Classroom Discussion Topics  Muchinsky 10th 3d

Chapter 1 Historical Background of I-O Psychology1.     

  1.     What is the stereotype of a psychologist? How does what you have learned about I/O psychology alter that stereotype?

  2.   Medical doctors are licensed to practice medicine. Clinical psychologists are licensed to practice psychotherapy. Should I/O psychologists also be licensed? Why or why not?

  3.    Starting in the 1960s many federal laws were passed pertaining to nondiscrimination in employment. These laws have a big effect on the practice of I/O psychology. How do you feel about the government influencing the lives of individuals and organizations through employment law? Are these laws still necessary today, almost 50 years after they were enacted? Why do you feel as you do?

  4.    What are some of the changes happening in society as a result of electronic communication and the globalization of business? To what degree are these changes beneficial and detrimental to society?

  5.    In what ways has the Great Recession influenced your own life, and the lives of your family and friends?

Chapter 2 Research Methods in I-O Psychology

1.      If you look at a pack of cigarettes, you will see a warning like, “Cigarette smoking causes cancer.” This conclusion regarding causality was reached through laboratory experimental research. Why don’t studies in I/O psychology establish causality, as “job satisfaction causes job performance?”

2.      Academic-based research typically seeks to understand the statistical relationship between concepts, as the correlation between job satisfaction and employee turnover. Why would managers find such information to be of limited value in helping them to run a business?

3.      Has anyone in class been a subject in a research study? What was the purpose of the research, and how did the subject contribute knowledge to the research question under consideration?

4.      Physicians rely on the finding from medical research in prescribing medicine to patients far more than managers rely on I/O psychological research in running their businesses. Why is this so?

5.      What experiences have you encountered while working at a job that makes you wonder if any I/O psychological researcher has ever studied it? What was it about the experience that led you to your opinion (e.g., was it a negative experience or positive experience for you)? What does your answer suggest about how and why certain work-related topics get selected to be researched?

Chapter 3 Criteria; Standards for Decision Making

1.      What is the difference between “taking” something from work (as a pen) and “stealing” something from work (as a computer)? Is it the cost of the item? When does taking blur into stealing?

2.      The section “I/O Psychology and the Economy” talks about unemployed and underemployed people. Many college students work summer or part-time jobs where they are underemployed compared to their KSAOs. Ask the students how they would feel if they continued to perform these jobs after they graduated.

3.      Ask the students to describe jobs they have held. Observe whether the work is described more often in terms of tasks performed or attributes needed. Most people don’t think of work from a human attribute perspective, yet failure to possess certain attributes is why some people get fired. Why do we feel more comfortable in talking about activities than attributes?

4.      Ask students what they think are the criteria for a good movie. The answers often fall along gender lines. Ask the students what they think the significance would be in major gender differences in criteria in judging such concepts as love, compatibility, and marriage.

5.      Students typically get graded in a class by the degree to which they have mastered the course content presented to them. In a reversal of the norm, ask the class what other criteria might be used to evaluate student performance, both conceptually and actually. What are the pros and cons of using these “alternative” criteria for evaluating student performance?

Chapter 4 Predictor: Psychological Assessments

  1.    Explain why a test must be reliable before it can be valid.

  2.     How can a test be reliable, yet manifest no validity? What does this answer suggest about the difficulty of making assessments of people for the purpose of employment decisions?

  3.    Why do we put so much faith into “seeing is believing,” which is the basis of the universal appeal of the employment interview?

  4.    How would you go about selecting professors to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf in applying for a job or graduate school? What does your answer suggest about why letters of recommendation are not very useful in differentiating one candidate from another?

  5. Have the students describe a job interview they experienced where they thought “it went well” or “it didn’t go well.” What was it about the interview process they liked or didn’t like? Or was the outcome of the interview (they got the job or they didn’t) the deciding factor in determining the quality of the interview? Does the outcome of an assessment determine people’s reaction to it?

 Chapter 5  Personnel Decisions

 1.      Why do organizations prefer to minimize false positive selection decisions more than they want to minimize false negative selection decisions?

2.      Explain what effect the Great Recession has had on recruitment, selection, and selection ratios.

3.      The amount of assessment candidates for jobs receive is a function of the value of the job to the organization. Describe some jobs that warrant extensive selection, and other jobs that are filled with cursory selection. Why the difference between the two types of jobs?

4.      Selecting the best applicants and having the workforce mirror the demographic characteristics of the population are the twin goals of personnel selection. Describe why each of these goals is critical to a healthy society.

5.      Describe the concept of Affirmative Action. Why was the concept created, how is it practiced, and what does the “stigma” of Affirmative Action mean?


Chapter 6 Organizational Learning

1.      From the time students were in their first year up to the present, what skills did they learn about being a student? There is evidence that only about 10% of what we know about how to perform our jobs comes from formal training. The other 90% we acquired through vicarious learning. What skills did the students learn about “being a student” that no one ever taught them (as in an orientation program)?

2.      Ask the students how much of what they learned in college they will expect to retain after graduation. The usual retention rate is very small, primarily due to “use it or lose it” with knowledge and skills. This topic can lead the class into a discussion on the difference between education and (vocational) training, whether they are different, and should or shouldn’t be.

3.      Ask the class about some of the best and worst classes they ever had. Look for common denominators in their answers. What makes for good and bad learning environments in college are not all that different from good and bad training environments on the job.

4.      Mentors and coaches are people, while e-learning comes from a computer. Ask the students about what sorts of skills they would hope to acquire from interpersonal vs. electronic sources.

 Chapter 7 Performance Management

1.      People typically approach being evaluated in performance appraisal the same way they approach being evaluated by taking a test. The underlying concept is “evaluation apprehension.” Discuss how performance evaluations might be better conducted that gets us beyond our chronic anxiety over negative evaluations (or the fear of them).

2.      Why are managers motivated to evaluate their employees positively? If the employees are performing their jobs well enough to warrant retaining their employment, shouldn’t they receive positive evaluations?

3.      Instead of the instructor of the class having the responsibility for evaluating students, what if grades in class were determined by fellow students (peer evaluation)? What concerns might students have with this method of assessment?

4.      What if grades in class were based solely on self-evaluations? Students would assign a grade to themselves on the basis of how much they felt they had learned in the class. What might the distribution of grades be with this system of evaluation? What might the university think of instructors who allow students to grade themselves?

5.      Discuss the topic of top-grading, where the bottom 10% of the employees is fired every year. How would the students like to work for an organization that engages in this practice?

Chapter 8 Organizations and Organizational Change

1.      Why is the concept of an “organization” more difficult to understand than a “task” or “job?”

2.      What might happen in organizations if there were no chain of command (scalar principle) or division of labor (functional principle)?

3.      Suppose after you graduate from college you started your own business. Which business would you be in, and how would you organize your business?

4.      Downsizing in American organizations has become quite common. In some other countries employees are hired for life and thus downsizing is a rare occurrence. Do you think organizations have an ethical obligation to keep employees that are performing well even though their jobs are no longer needed (possibly by reassigning them to other jobs in the company)?

5.      What are the long-term consequences of organizations exporting increasingly more work to other nations with cheaper labor markets?

Chapter 9 Teams and Teamwork

1.      The word “team” is a collective noun. There are other collective nouns with related meaning, but oftentimes these words are not used interchangeably. Differentiate the usage of the following words: a team, a group, a club, a gang, and a committee.

2.      What experiences have you had being on a team? What factors contributed to the team’s functioning?

3.      Describe the personality of a “good team member.” Describe the knowledge or skill of a “good team member.” What should be done if a person possesses one but not the other?

4.      Should the leadership of a team fall to one person, should leadership be a role that is filled on a rotating basis across members, or should teams be sufficiently self-functioning that a person as a leader or in a leadership role is not necessary?

5.      Have you ever been on a team where sub-groups or cliques formed? If so, what was the basis of the clique, and how did its existence influence the rest of the team?

Chapter 10 Organizational Attitudes and Behavior

1.      The psychological contract primarily focuses on the expectations employees have of their employer. Yet expectations are mutual. What expectations do you think employers have of employees?

2.      Describe a job you performed that was a source of great satisfaction. What was it about the job that was satisfying to you? How long did these feelings of satisfaction last?

3.      Describe a job you performed that was a source of great dissatisfaction. What was it about the job that was so dissatisfying to you? How long did these feelings of dissatisfaction last?

4.      Have you ever witnessed an act of organizational deviance? If so, what was it, and do you have any idea why it occurred?

5.      The text describes various political “games” that are played in organizations. These games are all designed to protect or enhance one’s self-interests. Have you ever witnessed political games being played, and if so, describe them.

Chapter 12 Work Motivation

1.      Recent research suggests that the characteristics of a highly motivated person are similar to the characteristics of a mentally healthy person. In what ways would you agree or disagree with this statement?

2.      Field Note 1 addresses the concept of sensemaking. Why do you think people are often desirous or motivated to understand that which doesn’t make sense to them?

3.      Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you failed at doing something? To what do you attribute your failure? Lack of ability, you didn’t really care all that much about succeeding or failing, or limitations or constraints on you that prevented your success? (It has been my experience that more students will give proportionately more emphasis to the latter two explanations.)

4.      Feedback is a critical ingredient to guiding our behavior as to whether we are “on track” in achieving a goal. But in some circumstances (as in interpersonal relations) it can be difficult to get accurate and timely feedback. Describe some situations where you would like to have received feedback, but didn’t know exactly what types of feedback you wanted or needed.

5.      What are some goals you have set for yourself? Would you describe them as hard/easy and specific/general? How will you know if you are making adequate progress toward their attainment?

Chapter 13 Leadership

1.      Who do you think are great leaders? Why?

2.      In general, do you think there are gender differences in leadership styles? If yes, what are these differences? What do you think lead to these stylistic differences?

3.      One theory of leadership states that effective leaders make us feel good about ourselves. Can we feel good about ourselves by listening to a leader, yet still regard that person as an ineffectual leader?

4.      Political leaders often wear a flag pin in their public appearances. Have the students ever used props in their own presentations? Do they consider “dressing up” for a job interview as a form of staging?

5.      In what types of situations would you desire a leader with an authoritative style? In what types of situations would you desire a leader with a participative leadership style? What do your answers suggest about the need for formal leadership?