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Max. Classroom Capacity

Marcus W. Dickson
Wayne State University

A great deal of the focus on educational issues within SIOP is at the graduate—primarily PhD—level. This is evident in the number of graduate students attending the annual conference and the services and opportunities provided to them; in the awards available to graduate students for research; and in SIOP’s development of competency models describing the domains in which students pursuing MA and PhD degrees should be knowledgeable and skilled.

However, in any given year, far more students are engaged with I-O psychology at the undergraduate level than at the graduate level. SIOP has of course provided some support for undergraduate education in I-O psychology but has rarely focused at the annual conference on bringing together people responsible for providing or coordinating undergraduate education.

I had the pleasure at this year’s conference – just a few days ago as I write this – of working with Mikki Hebl (Rice U.) and Scott Tonidandel (Davidson College) to facilitate a conversation hour on several key topics related to undergraduate education in our field. Mikki took over SIOP’s Education and Training Committee from me a couple of years ago, and Scott is now taking over from Mikki. It was great to have several folks who have been in the trenches with us for years (people like Peter Bachiochi and Mike Horvath), faculty members like Cynthia Prehar (who, along with Satoris Culbertson, hosted a roundtable on incorporating empirical articles into the undergraduate classroom), as well as newly minted PhDs, current graduate students, and even some undergraduates!

The session focused on several topics, including:

  1. Discussion of innovative courses that are or could be offered as part of an undergraduate curriculum in I-O psychology, beyond an introductory course; and
  2. Ensuring that faculty members are aware of existing support from SIOP targeted towards undergraduate education.

I want to give a quick rundown of what was presented and discussed for these two topics.

Possibilities for I-O Curriculum at the Undergraduate Level

Scott took the lead on this conversation topic and started off by recognizing that for some students I-O is inherently interesting. For others, it is decidedly not. So how (in Scott’s words) can we “Make I-O Sexy” for these students? In other words, how can we present our discipline in such a way that students will be open to the possibility of engaging with it?

We invited attendees to bring ideas for potential courses and/or examples of existing courses that could broaden the undergraduate I-O curriculum, beyond the single traditional Intro to I-O course, and several attendees described courses that were part of the undergraduate curriculum at their home institutions.

Here are some examples of the courses people described:

  • Applied Organizational Research Methods (in which students learn research methods in the context of field research, by gathering organizational data using a variety of methodological approaches);
  • Film and I-O Psychology (a course targeted at the freshman level to “recruit” students to a focus on I-O psychology, in which theoretical principles of I-O psychology are introduced using Hollywood films and readings from sources such as Harvard Business Review or Fast Company); and
  • Work and the Humanities (in which the visual arts, fiction, biography, cinema, poetry, etc., are used to explore issues related to work, including work–family balance, competitiveness in the workplace, stress, physical labor, leadership, and others).

Other discussions were about resources that could be incorporated into already existing courses (e.g., the Hartwick Classic Leadership Cases [http://www.hartwickinstitute.org/academic.htm] that focus on classic works of literature or films as cases for teaching leadership and related topics) or exercises that could facilitate student engagement in I-O (e.g., approaching personnel selection through examining the NFL Combine; introducing the use of statistics to predict work performance through Moneyball; various uses of social media, etc.). Of course, many other examples are possible, and this conversation hour provided a fun brainstorming opportunity for the attendees.

Existing SIOP Support for Undergraduate Education in I-O Psychology

Mikki took the lead on this topic, and she reminded us all that SIOP has a dedicated core of faculty members who have provided support for undergraduate I-O education over a number of years. These members have generated a range of resources, though awareness of those resources has not always been high among SIOP membership. A major goal of this conversation hour was thus to target instructors of undergraduate I-O courses in order to share information about existing resources.

One example of an existing SIOP-developed resource is a set of PowerPoint files developed for use in introductory psychology courses. When Steve Rogelberg was chair of the Education and Training Committee, he recognized that many introductory psychology textbooks do not contain a chapter on I-O psychology or that that chapter is often skipped, and so these PowerPoint files were developed as “mini-lectures” to be dropped into existing chapters that are covered in the course (e.g., a mini-lecture on organizational leadership to fit into a chapter on social psychology, and a mini-lecture on women in the workplace to fit into a chapter on gender). These files, originally developed several years ago, have now been updated and are being distributed by major textbook publishers as instructor ancillaries to accompany their introductory psychology textbooks. In addition, a whole new set of slides are being developed and will hopefully be ready soon after you receive this issue of TIP.

A second example of support for undergraduate education is the SIOP Teaching Aids Wiki page, currently managed by Julie Lyon of Roanoke College. The wiki, which is available at http://siopwiki.wetpaint.com/, contains a range of resources targeted at both graduate and undergraduate education. Resources available include syllabi, assignments and exercises, recommendations for videos to use in class, case studies, links to TIP articles related to teaching, and links to relevant websites. The wiki is an underutilized resource, especially when we consider the number of instructors (many part-time instructors) teaching I-O courses who did not receive their training in I-O psychology.

The last thing that we focused on was the complete redesign of the Educators Page on the SIOP website. It has been totally restructured,and contains a wealth of resources. Mikki highlighted for us that the page contains:

  • Links to a whole host of general teaching resources, including resources from APA Division 2 (Teaching of Psychology) and APS, NITOP, TOPIX, and several listservs
  • Links to I-O specific teaching resources, including the PowerPoint modules referred to above (and several graduate-level resources)
  • Links to the SIOP Teaching Wiki (and we had a great discussion about whether wikis continue to be the right platform to achieve resource-sharing goals!)
  • Information about the SIOP Teachers Bureau, where SIOP members have agreed to go (when invited) to schools that don’t have an I-O program to speak to a class or to a Psi Chi or other appropriate group about I-O or specific I-O topics. This is a great outreach to spread the I-O word to smaller schools, and into high schools, as well, given that most high school psychology courses don’t include I-O.

All in all, this was a really motivating session. There are so many resources and, more importantly, so many people remembering that “Undergraduates Matter, Too!” (the title of our session). I want to thank Mikki and Scott and all of the folks who attended the session, and all of the folks who have helped to create these resources. It’s great to see all the ways that we are focusing SIOP’s energy on enhancing our Max. Classroom Capacity.