Wicked problems are hard to solve! Working together is complex, but necessary to solve these wicked problems! Ever heard these comments before?
Well, our TourNord partners from the University of Turku and Business Academy SouthWest have just published an article in the Nordic Journal of Vocation and Education titled “Collaborative Problem Solving: A pedagogy for workplace relevance” where they studied the pedagogical approach of collaborative problem solving in the context of work-based learning and complex (wicked) problems.
A truly collaborative project, 72 students were included (ranging from vocational students, university of applied science students and university students), 9 teachers and 5 industry professionals across 4 separate workshops in Finland and Denmark.
The article is open-access and freely available to all here. Want to read a bit more? Check out the abstract below!
Questions about the research? Contact Timo Halttunen, corresponding author.
This article is part of a larger project! You can read more about it here!
Collaborative problem solving (CPS) is a widely used pedagogical approach in work-based learning. To facilitate the complex process of situated learning, researchers have emphasized the need for scaffolding to enable learning of skills while engaged in problem-solving. While CPS as a pedagogical practice has mainly been examined in classroom situations, a research gap exists in studies of CPS in real-world contexts. In this study, we contribute to the understanding of CPS by examining the contextual characteristics that shape students’ and teachers’ experiences in situated learning. Consequently, we present a multi-case study to investigate involvement of a business professional as a source for scaffolding on site, in a hotel business environment. We employed a qualitative, multi-case methodology in the study. An ill-structured, real-world problem of food waste in the hotel service sector was presented to students (N = 72) and their accompanying teachers (N = 9) from second and tertiary education. They were provided with access to expert knowledge and opinion by industry professionals (N=5) on site. We collected data via observations, interviews, and questions from the involved stakeholders in three physical locations in Denmark and in Finland. Additionally, we documented their experiences using an online collaboration tool in each case. Despite the scaffolding provided by the business professionals, students underused the resources available for their learning in the extended learning environment. Students benefited from guided exploration of the problem space, structured feedback, and teacher interventions, resulting in improved perspective taking, participation, social regulation, task regulation and knowledge building.
(Source: Halttunen, T., Dragin-Jensen, C., Kylänpää, C., & Karkov, A. (2023). Collaborative problem solving: A pedagogy for workplace relevance. Nordic Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 13(2), 45–73. https://doi.org/10.3384/njvet.2242-458X.2313245)
Serving as a forum for exchanging best practices and experiences for education and knowledge development within Nordic Tourism, the central themes of the network meeting were:
Life-long learning: How can educators continuously update their skills and competences
Nordic Tourism: What makes it unique
Tourism lessons learned: From remote locations
The network meet also had scheduled in workshops to continue working on the ideas created at our first network meet in Esbjerg, Denmark – namely projects within digital competence development in the tourism sector, and development of Nordic coastal tourism.
Day 1: Perspectives to life-long learning and Developing Nordic Coastal Tourism
After a warm welcome, Timo Halttunen, Head of Unit at Brahea Centre Areal Research and Development, at the University of Turku, gave us a presentation about professional learning, the reform of continuous learning in Finland, as well as the challenges the tourism sector faces with regards to continuous learning – a challenge not only unique to the Nordics, but to the EU sector as a whole! An interesting fact, was that the Nordic countries were ahead of the curve in Europe with regards to continuous learning, yet the tourism sector still lagged behind when comparing to other industries.
The presentation was followed by a great discussion on key areas that TourNord’s partner institutions could focus on in their respective countries when it comes to current students, as well as plans for continuous learning throughout a career of a tourism sector employee.
After the presentation and discussion, Gregory Kwiatkowski from Western Norway University of Applied Sciences and Christian Dragin-Jensen from Business Academy SouthWest led a work-meeting about how to progress from our desire to jointly work on developing a Nordic Coastal Tourism project (from our network meet in Esbjerg). We have excitedly concluded to create a book: “Developing Nordic Coastal Tourism” with all partners contributing to chapters, as well as inviting other practitioners and scholars to contribute! Gregory and Christian will serve as editors. Mia Post-Lundgaard from Business Academy SouthWest also raised the important notion of the book’s necessary contribution to not only academics and practitioners, but also to students. Moreover, the important question was also asked that if we are a Nordic cooperative, should the book not also be available in (at least some) of our Nordic languages?
In the evening, we were introduced to a Turku tourism destination concept: The Turku Food Walk, at local restaurant Di Trevi. The Turku food walk is an initiative by Visit Turku and its partners to showcase the best of the city’s culinary scene with just one card. That is, for a modest fee, tourists can visit an array of restaurants and sample many dishes from many different restaurants. The tour is ideal if you’re new to the city or visiting Turku and are interested in the food culture of the Nordics. It was fascinating to hear how many of the city’s restaurants found benefits in coopetition (the act of cooperating between competing companies) to give tourists a more holistic experience of the city’s food scene.
Day 2: A day of Senses in Tourism Research and Experience Development
Our second day was a a true day of exchanging best practices. This day was dedicated to exploring how the University of Turku research the use of senses in developing and understanding experiences. The first item on the order of the day was a fascinating presentation by Emmi Järvi, Project Communications Specialist, titled “Multidisciplinary research platform for producing new scientific knowledge and consumer understanding for society and businesses”. The research platform was using in-house facilities at the University of Turku campus, namely an experimental restaurant called Flavoria, and a multi-sensory room full of modern technologies to enhance sensory experiences.
The experimental restaurant was a veritable smorgasbord of data collecting points, from how guests selected their food, to how much bio-waste they generated, as well as desired portion sizes. The multi-sensory room, titled Aistikattila, is an immersive multi-sensory space for research and teaching and for hosting innovation workshops, seminars and events. More specifically:
Aistikattila provides an interesting setting for e.g. co-creation, product, and group interview studies. With studies measuring the effects of different environments can be discovered, how a certain audiovisual environment or augmented reality affects, for example, eating experiences, human behavior, or sensory experiences. The research possibilities go beyond the above-mentioned framework; the object of study can well be a technological solution
Inspired by sitting in the Aistikattila space, we had a double brainstorming session on how we could work together on the following:
Creating a blended intensive programme. Led by Gregory Kwiatkowski, we discussed on which common tourism topics where we could lead a blended intensive program – the area of Event Management drawing particular interest. Great experiences were shared on Dania Academy’s efforts by Henrik Pahus and Mikkel Lodahl of their summer school programs in Vietnam and elsewhere around the world. It was decided to continue this avenue to create a blended intensive programme for our Nordic partners!
Continue our work on digital competences within tourism. Led by Timo Halttunen and Christian Dragin-Jensen, an intense discussion was had with all partners, but followed with a fruitful creation of a concept note for an Erasmus+ application (further developed from our ideas at the 1st network meet in Esbjerg). Specifically, a project which focuses on creating a tourism platform to better define digital skills and competences within tourism, how to upskill and reskill existing tourism employees, assessing learning in digital contexts, and how to create a blueprint for micro-credentials within tourism educations. Trine Thomsen from Business Academy SouthWest also highlighted the tremendous importance of linking digital skills with lifelong learning, as the realm of the digital is simply moving so fast, that what is taught at the beginning of an education, may no longer be relevant when students receive their degree!
In the afternoon, we continued along our journeys of senses – more specifically, the sense of sight. A presentation was given by Marjaana Puurtinen, Adj. Professor at the University of Turku, on Eye-tracking technology in educational research: higher-order cognition, learning in different domains and contexts. This was a fascinating presentation on not only how we can optimize teaching by using eye-tracking technology, but also how we could design tourist experiences. One of Marjaana’s projects was about designing a better museum experience by eye-tracking guests throughout the museum, to gain a novel and unique understanding of what guests spent the majority of their time looking at, as well as discovering what elements were most interactive for them. A future project we surely can’t wait to see more of!
The session was followed by a great discussion on how can we use these technologies in understanding professional learning, particularly when comparing to “hands-on task” learning, vs. theoretical and conceptualisation learning.
Day 3: Designing a “hands-on” museum visit – how a multi-sensory exhibition was developed with researchers and stakeholders
The final day of our 2nd network meet was an excursion day to 40,000+ exhibition at the Forum Marinum. Here we were guided by Ira Lahovuo, Project Manager at the City of Turku, and the main driving force behind the exhibition, an output of an Interreg project, Archipelago Access. Turku is the main city closely located to Finland’s famous archipelago, home to more than 40,000 islands. The project’s summary was the following:
Sustainable nature and culture-based archipelago tourism are still characterized by a large number of SMEs, public actors, uncoordinated promotion and scattered information. Thanks to Archipelago Access, Turku and Stockholm archipelagos join forces and invite Åland along to increase the attractiveness of the whole archipelago area.
Guided by Ira, we were given a unique insight in how many different stakeholders took part in creating the exhibition, from digital and sound specialists, tourism experts and marine biologists. Much focus was placed on finding the perfect balance between informing potential visitors about the region and the difficulties it faces (loss of biodiversity, climate change, etc.), but also to show how it could be an attractive place to visit – when done right.
All the participating TourNord members would like to thank the University of Turku and its partners for their warm hospitality, and a fantastic program which ensured that our network meet serve:
1. As a forum for exchanging best practices and experiences for education and knowledge development within Nordic Tourism 2. To discover and implement innovative ways of teaching to benefit educators and students in preparing them for the current/future demands of Nordic Tourism
3. To promote & advance student/staff mobility amongst partners for learning, innovation and R&D activities within NT.
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.
Last week, the University of Turku (UTU) and Business Academy SouthWest (BASW) conducted several Work-Based Learning sessions in Pori, Finland and Sønderborg, Denmark. The topic of the Work-based learning (WBL) sessions was Food waste in the food service sector. The goal of these sesssions were to study teacher and learner strategies in Creative Problem Solving, as a means to obtain meaningful learning. Specifically, the project aims at exploring how teachers and learners determine the right problem to solve, and how to solve it. Inspired by a design thinking process, the focus is on emphasizing with customer needs, defining a problem and ideating to solve the problem. The notion of meaningful learning is studied from the perspective of how teachers and learners co-create a learning process that aims at supporting better understanding of the needs of the customer and strategies for solving their problems.
The project project draws upon existing state-of-the-art research in education, such as Hesse et al.’s framework for teachable collaborative problem solving skills ( 2015), Tynjälä et al.’s model of integrative pedagogy (2016) and work-based learning (e.g. Kis, 2016; Lemanski & Overton, 2016; Siebert, Mills, & Tuff, 2009).
The project aims to answer the following research questions:
How do teachers script engaging learning processes that support development of learner autonomy and agency?
What constitutes an industry-relevant learning process?
Can student work readiness be improved by supporting learner autonomy and agency?
A more in-depth description of the project can be found here.
What did the sessions look like?
Working together with staff from the Sokos Hotel Vakuuna Pori and students and teachers from the Satakunta University of Applied Sciences in Finland, UTU observed teacher and learner strategies. Firstly, the hotel manager Riina Ojanen presented the problem of food waste at the hotel. Students then, in groups, worked on redefining the problem and were then allowed to ask the hotel manager additional questions in order to reformulate and fine-tune the problem. They then worked in groups to provide solutions. Each group came onstage to present their findings. The other groups listened carefully, and asked more questions when necessary. The hotel manager gave feedback on the solutions provided. Finally, students evaluated their learning experience using an online tool, mentimeter. Teachers evaluated the groups learning process and their own teaching experience.
In Denmark, BASW worked together with Hotel Sønderborg Strand, where a similar structure was held. First, the students received a tour of the hotel (with masks due to CoVID-19 restrictions in Denmark!). The topic of food waste was then presented by Executive Chef Allan Larsen, Hotel Manager Dorit Møller and marketing coordinator Trine Nielsen. The groups (and teacher), just as in Finland, followed the same process to reach solutions, as well as their evaluation of the session.
Picture (left): A student presenting his group’s solution to Food Waste to other students.