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Phoenix Forward magazine

7 career skills learning teams help you develop

Learning teams develop career skills

What’s a surefire way to help college students gain the abilities they’ll need to succeed in the workplace? At University of Phoenix, it’s a team approach to coursework. Learning teams have been required in every undergraduate and graduate class since shortly after the University was founded in 1976.

“No one survives in business without knowing how to do things together,” says Irene Blundell, Alumni Relations outreach director and an instructor of general education courses. By teaming up in self-managed groups of three to five, Blundell says, students gain the following career skills over the course of their degree programs:


Students must work together and focus their individual strengths on completing a particular task, Blundell says, a vital necessity in today’s business world. Many more people are part of the process of getting goods or services to the marketplace than in the past, so they must depend on each other more than ever to get anything done, according to a 2011 Forbes report on collaboration.

Workflow management

Classroom assignments involve multiple steps, which require organization and planning. “I tell my newer students to work backward,” Blundell notes. “Start from when the assignment is due and determine the elements that are needed and who should do them.” Once students master this technique, she says, they can apply it to nearly every career.


To bring a product or service to market, specific information must be relayed among team members, including whether everything is being done to keep the project on track, Blundell says. Adhering to agreed-upon timelines and benchmarks, she adds, helps ensure that the team does its best.


“Things can change quickly in teams, as in business and life,” Blundell explains. “You must be flexible and adjust to shifting requirements.” Even the best planned and executed projects — in the office or classroom — can suffer because of missed deadlines, goal changes and wrong assumptions. Successful teams work together to figure out how to get their projects back on course.

Time management

Busy students who juggle school, work and family have to decide what they must get done and what they can dismiss. Blundell recommends listing tasks in order of importance and estimating how long each will take to complete. “The ability to prioritize and know what’s key to accomplishing goals and what can be left aside,” she says, “are important components to managing time.”


Nothing gets done in teams unless everyone commits to shared goals and takes responsibility for doing their specific jobs to achieve those goals, Blundell says. That kind of commitment, she notes, helps increase the likelihood of project — and career — success.


Social skills

The value of getting along with others can’t be underestimated in work, school and life, Blundell says, and those who understand this fact often get more of what they want. That’s a key mission of learning teams. Knowing how to be a member of a team,” Blundell says, “is an important skill in itself that students will use throughout their lives.”