President's Teaching Scholars Program



Stan Deetz
Communication Department

COMM 4600/5600 (Seminar in Organizational Communication: Collaborative Decision Making)
Course Description:

Increasingly organizations and communities have turned to the use of project teams and other forms of direct stakeholder and employee participation in decision making. Further, some companies are beginning to involve community groups and other stakeholders in environmental and other kinds of decisions. Communication is core to the quality of all participatory decision making. This course will explore why these changes are taking place, the various types and models of participation, individual skill needs, and the discussion and collaboration processes that facilitate and limit the success of these programs. As a result of the course, class members should have a better understanding of the changing workplace and its connection to the wider society, an increased capacity to participate in collaborative decision making in organizations and communities, and the ability to aid organizations in improving their decision making processes.
Transformation of COMM 1600 Group Processes into a Laboratory in Dialogue and Participatory Democracy

The course is described as follows in the catalog: Covers basic theories, concepts, and characteristics that underlie face-to-face interactions in interpersonal, small group, and organizational settings. Activities stress the development of both task and relational skills in these settings.

As might be expected, the course has succeeded in introducing students to basic discipline-based theories and concepts—especially regarding interaction in small groups—and in providing a generic set of interaction skills focused mostly on effective functioning in groups and their interpersonal relationships. When everyday events have been considered in the course, however, the focus has mostly been on “having a discussion,” with little attention to—or direct engagement with—larger deliberative and decision making processes that are central to organizations and civic communities.

Stated in the most general way, I wish to transform the course such that, instead of the class and class discussions being used to illustrate and learn concepts and skills, the class instead focuses on decision making and problem solving in communities and organizations, where concepts and skills are seen as tools to achieve that. This revision directs student learning and growth towards interactional processes as civic engagement and highlights how things like stakeholder collaboration, public deliberation, and community dialogue do/can/should function in communities and in organizations making decisions.