Avoiding Seeking Help in the Classroom: Who and Why?" appeared in the Educational Psychology Review in 2001. The article, by Allison Ryan, Paul Pintrich, and Carol Midgley, is mainly a literature review in the interrelated areas of achievement goal theory, social-goal orientation, and classroom dynamics and how these things impact the decision to seek academic help. The researchers investigated the causes of help avoidance, which has been found to increase during early adolescence (p.94). Therefore, the population in question is early adolescents, although the researchers to include references to studies that deal with other student populations. The article is well-written, well-organized, and clear. Help-seeking is the main focus of the paper, and is described by the authors as "an important self-regulatory strategy that contributes to student learning," (93). As help-seeking directly relates to actual student performance, the current research is important and can help educators understand and provide for the needs of their students to improve classroom and social performance. The findings of current research are interesting and insightful as to which particular factors most strongly contribute to help-seeking or help-avoidance, but the authors also note that future research would be helpful in a number of key areas that they address in the course of the paper.
1. Is the problem clearly stated?
The problem at hand is clearly stated in this paper. For example, on page 93, the authors state, "inevitably, students encounter ambiguity or difficulty in their schoolwork and need assistance." In other words, all students will, at some point, feel perplexed or confused in class. Whether or not the student decides to seek assistance from the teacher or from his or her classmates is the focus of this paper, as are the reasons for the choice the student eventually makes. Because help-seeking is an "adaptive" behavior and one which can and does usually lead to improved academic performance, the subject matter is presented as a viable research problem.
Furthermore, on page 95, the authors go over the two main stages of the help-seeking process to clarify the problem raised in the article. First, the student feels perplexed about something on an exam, class discussion or any other academic activity. The next, and most critical step, is the point at which the student must decide whether or not to seek help.
2. Does the problem have a theoretical rationale, convincing or not, and why?
Ryan, et al. clarify the theoretical rationale at several points in the article, proving that the problem deserves investigation. For instance, on page 93, the authors state, "Help seeking is an important self-regulatory strategy that contributes to student learning." This statement clarifies the theoretical rationale as being ultimately in the students' best interest. If the objective of educational research is to improve students' performance in class as well as their psychological well-being, morale, and socio-cognitive skills, then it is important to devote research time and energy in this area of resarch.
Furthermore, the authors narrow down their hypothesis to focus on specific motivational and social factors that may contribute to their seeking or not seeking help. "The apparent contradiction between young adolescents' increasing cognitive capabilities and their help-seeking behavior highlights the importance of considering the motivational and social factors that influence help seeking in the classroom," (94).
The authors also explicitly state, "We are interested in this avoidance behavior because when students don't garner help when it is needed, they put themselves at a disadvantage for learning and performance," (94). Therefore, the problem of students not seeking help has a theoretical rationale, and that rationale is convincing because it directly impacts students' scholastic performance.
3. How significant is the problem?
Not only does the problem have a theoretical rationale, but the problem of students not seeking help is significant because of the particular circumstances that accompany adolescence. While the purpose of the current research is not to delve into the nature of adolescent psychology or sociology, the authors do explain why adolescents are particularly susceptible to the kinds of motivational behaviors that would impact their decision to seek or not seek help. Because teens are especially concerned about what others think, their motivation to seek help may be based on social as well as academic competence concerns. The authors illustrate how help seeking and help avoidance are problems particularly experienced by adolescent students.
Moreover, help-avoidance is most commonly practiced by the students who most need to seek help,…