Master of Arts Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) 610

Organizational Perspectives: Images, Issues, Practices (Revision 3)

MAIS 610
**Note: Students in Group Study courses are advised that this syllabus may vary in key details in each instance of the course. Always refer to the Moodle site for the most up-to-date details on texts, assignment structure, and grading.**


Organizational Perspectives brings together the three traditional fields in organizational studies: organizational theory, organizational behavior, and organizational psychology. The course will explore each of these practical sciences in various ways using different lenses. The goal of the course is for students to be able to apply and integrate what they learn in the course to their own experience and their relations with, and place in, organizations.

As adults we have all encountered organizations, and we think of them in different ways. We explain what goes on in them to ourselves in unique ways, and often in doing so we reach for metaphors such as family or factory. This course chooses metaphor—and some of the variety of metaphors used by both academic and popular culture writers in the field of organizational studies—as the course’s central concept. Metaphor provides a holistic as well as complex way of appreciating organizational dynamics. After an orientation to the origins and foundations of the three traditional fields, their foci, and their preferred modes of explanation, students will move through four overarching ways to consider organizational life and these will form the four parts of the course:

  1. Positivistic Science: grounded in modernist ontology and epistemology, and focusing on organizations' factual side; organizations as machines and brains
  2. Interpretive Science: the sociocultural side of organizational life, including symbolism and processes that play out in organizations
  3. Critical Science: the different ways in which power plays out in organizations in relation to differences such as race and gender, leadership, motivation, and stress
  4. Postmodern Science: grounded in postmodern ontology and epistemology, and having a two-pronged focus: first, the individual's psyche, perception, and values; and second, new forms of discussing organizational life, such as organizations as organisms, or the influence of chaos and complexity theory

The course will end with a consideration of the future of the field of organizational studies.

The main assignment is an applied one, where students will analyze an issue that they are interested in using the tools that they acquire in the course.

Course Objectives

After completing this course, students should be able to:

  1. understand and use metaphor as a critical holistic tool in thinking on organization, its structures, its goings-on, and its effects on our lives.
  2. understand what premises organizational theory, organizational behaviour, and organizational psychology, as frames of thought and analysis, are built on, and to engage in a meta-analysis of these bodies of knowledge.
  3. understand the insights offered to these bodies of knowledge by critical theory and postmodernism, particularly the focus on the complex and multidimensional ways in which power functions in organizations, and the friction between individual perception and the “set” reality of the organization.
  4. consider your own actions in your organizational life in light of these insights.
  5. appreciate that the conceptual understandings that form the discipline of organizational studies at large are fundamentally rooted in a Western cultural and epistemological stance.
  6. appreciate the complexities and challenges of this in our contemporary globalized organizations.
  7. reflect on the impact that these Western ways of thinking, doing, and being have on those members of your organization who are not Western.
  8. apply, as demonstrated in the final assignment, the concepts in the course to a close examination of any one issue and organization of your choice (for example, your workplace’s traditions around showing what is valued).
  9. illustrate understanding of how the various knowledge bases discussed in the course function together to inform your continuing action in your organizational life.
  10. reflect on the impact that the course content has on your appreciation of the act of leading.

Student Evaluation

To receive credit for this course, students must participate in the online activities, successfully complete the assignments, and achieve a final mark of at least 60 per cent. Students should be familiar with the Master of Arts—Interdisciplinary Studies grading system. Please note that it is students' responsibility to maintain their program status. Any student who receives a grade of "F" in one course, or a grade of "C" in more than one course, may be required to withdraw from the program.

The following table summarizes the evaluation activities and the credit weights associated with them.

Course Activity Weighting
Online Participation 20%
Reading Presentations 20%
Personal Reflection 20%
Term Paper 40%
Total 100%

Course Materials

The course materials for MAIS 610 include the items listed below.


  • Morgan, G Images of Organization. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2006.
  • Tsoukas, H., and Knudsen, C. (Eds.). (2003). The Oxford Handbook of Organization Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Mills, A.J., Helms Mills, J.C., Forshaw, C., and Bratton, J. (Eds). (2007). Organizational Behaviour in a Global Context.Broadview Press: New York.

Athabasca University Printed Materials

Reading File: The Reading File contains selected articles from various sources that are required reading for this course.

Athabasca University Online Materials

Course Home Page: You will find Course Information (including the Assignment File and other pertinent information) at the top of the course home page. You will also find your Study Guide presented unit by unit online. You will find your assignments and links to submit your work to your professor on the course home page.

Athabasca University Library: Students are encouraged to browse the Library's Web site to review the Library collection of journal databases, electronic journals, and digital reference tools:

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 3, January 1, 2008.