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Helping students build teamwork skills

Teamwork skills—encompassing interpersonal, intercultural and project management skills—are an essential part of the core set of professional skills that we want our students to develop during their undergraduate studies at Rotman Commerce. Teamwork is a crucial transferable skill that students will use in their coursework, as well as their future careers.

However, not all students have developed this skill, especially in the first year of the program. To address this gap, the Centre for Professional Skills (CPS) has been collaborating since 2020 with Professor Ralph Tassone, the course coordinator for RSM219 Introduction to Financial Accounting, to develop a series of learning supports that help students build teamwork skills.

These supports include:

  • TEAM (Teamwork Effectiveness Asynchronous Module): an online module that explores best practices for teamwork and covers topics such as managing difficult conversations, task and role distribution, addressing conflict, and working collaboratively in a remote environment.
  • Teamwork workshop in week four of the class: a synchronous workshop where students practice team-building techniques.
  • Team Contract and Team Skills Audit: tools that help student groups build team cohesion and develop rules and procedures for effective collaboration.
  • Mandatory appointments with teamwork mentors: part of a larger teamwork mentors program for facilitating peer-to-peer conflict resolution.
CPS Teamwork Initiative
TEAM (Teamwork Effectiveness Asynchronous Module) on Quercus
2-hour interactive Teamwork workshop
1st Teamwork Mentor meeting with the whole group
Team contract, team skills audit and individual reflection based on workshop
Second Teamwork mentor meeting with the whole group

Teamwork-centered assignments in this course make up 10% of the course grade and most students agree that these supports have been valuable in helping them identify and apply best practices in teamwork. They shared their reactions:

“I found it helpful that we had an external figure (i.e., a Teamwork Mentor) that could act as the mediator and provide level-headed opinions that were not biased.”

“The Teamwork Workshop taught me that it is important to build a good relationship with your group and discuss strengths, weaknesses, ground rules, and much more to have a great experience working together.”

“The most helpful part of the Online Module was the “Managing the Project” section. This is because it’s always easy to make a plan within a team, but the hard part is always following it (…).”RSM219 Introduction to Financial Accounting students

RSM219 Introduction to Financial Accounting students

Ralph has found that the initiatives delivered a positive course experience overall, making students better equipped to navigate through group challenges and more comfortable communicating with their peers.

He reflected that the benefits of the focus on teamwork skills extend beyond the classroom:

“[CPS] provides direct support to students in developing key transferable skills for the workforce. Employers today expect teamwork and communication skills. By providing our students with opportunities to refine these skills, CPS works to ensure that our students will be successful in the future. CPS’ involvement…has been essential to the success of our students at U of T and beyond.“

Professor Ralph Tassone, Course Coordinator, RSM219 Introduction to Financial Accounting

Find out more

If you would like to know more, or to discuss implementing these or similar supports in your course, please email the Centre for Professional Skills (rotmancommerce.cps at the U of T domain).

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