Debby Thomas, George Fox University – The Classroom as an Organization

On George Fox University Week: Should the students run the classroom?

Debby Thomas, assistant professor of management, looks at one way of divvying up responsibility so everyone benefits.

Debby Thomas, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Management as well as a corporate leadership trainer who teaches leadership, management and organizational behavior courses. She facilitates the High Performance Leadership program at the Professional Development Academy in Portland. Debby finds synergy in teaching at the undergraduate, MBA and DBA levels as well as training and coaching managers in companies across the US and internationally.

The Classroom as an Organization


College students need courses that prepare for the realities of the work world.  To provide relevant experiences through which students skills needed in the workplace.  I utilize a teaching methodology called Classroom as Organization (CAO). It is a highly experiential way of teaching, that can be used in undergraduate or graduate level courses, which enables students to become fully engaged in their learning while practicing skills. The essence of Classroom As Organization is designing the classroom as a fully functioning, student run organization. Instead of the educator taking center stage and presenting theory, students are placed in vital roles of the organization allowing them to experience organizational dynamics while learning and implementing theory. I create student teams, and each team has responsibility for teaching, assessing peers, as well as organization wide responsibilities such as coordinating the daily class schedule, taking attendance, running a class wide feedback program, or creating and grading weekly journal entries. Students read the text and become familiar with the information and theories before class. Class time is run 100% by the students, during which one team teaches the content for the week using experiential methods – not lectures. The rest of the class period is given to teams which need class time to fulfill their organizational responsibilities. All requests for class time are sent to the team in charge of class coordination.

Classroom as Organization encourages students to be empowered and to be fully engaged in the process of learning. The outcome is that students not only learn the theory, but they learn skills that are vital in the workplace.