Timo Halttunen (University of Turku), Anders Karkov (Business Academy SouthWest), Christian Dragin-Jensen (Business Academy SouthWest) and Céline Kylänpää (University of Turku) presented their research last week at the NordYrk 2021 online conference at Linköping University, Sweden. With 193 registered participants, the conference brought many (Nordic) researchers and participants interested in the conference’s theme: “Transitions to, between, and within school and working life in vocational education and training”.
The Tournord members’ research, titled “Collaborative Problem Solving in Real-World Situations”, involved 4 case studies of culinary (VET) and tourism management (higher education) students in Finland and Denmark. Travelling to hotels in the cities of Sønderborg (DK) and Pori (FI), students were tasked on tackling a very (globally) relevant issue of food waste in the hospitality sector.
Lead author Timo Halttunen presented the case studies and findings, bringing to attention the impact of different conditions present at the workspace to collaborative problem solving. As Timo Halttunen states:
“In classrooms, problems have a clear starting point and a goal. At the workplace, problems are often ill-defined, meaning that the starting point and end result are not that clear. At the workplace students may or may not receive support for their problem solving, and they are left to their own devices. In our study, we found that access to expert skill and knowledge is crucial for success in collaborative problem solving. However, the students underused the learning affordances present at the workspace. Furthermore, it was important that students had an opportunity to access the authentic venue to explore the problem space. In this case, the restaurant for breakfast buffet at the hotel was a richer environment for student collaborative problem solving than a conference room or a pub at the same hotel. To conclude, it was important that teachers were present to intervene when needed, and to provide students with support in perspective taking and generating solutions. When students got back on track again, teachers stepped aside and let the students to develop their sense of agency and take charge of their own learning process”.
The research contributes to the growing body of academic literature highlighting the need for teachers, educators and professionals to bridge the gap between classroom and workplace. Moreover, Collaborative problem solving provides a fascinating insight into solving ill-defined problems, a critical 21st century skill.
You can find the conference abstract here.