časopis pro pedagogiku v souvislostech * journal of education in contexts
Ročník: 2014Volume: 2014
Číslo: 1Issue: 1
Vyšlo: 21.července 2014Published: July 21st, 2014
Černá, Martina. Increasing Team Skills of Students of Tourism by Problem-Based Learning. Paidagogos, [Actualized: 2014-07-21], [Cited: 2017-05-25], 2014, 1, #9. P. . Availiable at: <>


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Increasing Team Skills of Students of Tourism by Problem-Based Learning

Martina Černá

Abstrakt: The objective of this paper is to demonstrate, by means of the example from FH Wien, how team skills of students of the bachelor level studies of tourism can be increased by means of the method of problem-based learning. The activity of the so-called Competence Center for Problem Based Learning is introduced in this paper, which realises the education with the method of problem-based learning for students of FH Wien in the cooperation with experts from the application sphere. In this method of learning, real problems from practice are solved according to the requirements of the contracting organization.

Keywords: team skills, problem-based learning, tourism

1. Introduction

The ability of candidates to work in a team is often tested during the job interview, as it is the basis of a successful job performance in almost all areas of human activity. Tourism is no exception. An adequate preparation of students for these situations is one of the main objectives. FH Wien established the Competence Center for Problem Based Learning for its students of bachelor and master studies. Due to the exchange internships of academic employees, which were realised within the project of the Cooperation of Universities and Colleges in Tourism (M00132) financed by the European fund for the regional development within the European territory Austria – Czech Republic 2007 – 2013, both teachers and students of the College of Polytechnics in Jihlava had the opportunity to listen to the lecture on the given topic, to discuss this issue and to take a part in solving of a real problem introduced within the case study. Naturally, teamwork is just one of the aspects of problem-based learning which is usually realised in consideration of other aspects as well. This paper pays attention especially to the development of team skills of students of tourism.

2. Team, team skills, teamwork

Čačka (1997, s. 32 – 33) states that skills are individually different, relatively permanent psychological performance capacities (mental, sensorimotor, motor). The skills themselves do not guarantee any performance, they are subjected to higher control mechanisms of the integrated unit of the personality. The inborn core of the skills, the so-called talents, are anatomically-physiological features of an organism. Talents are not enough to achieve success, but they are a precondition for development of skills.

Teamwork is well-coordinated and purposefully synchronised activity. According to the synergy effect, the potential of a group surpasses the sum of the potentials of the individuals. The basic criteria for evaluation of an effective team cooperation are the following 3 criteria: group effectivity, group development and personal satisfaction.

According to Dlouhá (2010, p. 9), teamwork is one of 3 types of joint activity. Others are the succession of the activities and cooperation. If a task consists of many operations and these tasks must be realised at once or in a coordinated manner, then it is teamwork. Both mono-thematic problems within 1 scientific field and multidisciplinary problems, on the solution of which students work throughout the entire semester, may be solved within problem-based learning.

According to Dlouhá (p. 58) the synergic effect is achieved especially in a real environment, as it is quite difficult to overcome the absence of informal contacts in a virtual environment. On the other hand, virtual environment lacks the problems arising from visual, race or gender issues. Due to the possibility of a well-arranged structuring of opinions, the decision-making process is easier in a virtual reality, and also participation in activities can be more easily increased and controlled in a virtual world.

According to Palán, the teamwork skill (social competence) includes social behaviour and work, cooperation in a certain team or group. Together with the professional competence, personal responsibility, system competence and reflexive competence, it forms the set of key skills.

Also cooperation competence was included within the defined life competences for the needs of elementary and secondary schools. This competence is understood as readiness and skills of an individual to participate actively and responsibly in teamwork. It an opposite of unhealthy competitiveness and preference to work alone. It consists of components: joint objective, flexible response, group atmosphere and feedback.

3. Problem-based learning

Problem-based learning is a constructive pedagogical approach, within which students solve an open problem by simulating a problem solution based on real life by means of hitherto achieved experience. This learning approach based on heuristic concept is based on long-term, interdisciplinary and student-focused activities and it cannot be applied to study of simple information and facts.

Problem-based learning is identical with project learning in many of its aspects, that is why these concepts are so often mistaken for each other. They are identical in that they are both an activating learning method and that their basis is independent thinking of students, solving of problems and an intensive involvement of a student. Theoretical information necessary to solve a problem are not communicated to the students by means of a lecture, but the students look for them on their own or they derive and formulate them on the basis of achieved experience. The difference between both methods is that in the project method, the teacher lets the students themselves create the entire topic of the whole project, while in the problem-based learning method, the students are assigned a problem to solve. Průcha defines the project method as (Průcha, 2001, p. 184)„learning method, in which students are guided to elaborate certain projects themselves and to gain experience by practice and by experimenting. It is based on pragmatic pedagogics and on the instrumentalism principle. It supports motivation of students and cooperative learning. Projects can have a form of integrated topics, practical issues from real life or practical activities leading to a creation of a product, either tangible or verbal product.“

Within problem-based learning, students encounter an open, not very structured, authentic problem from practice. It is the entire team, not an individual, who tries to find a solution. Students decide themselves to apply a certain strategy, how to reach the objective. The teacher gives advice, directs, but does not tell them factual data nor suggest a particular work procedure.

Weaknesses of PBL:

Time-consuming creation of objectives.

The teacher must solve the related technical problems.

Human conflicts within a group.

Knowledge and skills specified in learning objectives.

Strengths of PBL:

Use of suitable methods.

Understanding of basic principles, terms and procedures, not just reproducing of foreign contents which were not properly understood.

Learning takes place not only on the cognitive level, but also on the emotional and social level (students try to capture the topic by their hand, their heart and their brain).

Derivation of some procedures and principles.

An environment natural for development of professional skills.

Not only achievement of an objective but also the path to achieve it is very important.

Interdisciplinary connections.

Use of professional knowledge and skills within a work context.

It is enriching not only on the level pedagogue – student, but also on the level student – student.

Work reflection.

4. Tourism and tourism studies at VŠPJ and FH Wien

In most disciplines of human activity, it is necessary to view a problem from different perspectives, not only from one point of view. It is even more true for tourism, which is not an independent scientific discipline according to some authors. E.g. Štýrský (2010, p. 18) accepts that tourism is not an independent scientific field, but he adds that no one doubts the scientific basis of disciplines, which are applied to tourism. That is why it is so important for students of tourism to think in a complex way and to know how to connect theoretical knowledge from various disciplines, like economy, marketing, management, sociology, history, geography etc. when solving practical issues.

Fachhochschule Wien was established in 1994. The owners are the Economic Chamber and the Fund of Viennese merchants (fund supporting young entrepreneurs). FH Wien offers studies in 16 practically focused fields from the areas of management and communication in bachelor and master study programs of both full-time and extra-mural study programs.

College of Polytechnics Jihlava is the only College in the region of Vysočina. It was founded in 2004. It offers education in accredited bachelor-level study programs and in courses of life-long learning including U3V. The accent is put on professional focused learning with practical outputs above all for the necessities of the region. Almost 2500 students study at VŠPJ in full-time and extra-mural study programs. 1034 of them enrolled in the field of tourism in the academic year 2012/ 2013. Thus, VŠPJ is one of the most important institutions in the area of tourism within tertiary education. Another important fact is that this school is the only college, which runs its own travel agency.

5. PBL at FH Wien

Competence Center for Problem Based Learning was established at FH Wien and it work within the entire FH Wien. The main activity of this centre consists of:

  1. PBL marketing within the school u PBL (lectures, interviews, communities in a virtual world, …
  2. A further development of the method by means of the college's own research and communicating the scientific knowledge to institutions, which deal with this issue.
  3. Support and increase of qualifications, during or for PBL-courses.
  4. Finding interesting problems from practice by cooperation with practice.

Studies Abbildung eines Lernsystems zur Gestaltung von Lernkultur und Gender-bezogene Gruppendynamiken im Problem Based Learning were elaborated in the area of research of the given method.

This method is considered an alternative method at FH Wien. An important motivation aspect to increase the interest in for PBL on part of students is the use of interesting case studies from real companies. Usually, each PBL course consists of 7 learning blocks of 2 units (90 minutes). One learning block takes place each week, so the entire course is completed in 7 weeks. Each course is led by a PBL Couch. Students have also materials in Moodle at their disposal.

Formulation of a problem

One of the basic problems, according to Dlouhá (2010, 25), is formulation of a problem, so that it is an open, complex and authentic problem. Its solving requires knowledge and skills specified in learning objectives. Creating problems is both very time-consuming and demanding from the professional perspective. Qualified experts from experience from cooperative learning methods together with experts from practice, who need to solve a real problem, cooperate on formulation of problems at the Center at FH Wien. They are mostly representatives of companies and organisations, which cooperate with FH Wien in the long term. The form of cooperation varies: offer of positions for study internships, solving of various tasks within bachelor and master practice or teaching by external experts at FH Wien. A positive feedback for the school is the fact that a great part of these experts are FH Wien graduates. The following companies can be stated as the particular example: Steigenberger Hotel Herrenhof, ÖsterreichWerbung, Odyssee, or Planai.

Role of the teacher, lector, couch

Generally, it applies that the teacher accompanies the students, supports their initiative, but he or she does not provide them with solutions. The role of a pedagogue is to create an abstract or real problem situation and to transform the learning material into a problem task. The teacher should assign a task, evaluate it and motivate students to be active in solving it. The teacher is responsible for determination of the size of a group and for consideration, if the students are theoretically sufficiently prepared to solve such a problem.

Representatives of Competence Center for problem Based Learning make sure that the following basic steps are observed:

  1. Introduction: Basic introduction of the problem, motivating of the participants for the given topic.
  2. Topic, objectives and organisational issues: Explanation of objectives, assigning individual roles, suggesting some methods.
  3. Work process: Structuring of the suggested solutions, use of secondary methods, e.g. brainstorming, help with solving conflicts.
  4. Summary of results: Summary of important results and decisions, pointing out what is missing.
  5. Conclusion: Feedback from observers, final remarks.

An example of a particular case study presented within an exchange internship

Within exchange internships, MA Nadine Fauland introduced the case study Hop on the Train, which she prepared together with her colleague Mag. Michael Mair (Černá, 2011, p. 24). The task for the students consisted in planning of marketing activities for a luxury train, which was reconstructed according to the train, by which Sisi and Franz Josef I used to travel. The train can be used within the territory of Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and Czech Republic. It can be either rented individually or connected with already existing transport connections.

Naturally, the students of VŠPJ could not plan all the marketing activities for time and organisation reasons. However, they were able to see, in what form the task is presented to the students of FH Wien, how they are divided into groups and in what steps they can proceed.

Feedback on part of students and experts from practice

The conclusion of each PBL course includes presentations, in which each team presents the results, which the team achieved. Those who suggest the individual solutions must not only comprehensibly and aptly present the results of their work, but they must also quickly respond to questions and comments made by PBL experts, representatives of the involved organisation and other teams.

Experts from practice always states, which solution they liked, and explain the particular points they liked. They also explain, why some of the suggestion could not be realised or why and how they had to be modified.

Students, both on their own and with teacher, will then evaluate their activity by means of various methods and techniques, they will describe the problems of their work, they will try to formulate suggestions for solving another problem etc. What is important for students are reflections about their own roles, competences and extent of responsibility within a team. Students usually say about PBL method that they appreciate the opportunity of participating in solving of a real problem and the possibility to try out teamwork. Another frequent response is that this form of work is far less boring than simple reading of books and listening to lectures from teachers.

6. Conclusion

The ability to work in a team is a very essential ability in modern times. According to Dlouhá (2010, 62), the Czech education system still puts the accent on personal responsibility for personal results, graduates often do not perceive the positives of synergy and cooperation with others is a problem and not a benefit for them. The increased use of cooperative forms of learning at elementary, secondary and tertiary schools is undoubtedly the step in the right direction. This work illustrated that problem-based learning is one of the possibilities, how to develop team skills of university and college students. Establishment of a centre, which would prepare particular assignment in cooperation with experts from practice, is a very complicated and demanding task, especially from the perspective of finances. Nevertheless, we can believe that even Czech universities and colleges will pay more attention to such methods and forms of learning and that similar activities will be developed increasingly more often.


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Kontaktní informace / Contact informations

Mgr. Martina Černá, Ph.D.

Katedra sociální práce Vysoká škola polytechnická Jihlava

Tolstého 16

586 05  Jihlava

Czech republic

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