Aleven, V., Stahl, E., Schworm, S., Fischer, F., & Wallace, R. (2003). Help seeking and help design in interactive learning environments. Review of Educational Research 73(3).
Help seeking can be seen, not as dependence of the learner, but as self-regulated behavior that helps to develop independent ability. For this to be the case, the help seeking needs to be effective. There are various types of computer-based instruction, including intelligent tutoring systems (AI gives context-sensitive hints), computer assisted instruction (feedback on actions without AI to guide), educational hypermedia (cross-linked information), and problem/based systems (authentic problems with background information and hints about solving the problem). Help seeking model is presented: aware of need for help, decide to seek help, identify helpers, ask for help, and evaluate help. Many studies actually show ineffective use of computer based learning, but that on demand help does tend to help students learn better. Student prior knowledge is a major influence in student performance and success, both in terms of familiarity with the subject and the learning environment. Help seeking ability improves with age due to better ability to monitor one’s own performance. In terms of gender, males are less likely to seek help than females in traditional classroom environments, and while there is less research in computer based learning environments, similar results have been found. A focus on performance rather than learning can lead to avoidance of help seeking.
Anderson, T. (2003). Getting the mix right again: An updated and theoretical rationale for interaction. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 4(2).
Interaction may be defined as only between two people, but here they accept the definition that allows any people or objects to interact with and influence each other, so a student may interact with another student or may interact with content. It’s difficult to know for sure if interactions, as helpful as they may be, actually have educational value. Some students choose programs that minimize the amount of person to person interaction required. A high level of interaction with content, other students, or the teacher may be sufficient, even if the other forms are not present (although student/teacher interaction is perceived as the highest value). Student/content interactions can take the place of many person to person interactions in the right circumstances.
Azevedo, R., Moos, D.C., Greene, J.A., Winters, F.I., & Cromley, J.G. (2008). Why is externally-facilitated regulated learning more effective than self-regulated learning with hypermedia? Educational Technology Research and Development 56(1).
This study compared self-regulated and externally facilitated learning with adolescents studying complex topics. If students lack metacognitive abilities, such as planning, setting goals, activating prior knowledge, and so on, ineffective strategies may lead to less effective use of online resources. The tutor provides individualized scaffolding to each student, that fades (although not completely away) during the course. Tutor-led scaffolding conditions helped students obtain a more complex mental model, as well as more declarative knowledge, and different metacognitive strategies were used by both groups. The study is fairly limited based on age, low prior knowledge, and relatively complex nature of the content.
Butler, R. (1998). Determinants of help seeking: Relations between perceived reasons for classroom help-avoidance and help-seeking behaviors in an experimental context. Journal of Educational Psychology 90(4).
This study dealt with help-avoidance. Students will seek less help for assessments identified as to test competence compared to assessments that are an opportunity to learn. This is because their reluctance is often due to perceptions that learning should be autonomous and that asking for help is evidence of incompetence. This can lead to students who do need help to seek covert help (cheating). Some students may ask for help in solving a problem because they simply want to finish, not necessarily learn anything. Students with ability-focused orientation asked fewer questions than those with autonomous or expedient orientations. Boys with ability-focused orientation cheated more often. One observation that wasn’t a specific purpose of the study was that teachers participating in the study created an environment more conducive to asking questions than is normally found in classrooms. Also limited due to young age of students.
Elen, J., Clarebout, G., Leonard, R., & Lowyck, J. (2007). Student-centred and teacher-centred learning environments: What students think. Teaching in Higher Education 12(1).
Balanced view includes sharing instructional tasks between teacher and student at different points in time. Transactional view is similar, in that student and teacher share responsibilities, but the teacher has the additional responsibility of monitoring and coaching the student through their part. Independent view claims that their roles are fundamentally different. The survey tended to confirm that student-centeredness and teacher-centeredness are not necessarily on the extreme ends of the continuum, so giving more power to students doesn’t necessarily mean the teacher’s job goes away completely. They can actually be mutually reinforcing.
Karabenick, S.A. (2011). Classroom and technology-supported help seeking: The need for converging research paradigms. Learning and Instruction 21(2).
Help seeking is more likely to occur in a context focused on learning and understanding than ones focused on ability or where public disclosure may be embarrassing. Differences exist between research in computer-mediated environments and traditional classrooms. When presenting new information, one study showed preferences for a more structured environment, but given the new methods for the teacher and new content for the students, the study’s results may not be applicable elsewhere. Motivational content may lead to additional help-seeking behaviors. Help-seeking is susceptible to social influence, even when not interacting with another person directly.
Lebak, K. & Tinsley, R. (2010). Can inquiry and reflection be contagious? Science teachers, students, and action research. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 21, 953-970.
Case studies of three science teachers who converted from a teacher-centered approach to an inquiry-based approach for student learning. Whether the teacher was unaware of a need for change, working with special needs students, or limited in the amount of time to conduct experiments, they all found students were more engaged by being hands-on. Peer reflection and feedback (of the teacher’s peers) was important in helping the teachers transform their classrooms. Both the students and teachers evolve dramatically during the conversion to inquiry learning.
Makitalo-Siegl, K. & Fischer, F. (2011). Stretching the limits in help-seeking research: Theoretical, methodological, and technological advances. Learning and Instruction 21(2).
As help seeking is a social behavior, some less socially oriented learners may avoid seeking help, so computer-based resources may reduce barriers that prevent face to face interactions. It is important to look at help seeking behaviors in a variety of environments, tied to various forms of instruction, with various types of resources available. In addition to studying the technology involved, it’s important to look at motivational and emotional dimensions.
Mercier, J. & Frederiksen, C. (2008). The structure of the help-seeking process in collaboratively using a computer coach in problem-based learning. Computers & Education 51(1).
There is little research on help-seeking in an online environment, as it is mostly in a social context like a classroom. Problems students may encounter in learning a new domain include not understanding the solution schema, not understanding the content, and making a mistake in the process. When problems occur, help can overcome the impasse. With a computer tutor, instead of having the expert monitor the student’s progress and needs, the student has to monitor his or her own progress and needs. Phases in the Mercier model: recognize impasse, diagnose impasse, establish specific need for help, find help, read and comprehend help, and evaluate help.
Peterson, S., & Palmer, L. (2011). Technology Confidence, Competence and Problem Solving Strategies: Differences within Online and Face-to-Face Formats. Journal of Distance Education, 25(2).
When students encounter a new problem, they often hesitate to participate because of a lack of confidence; however, research shows that that is the point where they need to engage with others, in order to solve a problem and move to more challenging tasks. Four problem solving strategies include: seeking instructor assistance, seeking peer assistance, further reading, and trial and error, all of which can be effective methods. One study showed that online students felt more comfortable asking for help than traditional students. In this study of university teacher education students, face to face students often waited for instructor assistance, while online students tended to do more trial and error or further reading, and the online students were more competent.
Roll, I., Aleven, V., McLaren, B.M., & Koedinger, K.R. (2011). Improving students’ help-seeking skills using metacognitive feedback in an intelligent tutoring system. Learning and Instruction 21(2).
A tutoring system must be able to detect metacognitive errors and encourage appropriate behavior. Help-seeking advice from the tutoring system can improve such behaviors within other domains of study.
Ryan, A.M., Pintrich, P.R., & Midgley, C. (2001). Avoiding seeking help in the classroom: Who and why? Educational Psychology Review 13(2).
The help seeking process starts when students realize there is a problem and then decide to seek help. Students may choose not to seek help because they believe they should not, that no one is competent to help, that it may take too long, or that it highlights one’s incompetence. Highly competent students are more likely to ask for help, because they don’t think others will think poorly of them for it; low achievers are more concerned about what others think.
Weerasinghe, T., Ramberg, R., & Hewagamage, K. (2012). Inquiry-Based Learning With or Without Facilitator Interactions. Journal of Distance Education, 26(2).
Inquiry-based learning promotes higher engagement and construction of knowledge in complex content areas. Teachers have an important role in encouraging participation in a community, but other types of interactions can be effective as well. The inquiry process includes four major phases: triggering event, exploration, integration, and resolution (see Gagne’s 9 Events). The study compared online course discussions with and without a teacher or TA present. They found that the dialogues in both cases students were able to attain high levels of interaction and inquiry and meaningful learning. If anything, when the facilitator was not present, students picked up the slack in terms of additional metacognitive activities.
Wood, D. (2009). Comments on learning with ICT: New perspectives on help seeking and information searching. Computers & Education 53(4).
Digital technologies have allowed for additional research into the area of help seeking, although there is little information so far that has been studied. It does seem clear that self-regulation is important, they need to be encouraged to use resources available to them, and students will be more successful as an independent learner if they paradoxically seek help when needed. While human facilitators are common and natural, it’s possible that automated recommender systems and knowledge bases may be as effective as those technologies become more robust.
Wood, D., Bruner, J.S., & Ross, G. (1976). The role of tutoring in problem solving. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 17(2).
Tutoring, where one member of a group knows how to do something others do not is a common feature of learning, especially with young children. Scaffolding, controlled by an adult, allows the child to solve a problem initially beyond his or her reach. One key that must exist is a recognition and understanding of a solution in order to be able to come up with one’s own solution. Younger children were as adept at recognizing appropriate solutions, although less adept at creating their own solutions. The tutor needs to understand both the task at hand and the characteristics of the tutee.