing the results from
the Fall 2008 redesign, I will also provide information on the partial redesign
undertaken in the second MBA course for Fall 2009.

Analysis and Results


Table 2 reports sample sizes, means, and standard deviations of the major
dependent variables measured in both Fall 2008 and Fall 2009. The statistical
significance of the differences between the MBA and MS-HR classes each
year are also provided (t tests of mean differences). As noted above, on a
percentage basis there were more male students in MBA classes than
MS-HR classes. So I first checked to see if there were any gender or age
difference effects on performance (learning) outcomes, and there were none.
I also checked to see if there were any differences in final grades between
MBA and MS-HR classes, and again there were none (the class average in
all four cases was B+).2
It is clear in Table 2 that the redesign implemented in Fall 2008 was considerably better received by the MS-HR student group than it was by the
MBAs. MS-HR students reported significantly higher intrinsic interest on
one of the two measures, greater perceived usefulness, and higher levels of
satisfaction with the course. MS-HR students also outperformed the MBA
students on measures of learning, though in only one of three cases did the
difference approach significance (p < .10).
It can also be seen by looking at the standard deviations that there was
considerably more variation among MBA students on the perceptual measures than there was among MS-HR students though this is not the case on
the three learning measures. The differences in the universitys overall course
evaluations are particularly striking, and were, in fact, the impetus to call
together convenience samples of students from both groups in the Spring of
2009 to see why and how the same course design would be received so differently by the two groups of students.
Three different focus groups of students were gathered in the Spring,
one of MS-HR students and the other two of MBA students. Focus group

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3.91 (.74)
4.59 (.34)
p = .003

4.60 (.55)
4.23 (.61)
p = .010

48
25

3-Item

35
13

4.28 (.68)
3.98 (.75)
nsa

3.65 (.73)
4.26 (.34)
p = .006

5-Item

5.6
5.3
NA

4.3
5.5
NA

Course
Evaluations

Satisfaction
Intrinsic
2-Item

4.16 (.65) 2.55 (.78)


4.06 (.56) 3.04 (.75)
ns
p = .012

3.93 (.58) 2.71 (.84)


4.31 (.54) 2.77 (.56)
p = .046
ns

Intrinsic
5-Item

Motivation

88.5 (2.98)
87.0 (5.20)
nsa

87.8 (3.47)
90.1 (4.88)
nsa

88.0 (2.62)
89.1 (2.83)
nsa

87.0 (3.58)
87.5 (4.75)
ns

Self-Awareness Final Essay


Diary
Exam

87.0 (3.68)
88.4 (3.38)
nsa

88.7 (3.44)
89.3 (4.94)
ns

Final TakeHome Case

Performance (Learning)

Note. Standard deviations appear in parentheses. NA = Not available because taken from anonymous end-of-course university course evaluations.
a
These mean differences were significant at p < .10, but not at p <. 05.

2008
Fall 2008 MBA
Fall 2008 MS-HR
Mean differences
significant?
2009
Fall 2009 MBA
Fall 2009 MS-HR
Mean differences
significant?

Usefulness

Table 2. Means and Standard Deviations for Dependent Variables in the Study

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Journal of Management Education 35(4)

discussions lasted about an hour over lunch. Student course representatives


from the Fall classes were asked to round up about eight students who
would be willing to provide additional feedback on the class over pizza.
I asked the assembled students to identify the design features of the class
that contributed most to their learning and those that interfered most with
their learning. When there was disagreement (e.g., one student said the selfawareness diary was very helpful, another said it was a waste of time),
I probed further to attempt to determine the cause of the disagreement.
Sample comments taken from both the focus groups, and the open-ended
question portion of the university standard course evaluation forms are provided in Table 3. These comments are organized around particular aspects
of the course redesign.
As can be seen, comments varied from favorable to negative on several
critical aspects of the course redesign. The most successful part of the redesign seemed to be the inclusion of unique, unusual readings (Blink,
Harvard Business Review [HBR], etc.) to stimulate student interest. As one
can tell from the comments, MS-HR students were a bit more positive about
this feature than were MBAs, but both groups were generally favorable. The
least well-received aspect of the redesign was the self-awareness diary. In
the MBA class in particular, many students seemed highly concerned about
how the instructor would be able to grade self-insights objectively. In a poll
of the MBA class taken at the end, fully one third of the class said I should
eliminate the assignment next year. In both classes, there was concern about
how students put the assignment off to the end, partially defeating the purpose of a diary that should be kept continuously. In general, it appeared that
students failed to connect the assignment with at least one of the assigned
readings from HBR that argued that self-awareness is the single most important trait for successful organizational leadership (George, Sims, McLean, &
Mayer, 2007). Despite the relatively negative evaluation of the diary by the
2008 students, I kept it as an assignment in 2009, but I moved the George
et al. (2007) reading from the back of the course to the front in the hope that
students would warm up to the importance of self-awareness.
Comments in Table 3 dealing with the Advisory Committee on Student
Assessment (ACSA) were generally negative for the MBAs and only modestly positive for the MS-HR students. The most frequent concern expressed
was that the instructor manipulated the process so that students only felt
like they were having input when in fact the instructor was calling the shots.
(This was not, in fact, the case, as assessments were much different than I had
used in the past without student input, and assessments were different in the
MBA class compared with the MS-HR class.) The second most often expressed

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Table 3. Sample Student Comments After Fall 2008 Course Redesign (From
Course Evaluations and Student Focus Groups)
Course Design
Feature

MS-Human Resources

MBA

Self-awareness diary
to encourage
personal
development

I am not a fan, but I


understand its value

Loved the class; it helped me


realize the importance of
becoming more self-aware

Was tedious

I didnt like the selfawareness diary; instead


do learning discussions
in class

Would like to turn it in


half-way through for
feedback
Not a fan; thats what my
notes are for
Not as impactful as it
could be; needs to be
due multiple times
throughout semester to
limit procrastination
I grumbled about many of
the self-assessments, only
to have learned a great
deal from most of them

Though a good idea, poorly


designed because we didnt
know how many self-insights
we had to have to get an A
Everyone puts this off to the
end; if you want it to work,
give us 10 minutes at the
end of class to write it each
day
Much of the grade relies
on teachers opinion of
journalnot good!
Journal too subjective

Blink and Harvard


Business Review
[HBR] articles to
encourage interest
in topic

The diary gets tiresome,


but hopefully will be of
greater relevance after
graduation
Loved the HBR articles

Self-assessments were usually


pretty interesting, but
the diary needs greater
structure for grading
Enjoyed the idea of the
diary and thought it was a
great assignment, but need
more direction on what is
expected (e.g., one selfinsight per class?)

Found Blink to be outside the


scope of the class and did
not contribute to learning

(continued)

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Table 3. (continued)
Course Design
Feature

MS-Human Resources

Use of class time

Blink was great, should


include more
Blink very interesting;
not the typical assigned
reading
Enjoyed the Blink articles
and believe they were
impactful
The extra reading outside
the main text gave us a
broader more in-depth
look at the subject
Readings were very
relevant to course
objectives and enhanced
in-class lectures
Liked asking us to identify
major take-aways from
readings

Used well to cover


subjects

Class time was always


productive

Liked two of the four cases

I didnt think the cases


were always helpful
Did not see the point in
the outdoor activity

Enjoyed the group


activities, especially the
outdoor one

MBA
Too many articles to read, so
we just skim them
Very interesting but
sometimes couldnt see the
connection with the class
Some readings were quite
good
Enjoyed Blink excerpts

Especially enjoyed the HBR


articles
Why did you ask us to read a
whole article if there were
only a couple major takeaways in it?
I expected the instructor to
be my primary source of the
information I had to know;
instead I had to study a lot
outside class
The course was headed in too
many different directions at
once
Instructor focused too much
on tests
Seems like we move at 100
mph in this class
There were many
opportunities for great
discussion that were
steamrolled because we
have to move on
Cases and exercises good

(continued)

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Table 3. (continued)
Course Design
Feature

Small group project


on other OB topic
to provide choice

Advisory
Committee
on Student
Assessment or
ACSAstudents
involved in
designing learning
assessments,
to encourage
involvement and
provide control

MS-Human Resources

MBA

The cases were a little


vague as to what exactly
we needed to do
Loved the SAS case; life
changing
There was a lot of material
I would have liked to
discuss further and in
greater depth
Good to research another
topic to develop
expertise
Learned a lot; helped to
become an expert in one
area
I liked the student projects,
but didnt like them
coming at the end
Involving students was a
great way to gain buy-in

Liked this because we


had the opportunity to
decide how we would
gauge our knowledge;
that was effective for me
ACSA was a good
opportunity to be fair

Only those on the ACSA


thought this was fair

Didnt like these projects


coming at the end

I appreciated your willingness


to give students a voice
but was embarrassed when
some students interpreted
this allowance as a right to
determine how they should
be graded

I consider the ACSA a


complete failurestudents
on first ACSA didnt have
enough information and relied
too heavily on instructor;
subsequent assessments were
minor variations of the first
(continued)

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Table 3. (continued)
Course Design
Feature

MS-Human Resources
Student involvement in
ACSA was not so great
The fact that I was
able to affect the test
construction was a
positive
I felt the learnings papers
for the exam were
extremely helpful

Would not recommend;


I felt instructor had
already determined what
the exams would entail

Student input on testing


was good

MBA
The instructors request for
student input was impressive
Instructor didnt really listen
to students
The instructor accepted very
little of the committees
feedback, wasting many
precious hours of students
time
Instructor goes through
the motions of trying to
get input from the class,
but the method did not
seem sincere, and it was
frustrating rather than
helpful
Class felt like you asked
for input to make us feel
ownership, but then did
whatever you wanted
ACSA was a good idea, but
no matter what they offered
the test would be tweaked
to become not what was
intended
Classic pizza-ordering
problem: If you invite friends
and the pizza is already
ordered, everyone will be
happy its there; but if you
ask for input, they dont
agree and some end up
unhappy

concern by the MBAs was that since only a handful of students could serve
on each of the three ACSAs (one for each assessment), the rest of the class
really did not have any input. (This despite the fact that anyone could volunteer and each ACSA group typically surveyed the class regarding its

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evaluation preferences and tried to represent those preferences in discussions


with me.)

Redesign for MBAs 2009


Based on this feedback and the very low satisfaction scores for MBA students in 2008, I made two revisions to the way in which the MBA class was
structured for Fall 2009. For this group, I did away with intermediate learning
assessments (5th and 10th classes) and the ACSA process (student involvement in the design of exams; In other words, I eliminated redesign points 7
and 8 in Table 1). Instead, I gave one final that was designed in approximately the same format that students and I had worked out for Fall 2008. The
elimination of the first two learning assessments freed up course time so that
the small group projects could be presented throughout the semester, rather
than having them all come due at the end. I was not sure how this redesign
would be received by the MBAs because throughout the Fall 2009 semester,
I had a few students who would frequently inquire about the final exam and
express concern about having so much of the grade dependent on a single
assessment. I asked them to try to focus on learning as much as possible
rather than studying for an exam, but I was not sure how this advice was
being received by the class.
However, as can be seen from the Fall 2009 results in Table 2, the course
as modified was well-received by the MBAs. Interestingly, the general reception of the course by the MS-HR students declined slightly from Fall 2008 to
Fall 2009, despite making no changes in the course design. As shown in
Table 2, MBAs in Fall 2009 rated the course significantly more useful than
did MS-HR students. They also registered higher levels of satisfaction though
this difference was significant only at the p < .10 level. MBAs indicated
slightly higher levels of intrinsic interest as measured by the five-item scale
(not significant), but MS-HR students were significantly higher on the twoitem measure of intrinsic interest. In terms of learning performance, MS-HR
students scored higher on two of three learning measures with MBAs doing
better on the self-awareness diary. These differences were significant only at
the p < .10 level.
As noted in the methods section above, the second intrinsic motivation
measure (the one that averaged the responses on two questions) had low
internal consistency reliability ( = .33). Therefore, I took a closer look at the
two questions that made up this measure. This was the only measure in the
study that included a reverse-coded question. The idea was that intrinsically
motivated students would rate themselves high on the question, In this

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course, understanding the concepts is more important to me than the grade


I get. Conversely, extrinsically motivated students were expected to score
high on the question, An important reason why I do my assignments in this
course is because I want to get better grades. But, in fact, almost a third of
all students scored exactly the same on these two questions. In analyzing the
questions separately, the second one, reverse coded to indicate intrinsic motivation, failed to correlate with the other five-item measure of intrinsic motivation. In contrast, the first question correlated at .31 with the five-item
measure. When the analyses in Table 2 were repeated using only the single
positively worded question, the results remained approximately the same as
those shown in the column for the two-item measure.
On a year-over-year comparison within groups, the MBAs showed dramatic and significant improvements on both satisfaction measures, the usefulness measure and one of two intrinsic interest measures. They showed
modest improvements in two of three learning measures and a modest drop in
the other. MS-HR students, on the other hand, in year-over-year differences,
showed declines in satisfaction, usefulness, one of two intrinsic interest measures and two of three learning measures. These were not statistically significant declines, though the drops in perceived usefulness and scores on the
self-awareness diary approached significance at p < .10.
To help further understand student reactions in Fall 2009, I consulted the
comments on university course evaluations. These comments are summarized in Table 4.
As can be seen from these comments, the tone in the 2009 MBA class was
significantly more positive than in the previous year. The self-awareness
diary seemed to be better accepted by both groups, perhaps suggesting that
moving the George et al. (2007) article to the front of the course made a difference. The inclusion of unique readings was, again, well-received by students in both groups. MS-HR students showed moderately less favorable
attitudes toward the use of cases and the possibility of being called on in
class. At least one MBA student provided a grade-oriented comment:
I dont think a lot of points are necessary, but some reward for the [case]
work would be nice. But, under the ACSA row (which did not apply to
MBAs in 2009), MS-HR students provided several grade-oriented comments:
If grades really dont matter, there sure seemed to be a great deal of focus on
them, Thought the essays were way too specific, and Test questions
seemed very vague. Comments on the ACSA process itself were mixed
(from thought it was excellent to seemed like simply extra meetings).
Overall, it appears that the 2009 MBA class found the primary features of the
course redesign (Design Points 1-6 in Table 1) kept the topic interesting and

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Table 4. Sample Student Comments After Fall 2009 Partial Course Redesign (From
Course Evaluations)
Course Design
Feature
Self-awareness
diary to
encourage
personal
development

MS-Human Resources
Personal awareness
diary was a positive
experience

Blink and
Harvard Business
Review (HBR)
articles to
encourage
interest in topic

I really liked the additional


assigned readings; they
brought things into
context

Loved the Blink articles

Readings were very


engaging

I really liked the HBR and


Blink readings

Most of the readings were


really useful

MBA
Increase the minimum length of
the diary to 4 pages

Eliminate self-awareness diary; its


a waste of time and energy
I appreciated very much the
focus on self-awareness
A lot of self-awareness tests are
interesting and helped us know
ourselves better
Learned a lot about myself
through this assignment
(and the completion of selfawareness exercises)
The diary is a very useful tool
to let me think about myself,
understand myself, and make
continuous improvements
The readings were good,
especially Level 5 Leadership
and Blink

I really enjoyed the use of Blink


and other outside sources
besides just the textbook
Readings were very good; cases
and real-life examples were
great
Some of the readings were really
interesting, but some did not
relate to the course or the
material we were learning at
the time
The extra readings were
especially helpful for me to
understand current issues
(continued)

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Table 4. (continued)
Course Design
Feature

MS-Human Resources

Use of class time

I never understood the


purpose of the cases

Use of experiential
learning was most
effective; case learning
was particularly helpful
The cases really impacted
my learning

It is stressful trying to
prepare to be called on
for each assigned article

I liked the combination of


learning activities; gave a
good variety
The cases were very good;
I wish we had spent
more time on them
Possibly add a guest
lecture or field trip

This is the only class I


took which I find it easy
not to get distracted by
my computer

MBA
Case discussions were lively,
and they developed on each
previous one
Liked how discussions/topics
were changed every 30 minutes
or so; easier to focus
Appreciated the early delivery
of key course themes and the
continued reference to them
Four great case studies; I never
focused so hard on assignments
that I was not being graded on,
but I did in this class
Time was very well used
Good use of class time; I liked
how upbeat and intense the
class was
I enjoyed the cases but feel like
I did the work for nothing if my
study was not used in class;
I dont think a lot of points are
necessary, but some reward for
the work would be nice
Very good use of class time; very
efficient
Speed of covering topics so
quickly distracted from the
effectiveness; feeling rushed all
the time was stress inducing
Class is like bullet points and
lacks learning in depth; I feel
like it was always way too
rushed
(continued)

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Table 4. (continued)
Course Design
Feature

MS-Human Resources

MBA

Small group
project on other
organizational
behavior (OB)
topic to provide
choice

Group project was good

Liked the groups; got to know


students better

Group projects and group


presentations were good

I would prefer projects


completed for a specific
client rather than one
based on research and
explanation
For group projects, its
better to provide how
to find resources

Implement a measure of student


involvement in group projects
such as peer evaluation
Student projects were good,
great

Enjoyed working in the


group, especially for the
last project

Advisory
Committee
on Student
Assessment
or ACSA
students involved
in designing
learning
assessments,
to encourage
involvement and
provide control

If grades really dont


matter, there sure
seemed to be a great
deal of focus on them;
I obsessed about grades
all semester

I enjoyed the group reports but


it would have helped to have
them all out of the way before
finals week
Learned a lot about subjects that
otherwise wouldnt be covered
Projects kept things interesting
I thoroughly enjoyed participating
in the group project and felt
that the interaction within the
group was more educational
than the research performed
I would have preferred another
case or two and less time spent
on group presentations
I liked having groups and projects
Not applicable to this class

(continued)

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Table 4. (continued)
Course Design
Feature

MS-Human Resources
Liked doing essays for
exams, but thought the
essays were way too
specific
At times test questions
seemed very vague;
perhaps less ambiguity
with tests and more
exactness
ACSA fun and helpful
aspect of assessments
Loved the ACSA format
Enjoyed working in a
group to help design
exams (ACSA)
The ACSA was a nice way
to vary the assessment,
but I felt like the
expectations werent
as clear for the first
assessment as they were
for the second and third
Im not convinced the
ACSA was needed;
seemed like simply extra
meetings
Ive never had an ACSA
experience before and
thought it was excellent

MBA

contributed to their satisfaction whereas the 2009 MS-HR students were a bit
more ambivalent about their version of the course, which retained Design
Points 7 and 8.

Discussion and Conclusion


As noted at the start of this article, I have taught OB to both MBA students
and MS-HR students for years and have almost always received higher student evaluations from the latter group compared with the former. My working

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hypothesis has been that MBA students have a much more instrumental
relationship with their courses in general, and with the OB course in particular,
than do the MS-HR students. That is, MBA students are in the program to get
the certification rather than because they are intrinsically drawn to the program and its courses (DeMarie & Aloise-Young, 2003). The MS-HR program
is a professional degree and students are no doubt drawn to it because of the
prospects of employment afterwards. However, if it were only job opportunities they were looking for, rather than an interest in the subject matter of HR,
they would more than likely pursue the MBA degree (same entrance requirements, but shorter, less expensive program on my campus).
The current research provides limited evidence for this working hypothesis. In both 2008 and 2009 cohorts, the MS-HR students showed significantly
higher levels of intrinsic interest in the subject matter than did MBAs on at
least one of two measures used. Furthermore, there are a number of comments in Table 3 that suggest MBA students were focused more on grades
and less on learning, such as: We didnt know how many self-insights we
had to have to get an A, The diary needs greater structuring for grading,
Too many articles to read so we just skim them, Why did you ask us to
read a whole article if there were only a couple major take-aways in it?, and
I expected the instructor to be my primary source of information I had to
know, but instead I had to study a lot outside class. MS-HR comments
reflected far less of this grade (performance) orientation.
However, in 2009 MBAs rated the usefulness of the course higher than did
the MS-HR students and one measure of intrinsic interest actually showed
MBAs higher than MS-HR students, though this difference was not significant. Furthermore, comments in Table 4 suggest a much more positive experience for the MBAs in 2009 compared with 2008, and the 2009 MS-HR
students experienced a bit more ambivalence about the ACSA process than
those in 2008. Recall that the MS-HR course was basically unchanged from
2008 to 2009 while the MBA course comprised two changes: elimination of
the ACSA and the two intermediate learning assessments.
Evidence on learning over the 2-year period was mixed. MS-HR students
outperformed MBAs on five of six measures taken but these differences were
only significant at the p < .10 level in three instances. If intrinsic interest had
indeed been significantly higher among MS-HR students than among MBAs,
one would have expected more dramatic differences in learning outcomes.
Therefore, the result that MS-HR students are more intrinsically motivated
by the subject matter of OB must be interpreted cautiously.
An important finding was that MBAs seemed to be more satisfied when
students were not involved in the design of the learning assessments and the

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when there was no formative evaluation along the way to provide feedback
prior to the summative evaluation at the end of the course. These were the
two major changes between 2008 and 2009 in the MBA course. This finding
is inconsistent with the recommendations of Bain (2004) and others who
maintain that students should be provided multiple opportunities to demonstrate competence and that initial opportunities should allow practice and
feedback that contribute favorably to the final demonstration of competence.
That was the logic behind my redesign where three learning assessments
occurring at 5-week intervals were worth 10%, then 20%, then finally, 30%
of the grade (all assessments being comprehensive). In the redesign for
MBAs in Fall 2009, the final learning assessment was comprehensive and
worth 60% of the grade. This finding is also inconsistent with recommendations for more student voice in the design of evaluation procedures (e.g.,
Hiller & Hietapelto, 2001).
In seeking a possible explanation for these inconsistencies, CET may be
informative (Deci et al., 1999). As noted earlier, CET predicts that tangible
external rewards undermine intrinsic motivation in an interesting task. Verbal
praise, unlike tangible rewards, is less likely to undermine intrinsic motivation. But, if subjects perceive the verbal praise to be given in a manipulative,
controlling manner, it undermines intrinsic motivation. If the verbal praise is
given in an informational manner, it does not. CET explains these findings by
suggesting that intrinsic motivation is based on two fundamental basic needs,
the need for self-determination (autonomy) and the need to feel competent. If
rewards are given in a way that increases autonomy and a sense of competence, intrinsic motivation will be enhanced. If rewards decrease the sense of
self-determination (true in almost all tangible reward situations because the
locus of causality is external), or if rewards are given in a controlling rather
than informational manner, intrinsic motivation will suffer (Deci et al., 1999;
Mallin & Pullins, 2009).
Grades clearly fall in the category of rewards that can be seen as manipulative to students. Expectancy theory predicts that if students are motivated
primarily by the desire for higher grades, they will engage in the activities
needed to get those grades (i.e., learning) only so long as they perceive that
higher grades will be forthcoming based on the activities chosen for completion. If they do not want higher grades, or if the expectation of good grades is
subsequently reduced for some reason, students will lose interest in learningrelated activities. But CET predicts that the situation is actually worse than
this. If subjects engage in an activity where various levels of a reward are
offered for various levels of performance (e.g., a range of grades), and if they
receive less than the maximum reward (an A), intrinsic motivation suffers

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an even bigger drop than is typically seen when an extrinsic reward is introduced
(Deci et al., 1999).
Therefore, one wonders if the ACSA student involvement process in the
design of learning assessments, rather than contributing to the intrinsic motivation for the course through student involvement and choice, may actually
have diminished it. With the ACSA process, there were virtually daily mentions of the design of the assessments (Who wants to volunteer for the ACSA?
When will we meet? How will you gather input from the rest of the class?
Whats our first draft on the assessment design? Whats the final decision for
the first assessment? etc.). An MBA student comment in Table 3 supports
this possibility: The instructor focused too much on tests (see the Use of
class time row). An MS-HR student comment in Table 4 is similarly suggestive, If grades really dont matter, there sure seemed to be a great deal of
focus on them; I obsessed about grades all semester.
After the first assessment (in Class 5, one third of the way through),
grades were distributed. Naturally, there was a high percentage of students
who failed to earn the top grade (A), and therefore, according to CET were
likely to lose significant intrinsic interest in the subject. This assumes that
students perceive grades to be given in a controlling manner rather than in
informational manner. The question of how students perceive grades is a
matter worthy of further empirical investigation. But, my sense with masters
students is that there is generally a relatively high percentage that will interpret grades in the negative, controlling way (I didnt really know what you
were expecting on the exam, I felt you were just looking for a few specific
things that I hadnt studied, etc.). Comments in Tables 3 and 4, particularly
those dealing with instructor manipulation of the ACSA process, are supportive of this possibility.

Implications for Teaching


Going forward, I plan to keep redesign Features 1 to 6 (Table 1) in my OB
classes. The addition of current, fun OB-related readings seemed to be
particularly well-received by students, though, of course, we still cover the
more serious core materials as well. I use readings from Blink (Gladwell,
2005), for example, as an attempt to force students into a significant emotional event where they disprove their own theories-in-use (Bain, 2004,
p. 18). And, despite the wide variation in student reactions to the self-awareness diary assignment evidenced in Tables 3 and 4, I plan to continue with
this course redesign feature. This assignment underscores the importance of
self-awareness as the foundational building block for effective interpersonal

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behavior, and I have always believed in the importance of writing as a way


of solidifying what students think they have learned. I will probably collect
the diaries more often during the semester to deal with the problem of students putting this assignment off to the end of the term.
But, going forward, I will have to reconsider the question of one versus
three assessments as well as the ACSA process by which students are
involved in the design of learning assessments. Over the 2 years that I have
used this approach, I do not believe I have succeeded in moving students in
ACSA discussions from a consideration of what is in their own personal best
interest to what is in the best interest of the class as a whole in terms of maximizing learning. The process works by having small groups of student volunteers (4 to 6) meet with me over coffee to discuss how best to evaluate student
learning. I emphasize that assessments should be fair (no discrimination
against subgroups of students, such as females, minorities, or international
students), valid (students who know the most about the subject should score
the highest), and motivational (should encourage students to do the right
thing and study to learn rather than study to get a grade). Despite this emphasis,
I am afraid that most students view their role on the ACSA as lobbying to get
the evaluation framed in a way that they can be most successful themselves
or to keep the evaluation on the most superficial level (knowledge vs., say,
synthesis or evaluation). How else can one explain the persistent recommendation that students have made in every instance that at least a portion of the
assessment should be multiple choice questions (an approach I have never
until 2 years agoused in graduate classes!)?
Perhaps Robbins (1988) had it right and that students prefer directive
leadership. He argued that many students today have jobs and families (true for
graduate students at my university) and therefore do not really have the time
to focus on intrinsic satisfaction in learning. They want to know what the
requirements are and how they can meet them. To the extent that the ACSA
process adds ambiguity to course expectations, it may be seen negatively
rather than positively. The MBA student who described the ACSA process as
the classic pizza ordering problem in Table 3 provides supportive anecdotal evidence.
One of the limitations to the present study was the fact that I was unable to
control for class size effects. The class with the most negative assessment of
the ACSA process was the MBA class with 35 students. In this class, only a
minority of students were involved in the ACSA (about 15 of 35), and thus it
is possible that the negative reaction to involvement in the determination of
assessment procedures was a function of students feeling they could not
get their opinion heard. Supporting this possibility is the fact that student

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reactions to the ACSA among MS-HR students seemed to worsen slightly as


the class grew from 13 students in 2008 to 25 students in 2009. Class size
may also have affected other aspects of this studys outcomes, but the fact
that the most favorable ratings of student satisfaction (5.6) occurred in the
largest class (2009 MBA) suggests it was not a major limitation.
Also, going forward, I plan to carefully weigh the prospects of having a
single learning assessment at the end of the course (worth 60%) versus having three (worth 10%, 20%, and 30%). There is no convincing evidence in
Table 2 that the intermediate evaluations helped the MS-HR students in 2009
perform any better on the final than the MBAs who had no such intermediate evaluations. And, there is evidence that both the discussion of such evaluations and the feedback of any grade lower than A may actually detract
from intrinsic interest and motivation in the class. The MBAs, without the
intermediate evaluations, even saw the course as more useful than they had in
2008 and more useful than the MS-HR students did in 2009. Perhaps not
wasting 2 of 15 classes with formative learning assessments made the
course more useful.

Implications for Future Research


Opportunities for further research in this area abound. Obviously, there may
be other approaches to enhancing student interest and intrinsic motivation in
college courses. Debnath et al. (2007) argue that principles from the Job
Characteristics Model (JCM), such as task variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and knowledge of results may provide instructors with
guidance for how to increase intrinsic motivation. Possibilities that come
from their analysis of JCMand which are different from the approaches
I tookinclude producing a publishable quality term paper, conducting a
research project with a real organization, practicing real-world skills and getting feedback from practicing managers, providing students with a choice of
which major assignments to complete, allowing students to teach and grade
each other, providing feedback that is private and offering specific guidance
for future efforts, and avoiding social comparisons, such as announcement of
highest and lowest scores.
There is also the question of how incoming students may differ and the
appropriate compensatory design based on those differences. For instance,
there is evidence that students with weak conceptual skills learn more when
a class is highly structured whereas students with strong conceptual skills do
better in unstructured class settings (Hancock, 2002). Furthermore, some students may be motivated by the subject itself whereas others are motivated by

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a different form of intrinsic motivationthat directed toward more general


skills acquisition (Jacobs & Newstead, 2000). Last, there is evidence that
students lacking intrinsic interest in the subject matter coming in may be best
motivated using extrinsic rewards and that such rewards may at some point
lead to greater intrinsic interest (Lepper, 1988; Pierce, Cameron, Banko, &
So, 2003). In all three cases, knowing more about incoming students may
allow for the design of more intrinsically motivating and personally interesting courses.
In the present study, eliminating the ACSA and formative learning assessments at 5 and 10 weeks in the semester resulted in significant improvements
in satisfaction and perceived usefulness in the MBA course. Future research
could attempt to disentangle the effects of these two changes by discontinuing one or the otherACSA or intermediate assessmentsbut not both.
Furthermore, it was mentioned above that business students appear to have
less intrinsic interest in their subject matter than do education majors (DeMarie
& Aloise-Young, 2003). It would be valuable to extend this investigation to
other subject matters and attempt to determine what it is about other subjects
that is potentially more intrinsically engaging than business and then see if
any aspects of such engaging topics can be transferred to what and how
we teach.
Future research may also benefit from more comprehensive measures of
student interest and intrinsic motivation taken at more than one time. For
instance, does intrinsic interest in a subject change in some systematic way
over the course of a semester? Investigating this would require multiple measurements. Also, a frequently used measure of intrinsic interest is to determine how individuals spend their free time given several competing activities.
Although an unobtrusive measure of this aspect of intrinsic motivation may
be difficult to derive in a college class, at least students could be asked something such as, This semester, how much time did you spend on this topic
engaged in activities not required by the instructor or course syllabus?
Furthermore, future researchers may want to use the full range of the MSLQ
and/or LES items to assess various dimensions of intrinsic motivation as well
as other interest instruments such as the Perceived Interest Questionnaire
(Schraw, Brunning, & Svoboda, 1995) to develop a deeper understanding of
the relationship between interest and motivation in management classes.

Conclusion
It is clear that to be responsive to the needs of employers, more work needs
to be done on the development of student soft skills in OB courses.

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Universities need to be more responsive to the calls for evaluation and


accountability in all coursework (Pfeffer & Fong, 2002), but particularly in
the arena of behavioral skills and capabilities given the persistent credibility
problem that OB courses face. As Vaill (2007) pointed out, we have always
cared deeply about what and how we teach in OB. This research represents
an attempt to increase the credibility and effectiveness of a graduate-level
OB course by focusing on efforts to motivate intrinsic interest on the part of
students. My efforts were only partially successful but perhaps may provide
inspiration for other instructors to try different approaches with different
student audiences.

Appendix A
Additional Details on Course Assignments in Table 13
Self-Awareness Diary. To facilitate personal development, students are to
keep a personal diary throughout the course. This diary of discovery should
record all major self-insights gained as a result of reading, completion of
instruments, class discussion, or any other course-related activity. A possible
outline for each entry would be to address (cogently!) the what? the so
what? and the now what? of each self-insight. That is, what did you learn
about yourself (be as specific as possible here), what are the implications of
this learning, and what should you do about this going forward?
This diary is to be typed and turned in to the instructor on the last day of
class (Week 15). To save forest resources, please single space and use 10 point
Times New Roman font with one-inch margins. To facilitate reading, please
organize the diary chronologically and put in headings to show what topics are
being addressed by each entry. While there are no hard and fast length
requirements or restrictions, past experience suggests that good diary submissions usually range from 2 to 4 pages in length.
Student Group Project. To facilitate intellectual development, Week 14 is
set aside for group designed learning modules of 20 minutes length. Students
address an OB question they are interested in that is not well covered in the
class and teach other students what theyve learned (e.g., what are the outcomes of job stress and burnout?). Whatever the topic chosen, students should
address theory, research, and practice related to the topic. At a minimum,
there should be visual aids and handouts for each learning module. Also,
groups should prepare a bibliography of references used to develop the presentation and provide this to the instructor at the beginning of class.
Group size in this project will be a function of class size. There will be
time for seven 20-minute presentations, so there can be no more than seven
(continued)

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Appendix A (continued)
groups. Group assignments will be made by the instructor no later than Week 2,
and as soon as groups have picked a topic they should obtain the approval of
the instructor. Any given topic can only be selected once by the class.
While the text may be used as a resource, students are expected to be creative and obtain materials on their chosen topic from a variety of sources. Of
interest in this regard is a Recommended Reading List in Organization
Behavior that the instructor has prepared and placed on Blackboard under
Week 14.
ACSA. On the first day of class, the instructor will ask for volunteers to form
an Advisory Committee on Student Assessment (ACSA), which will seek
input from students and then advise the instructor on how the first student
assessment should proceed in Week 5. The goal of this process is to design an
assessment of learning approach that is perceived by both students and
instructor to be fair, valid, and motivational. There are, of course, a variety
of learning assessment approaches available, such as written exams (multiple
choice, short answer, fill-in-the-blank), oral exams, role plays, learning papers,
cases, simulations, etc.
Students are free to recommend any approach (or combination of approaches)
to learning assessment as long as they meet the following criteria:
(a)The approach should try to get at the criteria listed in the section on
intellectual development above.
(b)The approach must sample knowledge acquisition from the entire
domain of materials covered in the course (versus a limited slice
of the materials).
(c)At least half the evaluation must occur during the class time set
aside for assessment (i.e., no more than 50% can be a take-home
type assignment).
(d) Most of the learning assessed must be individual (not group) learning.
After the first student assessment during Week 5, the ACSA will be
reconstituted and the new group will recommend an approach for use in
Week 10. The same process will occur again after the student assessment in
Week 10. So, there will be ample opportunity for interested students to serve
on the ACSA at some point.
Note that these three student assessments are all comprehensive (i.e., they
cover all the material in the course up to that point) AND that they become
increasingly important in the determination of the final grade. The weights
increase over time to give students an opportunity to recover from a slow
(continued)
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Appendix A (continued)
start and because more material is covered in each assessment as the course
progresses. Also note that at least part of Assessment #3 will be a take-home case.

Class Participation. Class participation is encouraged and expected. Students


will be called on at random to start case discussions, summarize learnings
from assigned readings, or respond to instructor or student questions and
inquiries.
One form of participation is the Student Group Report (or SGR). In
groups of two (dyads), students will provide a short (5 minutes or less) summary of an assigned reading, focusing in on the most important points made
by the author. The dyad will also provide a one-page bulletized summary
sheet as a handout with enough copies for everyone in the class.
Another form of participation is serving on the ACSA. See discussion
above on how student assessments will be determined. Occasionally, the
instructor will collect written work students have been asked to prepare in
advance (e.g., see that in Week 2 students are asked to bring a list of stakeholders and key case facts to prepare for the discussion of the days case).

Appendix B
Scales Used in This Study
Intrinsic interest Measure #1. Responses were provided on a 5-point Likerttype scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree.
I find the assigned homework in this course to be really interesting.
Understanding the subject matter in this course is important to me.
I enjoy the work in this course because Im interested in it.
Its important that I improve my skills in the subject matter of this
course.
An important reason why I do the work in this course is because I like
to learn new things.
Intrinsic interest Measure #2. Responses were provided on a 5-point Likerttype scale from not at all true to very true.
In this course, understanding the concepts is more important to me
that the grade I get.
(continued)

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Appendix B (continued)
An important reason why I do my assignments in this course is because
I want to get better grades (reverse scored).
Perceived usefulness measure. Responses were provided on a 5-point Likerttype scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree.
I have learned useful skills in this course.
I have gained useful knowledge in this course.
I think what I am learning in this course is useful for me to know.
Satisfaction with the course Measure #1. Responses were provided on a
5-point Likert-type scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree.
I am satisfied with what Ive been learning in this course.
I have really enjoyed the subject matter in this course.
Taking this class has been a positive experience for me.
An important reason I do my assigned work in this course is because
I enjoy it.
I would recommend this course to friends and colleagues.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no conflicts of interest with respect to the authorship and/or
publication of this article.

Funding
The author(s) received no financial support for the research and/or authorship of
this article.

Notes
1. Essay exam questions typically provided students with a situation requiring the
application of course conceptssay a worker who is apparently not motivated
or a difficult and emotional conflict situationand asked students to recommend
ways for dealing with the problem, along with a rationale for the approach taken.
The take-home case was roughly 20 pages long and the students had 24 hours to
return an analysis of the problem, a delineation of the key human resource issues
in question, and a set of detailed recommendations.
2. The questionnaire that assessed intrinsic motivation, satisfaction, and perceived
usefulness was anonymous, so no comparison by gender or age was possible.
However, after I taught these two classes again in Fall 2010, I administered the
same questionnaire and this time collected age and gender data. In this sample,

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there was no significant relationship between either of the demographic variables


and intrinsic motivation, satisfaction, or perceived usefulness.
3. Note this appendix is verbatim from the course syllabus. Earlier in the syllabus,
students are informed, following Bain (2004), that the two overarching course
goals are personal and intellectual development.

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