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  • Job design fall 2011
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Elon middle school has seen a steady drop in their test scores the past three years.  The administration has forced teachers to teach from a predetermined curriculum for each class. This change was implemented three years earlier to help improve test scores for the school.  The administration has noticed since this change that their absenteeism has gone up, their test scores have gone down, and the motivation of their teachers has decreased significantly.  Teachers are less likely to get involved in after school programs or clubs, and quality teachers who once cared about their job, seem to be coming to work and just punching a time card.

The administration for the school realizes that something must change. The administration must either find new teachers that can motivate their students, or the school must change directions.  Through detailed feedback and surveys given at the end of the previous school year the administration has decided to allow the teachers to determine their own curriculum for the upcoming school year, provided that it follows the state guidelines and is approved prior to the start of the school year. 

When Elon Middle School decided to provide a specific predetermined curriculum for the teachers to follow, the autonomy of the teachers was taken away.  Teachers are expected to be creative and interactive with their students and those qualities are what makes each teacher unique in his or her own way while they draw the students curiosity with their inspiration and knowledge. Being restricted to a specific way of teaching will not work for many teachers because of this. Each teacher has their own way to inspire and capture the students attention and to help them use and retain the material expected for that class, by taking away the freedom to deliver the material in their own style the teachers were forced to go to the class everyday and experience an unrewarding, monotonous, and repetitive work atmosphere that stripped them from what inspired them to teach and made them a good teacher to begin with.

The school went back to the old style of job design where the employees were expected to adapt to the particular job design instead of allowing the position to adhere the qualities and take form from the talent of the employees. (Bright 2008)

By allowing the teachers to regain ownership of their classroom and the style of teaching the curriculum in their own direction, the teachers began to get more involved in activities outside of class.  The motivation increased to the point that the teachers were again satisfied with their positions and began to devote more effort into the successes for themselves and the students.

There are many things that the school could have taken into account when deciding what changes that had to take place. The school wanted to raise the students test scores; so they thought that if they changed the mechanics of the operation they would be able to do so.

The mechanistic job design they wanted to implement to make these changes was not working to motivate the teachers.  So in turn the test scores began to fall even further while the teachers began to leave their positions at the school.

Campion (1987) devised a layout of questions to consider when applying a certain job design approach to the position of the employee or the atmospheric dynamics of the job as a whole.

Campion describes the mechanistic Job Design Approach as follows:


1.  Job specialization: Is the job highly specialized in terms of purpose and/or activity?

Yes, education as well as spend time being trained in order to work with children

2. Specialization of tools and procedures: Are the tools, procedures, materials, etc. used on this job highly specialized in terms of purpose?

Yes, teachers need to be able to use the computer system for example along with being able to fully understand the course materials in a way that can be taught to the students.

3. Tusk simplification: Are the tasks simple and uncomplicated?

Most of the tasks teachers perform would be considered more complicated.  The material might sometime be considered basic but a teacher needs to present the information in a logical way in order for the students to understand.

4. Single activities: Does the job require the incumbent to do only one task at a time? Does it not require the incumbent to do multiple activities at one time or in very close succession?

The teacher can only teach the class one thing at a time, which could be considered a task.  At any given time when a teacher is teaching they are also disciplining other students or answering questions.

5. lob simplification: Does the job require relatively little skill and training time?

With a predetermined curriculum a teacher would use less of their skills, and would require less training since the curriculum is outlined to be thought in a specific way.

6. Repetition: Does the job require performing the same activity or activities repeatedly?

With a predetermined curriculum a teacher is more likely to repeat activities; they have less autonomy to decide how to teach so it is likely it will become repetitive.

7. Spare time: Is there very little spare time between activities on this job?

Yes, after school hours will be spent learning to adapt to new changes outside of the normal teaching strategies.  Teachers are on a strict schedule, and it is very important to follow the predetermined curriculum or the class will likely fall behind in the studies. 

8. Automation: Are many of the activities of this job automated or assisted by automation?

No, the curriculum that is predetermined by the school does not allow this.  All activities of the teachers are done by themselves personally. 

(Campion, 1978 pg 70)

One can easily see how the freedom, creativity and imagination was taken from the position of these teachers by creating all the work for them.  The Mechanistic Approach seemed to be a good choice for the school but it was obvious it was the wrong one due to the lack in motivation from the teachers which lead to undesirable outcomes.

The school then had to focus back on motivating the teachers to improve the performance of the students and to reduce turn over.  Elon Middle School then adopted a different job design that was also described by Campion. In order to motivate an individual they must be able to experience certain benefits from their jobs such as:

The Motivational Job Design Approach

1. Autonomy: Does the job allow freedom, independence, or discretion in work scheduling, sequence, methods, procedures, quality control, or other decisions?

Yes, teachers could design and implement their own lesson plans, decide how much time should be dedicated to each subject, and the best teaching approaches.  Giving the teachers autonomy would be a benefit for both the teachers and students, teachers would be able to adjust their lesson according to the students’ abilities. 

2. Intrinsic job feedback: Do the work activities themselves provide direct, clear information about the effectiveness (in terms of quality and quantity) of job performance?

Yes the positive changes in the teachers showed quick and direct feedback from the progress of the students and the effort of the teachers. 

3. Extrinsic job feedback: Do other people in the organization (such as managers and coworkers) provide information about the effectiveness (in terms of quality and quantity) of job performance?

Yes the feedback of test scoring from documenting procedures and the principal approval.  Teachers would also be able to discuss their teaching approaches with one another in order to determine the effectiveness of their lesson plans. 

4. Social interaction: Does the job provide for positive social interaction (such as teamwork or coworker assistance)?

Yes, after school activities motivate students, and the teachers are more available to put effort into those as well.  The teachers are more motivated to spend time with the students, with co-workers, and get to know the students parents.  Positive social interactions will translate inside and outside of the classroom. 

5. Task/goal clarity: Are the job duties, requirements, and goals clear and specific?

Yes, once one takes ownership of the classroom the rest is under their control.  Teachers are aware of the amount of educational material they need to cover, their duties and goals are very clear.  Also passing test score are a specific goal that they are expected to meet.

6. Task variety: Does the job have a variety of duties, tasks, and activities?

Yes, once again the teacher is able to implement this on their own.

7. Task identity: Does the job require completion of a whole and identifiable piece of work? Does it give the incumbent a chance to do an entire piece of work from beginning to end?

Yes, they have the students through that entire year to watch them learn and grow from that class.  Teachers are given material they are expected to teach the students throughout the year, they definitely complete something from beginning to end. 

8. Ability/skill-level requirements: Does the job require a high level of knowledge, skills, and abilities?

Yes, teachers need formal educational training along with student teaching.  Teachers need to have special skills and abilities to teach, not everybody possesses them and they should be valued.

9. Ability/skill variety: Does the job require a variety of types of knowledge, skills, and abilities?

Teaching needs a variety of knowledge, such as math, science, and history for example.  They also need the skills and abilities to be able to teach, listen, discipline, and have a lot of patients with students. 

10. Task significance: Is the job significant and important compared with other jobs in the organization?

Yes, teachers are directly shaping children’s lives.  Other jobs in the school are also important but teaching is the most significant.

11. Growth/learning: Does the job allow opportunities for learning and growth in competence and proficiency?

Yes, through feedback from test scores and student reviews one can learn what to keep and what to improve.

12. Promotion: Are there opportunities for advancement to higher-level jobs?

Yes, if one desires to do so such as a principal or super attendant of the district. 

13. Achievement: Does the job provide for feelings of achievement and task accomplishment?

Yes, if the teacher is passionate about their career.  They can also feel achievement and task accomplishment when a student learns or passes the test, it would then mean that the teacher did their job well.

14. Participation: Does the job allow participation in work-related decision making?

Yes if the teachers are given autonomy.  If the school continued with the predetermined curriculum than they would not be able to make many decisions.

15. Communication: Does the job provide access to relevant communication channels and information flows?


16. Pay adequacy: Is the pay for this job adequate compared with the job requirements and pay for similar jobs?

Over all yes, depending on the geographically location and the degree a teacher holds can vary the wages.

17. Recognition: Does the job provide acknowledgment and recognition from others?

Yes, teachers get recognition from students, parents, co-workers, and others from the community.

18. Job security: Do incumbents on this job have a high degree of job security?

Yes if the teachers performance is successful they are likely to have job security.  Teachers are always in demand. 

The changes in styles of designing the teachers curriculum had changed to what employers are beginning to do in more recent times; allowing the job to benefit from the talent of the person performing the task. The problems that could arise for a company with this strategy is that once that person is no longer available for the position, that position will have to be redesigned when the next employee comes to that job.(Bright, 2008)  When it comes to schools, teachers usually stay for many years when they satisfied with their work. The turnover rates are smaller and the students benefit from a  motivated instructor.  When a teacher leaves their position at a school it only opens the doors for a new perspective and creative way of teaching provided that that teacher is also welcome to take ownership of the classroom and materials.  J.C.  Kovac states,  "It is important to determine how much a job is worth and how much the individual talent in that job is worth (Kovac, July 1, 2008)." When it comes to teachers this would have to be kept in perspective in order to bring life to the classrooms and create a great learning experience for each student.


Bright, J. (2008, March 1). Power to the people; The ladder. Sydney Morning Herald, p. 7.
Campion, M., & Thayer, P. (1987). Job design: Approaches, outcomes, and trade-offs. Organizational Dynamics, 15, 66--79.
Kovac, J.C. (2008, July 1). Sour economy presents compensation challenges. Employee Benefit News.

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