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Computers & Education 126 (2018) 115–128

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Computers & Education


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/compedu

A negotiation-based adaptive learning system for regulating help-


T
seeking behaviors
Chih-Yueh Choua, K. Robert Laia,∗, Po-Yao Chaob, Shu-Fen Tsengc, Ting-Yi Liaoa
a
Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Yuan Ze University, Taiwan, ROC
b
Department of Information Communication, Yuan Ze University, Taiwan, ROC
c
Department of Information Management, Yuan Ze University, Taiwan, ROC

A R T IC LE I N F O ABS TRA CT

Keywords: Help-seeking is an important aspect of self-regulated learning (SRL), but students may have in-
Evaluation of CAL systems effective help-seeking behaviors. For example, some students are unaware of their need to seek
Intelligent tutoring systems help, and some often seek executive help merely to obtain the correct answer. This study pro-
Interactive learning environments poses a negotiation-based adaptive learning system with a help-seeking negotiation mechanism
to form the co-regulation of help-seeking between a student and the system. The system provides
external feedback on SRL as scaffolding for help-seeking by prompting students to seek help or
even actively offering help when they need it and reminding students not to seek too much help.
An experiment was conducted with student participants divided into control and experimental
groups. Students in the control group were allowed to seek help at will, whereas the help-seeking
of students in the experimental group was regulated by the system. The results indicated that the
students in the experimental group had better help-seeking behaviors (a higher ratio of steps
solved by themselves and a lower ratio of steps solved with executive help) than the students in
the control group.

1. Introduction

Help-seeking is an important meta-cognitive process, skill, and strategy in self-regulated learning (SRL) (Karabenick & Dembo,
2011; Puustinen, 1998). Help-seeking is particularly important for students in interactive learning environments because such en-
vironments often offer on-demand help (Aleven, Stahl, Schworm, Fischer, & Wallace, 2003, 2016). Students have been found to have
different help-seeking tendencies, independent, avoidant, executive, and instrumental, based on the type of help sought and their
goal (Gall, 1985; Karabenick, 2003; Ryan & Shin, 2011; Ryan, Patrick, & Shim, 2005; White & Bembenutty, 2013). Help is a kind of
scaffolding that facilitates students' ability to solve current problems (Chou & Chan, 2016); thus, help-seeking studies focus on
whether students use the scaffolding of help to solve problems as well as whether students learn from help and become capable of
solving problems without it. Studies have found that avoidant and executive help-seeking are ineffective and instrumental help-
seeking is effective in learning (Karabenick, 2003; Puustinen, 1998; Ryan & Shin, 2011; White & Bembenutty, 2013).
Interactive learning environments are designed to provide various kinds of help with different help strategies, and the kinds and
strategies of help may influence students' help-seeking tendencies and learning performance (Aleven et al., 2003; Dutke & Reimer,
2000). Although researchers have proposed designs and meta-cognitive feedback to promote better help-seeking behaviors and
performance in students (Aleven, Mclaren, Roll, & Koedinger, 2006, 2016; Roll, Aleven, McLaren, & Koedinger, 2007, 2011), room


Corresponding author.
E-mail address: krlai@saturn.yzu.edu.tw (K.R. Lai).

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2018.07.010
Received 21 August 2017; Received in revised form 3 July 2018; Accepted 8 July 2018
Available online 09 July 2018
0360-1315/ © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
C.-Y. Chou et al. Computers & Education 126 (2018) 115–128

remains to explore different help designs and the relationship among them, students' help-seeking tendencies, and students' per-
formance. For example, one study found that a high frequency of help hints, such as bottom-out hints (the last hint in the hint
sequence, which usually presents the answer with an elaborated explanation), correlated negatively with learning (Mathews,
Mitrović, & Thomson, 2008), whereas another study found that a high frequency of bottom-out hints correlated positively with
learning performance for students who regarded bottom-out hints as self-explaining worked-out examples (Shih, Koedinger, &
Scheines, 2011). A study found that worked-out examples are more effective than tutored problem-solving with hints (McLaren, van
Gog, Ganoe, Karabinos, & Yaron, 2016), and another study revealed that adding worked-out examples to tutored problem-solving is
more effective than using only worked-out examples (Salden, Koedinger, Renkl, Aleven, & McLaren, 2010). Worked-out examples
provide students with instructional models for the application of knowledge to solve problems, whereas tutored problem-solving
activities enable students to reflect on and practice what they have learned from the worked-out examples under the assistance of
tutoring. Thus, worked-out examples with tutored problem-solving activities are effective for learning. This study proposes an
adaptive learning system to enable students to read instructional worked-out examples and then solve similar problems under tu-
toring by adaptive hints. To successfully solve similar problems, students must learn from instructional worked-out examples and
transfer the learned knowledge to solve similar problems (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). However, students may encounter
difficulty in learning instructional worked-out examples or be unable to transfer the learned knowledge to solve similar problems.
When students are aware of their inability to solve similar problems, they may seek help from the system by re-reading instructional
worked-out examples to master the examples or asking for adaptive hints to help them to transfer the learned knowledge. This study
explores the following research questions: 1) Do students reveal different help-seeking tendencies in an interactive learning environment
that provides instructional worked-out examples and adaptive hints? 2) Do students with different help-seeking tendencies have different
levels of learning performance in an interactive learning environment that provides instructional worked-out examples and adaptive
hints?
Regarding the first research question, we hypothesized that students would reveal different help-seeking tendencies in an in-
teractive learning environment that provides instructional worked-out examples and adaptive hints (hypothesis H1). Regarding the
second research question, we hypothesized that students with different help-seeking tendencies would have different levels of
learning performance in an interactive learning environment that provides instructional worked-out examples and adaptive hints
(hypothesis H2). Hypotheses H1 and H2 assume that some students have imperfect help-seeking behaviors, leading to poor learning
performances. Therefore, there is a need to regulate students' imperfect help-seeking behaviors and thereby improve students'
learning performances.
External feedback is presumed to influence students' knowledge and belief domains, SRL processes, and performances (Butler &
Winne, 1995). External feedback includes domain-level and SRL-level feedback (Azevedo, 2005; Lee, Lim, & Grabowski, 2010;
Leelawong & Biswas, 2008; Roll, Wiese, Long, Aleven, & Koedinger, 2014). Domain-level feedback addresses students' tasks, solu-
tions, and understanding of domain knowledge. SRL-level feedback contains SRL prompts, which promote students to use SRL
strategies, and meta-cognitive SRL feedback on students' SRL behaviors. The external feedback is provided by external agents, such as
teachers, peers, or computers, to facilitate students' SRL (Azevedo, Greence, & Moos, 2007; Azevedo, Moos, Greene, Winters, &
Cromley, 2008; Azevedo et al., 2016; Van den Boom, Paas, & Van Merriënboer, 2007). External agents may be dominantly in charge
of the regulation of key elements in the learning process and direct students to apply prescribed SRL strategies or may passively
provide external feedback when students request assistance. In addition, some researchers have proposed a co-regulation approach to
enable students to take and maintain ownership of their learning processes when they still need the support of external feedback from
external agents (Hadwin, Järvelä, & Miller, 2011; Roll et al., 2014). Co-regulation is a mixed-initiative regulation process in which a
student negotiates with an external agent to reach a joint negotiated regulation. For instance, external agents may prompt students to
apply specific SRL strategies, but the final choice is left to the students. Additionally, students can take the initiative to request
external feedback and assistance from external agents for application of specific SRL strategies. Co-regulation can be applied as
scaffolding to assist students in SRL.
Researchers have developed mechanisms to improve students' help-seeking behaviors and performances, such as emphasizing
self-improvement as a classroom goal structure (SRL prompts) (Ryan, Gheen, & Midgley, 1998), providing a highly structured
classroom script (SRL prompts) (Mäkitalo-Siegl, Kohnle, & Fischer, 2011), and offering meta-cognitive feedback (Aleven et al., 2006;
Roll, Aleven, McLaren, & Koedinger, 2011). This study adopts the co-regulation approach to propose a negotiation-based adaptation
of help-seeking to regulate students' help-seeking behaviors. A negotiation-based adaptive learning system (NALS) was developed to
enable students to negotiate with the system to reach an agreement on help-seeking. The system aims to regulate students' help-
seeking behaviors by prompting them to seek help or even actively offering help when it detects that students are encountering
difficulties and not seeking help and by reminding them not to seek too much help when it detects that they are doing so excessively.
This study compares two adaptive learning systems with and without negotiation-based adaptation of help-seeking to investigate the
following research questions: 3) Does the negotiation of help-seeking promote better help-seeking behaviors in students? 4) Does the ne-
gotiation of help-seeking help students learn better?
Regarding the third research question, we hypothesized that the negotiation of help-seeking would promote better help-seeking
behaviors in students (hypothesis H3). Regarding the fourth research question, we hypothesized that the negotiation of help-seeking
would facilitate improvement in students' learning performances (hypothesis H4). Hypotheses H3 and H4 assume that the negotiation
of help-seeking gives rise to co-regulation between the student and the system as scaffolding for help-seeking and thereby leads to
improved help-seeking behaviors and learning performances by the students.
The rest of the paper is organized as follows. The second section presents background of help-seeking and NALS, the third section
describes the NALS for regulating help-seeking behaviors, and the fourth section reports experimental results. Finally, a conclusion is

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made.

2. Background

2.1. Help-seeking

Help-seeking is an important meta-cognitive process, skill, and strategy in SRL (Karabenick & Dembo, 2011; Puustinen, 1998).
The process includes many meta-cognitive sub-processes, such as being aware of a problem or difficulty, determining the need for
help, deciding to seek help, finding potential helper(s), identifying the type of help sought, and establishing the purpose or goal of
seeking help (Gall, 1985; Karabenick, 2011). Students require the skill of appropriately performing the help-seeking process to seek
help when needed. When students are aware that they are incapable of task completion or understanding, they can seek the needed
help as an SRL strategy. However, students may be unaware that they have encountered problems or difficulties and thus may not
seek help. Help-seeking is particularly important for students to learn in interactive learning environments because such environ-
ments often offer on-demand help (Aleven et al., 2003, 2016). Help is offered by different types of hints and feedback based on
different instructional goals, such as instructional explanations with worked-out examples, verification feedback to indicate whether
a step or solution is correct, error-specific feedback for correcting errors, try-again feedback, elaborated feedback and next-step hints
about the correct answers, and answers with explanations (usually bottom-out hints) (Chou, Huang, & Lin, 2011; Dempsey, Driscoll,
& Swindell, 1993; Mory, 2004; VanLehn, 2006). Interactive learning environments often progressively offer feedback ranging from
minimal information to more extensive information in an attempt to balance providing and withholding information or assistance
and thus to achieve optimal student learning (Koedinger & Aleven, 2007).
However, students may have ineffective help-seeking behaviors. Studies have found that they have different tendencies of help-
seeking behaviors: independent, avoidant, executive, and instrumental (Gall, 1985; Karabenick, 2003; Ryan & Shin, 2011; Ryan et al.,
2005; White & Bembenutty, 2013). These tendencies are classified according to the type of help sought and students' help-seeking
goals. Students' help-seeking may be learning-oriented to gain knowledge or performance-oriented to obtain good grades or be
perceived as better than others (Aleven et al., 2003). Two types of help are categorized: executive help (i.e., hints and feedback with
answers) and instrumental help (i.e., hints and feedback without answers) (Gall, 1985). Independent and avoidant help-seekers tend
to solve problems by themselves, but they have different reasons. Independent help-seekers consider themselves capable of solving
problems alone and thus seldom seek help. However, some independent help-seekers may lack the ability to be aware of their
problems or may overestimate their ability. Avoidant help-seekers avoid seeking help even when they encounter problems because
they may regard help-seeking as a defeat, a threat, or shameful (Ryan et al., 1998; Ryan et al., 2005; Ryan, Pintrich, & Midgley,
2001). Executive help-seekers tend to seek executive help often. These students' goal in seeking help may be merely to obtain the
correct answer, complete tasks, or appear to perform well; therefore, they overuse on-demand help (Arbreton, 1998; Baker et al.,
2008; Newman & Schwager, 1995). Instrumental help-seekers appropriately seek the help needed to learn, not merely to obtain the
correct answer (Arbreton, 1998; Newman, 2002; White & Bembenutty, 2013). They often seek instrumental help, and their goals in
seeking help are to learn and to master tasks (Newman & Schwager, 1995). Studies have found that the quality of students' help-
seeking behaviors correlates with their learning performance; that is, instrumental help-seeking is effective and avoidant and ex-
ecutive help-seeking are ineffective in learning (Karabenick, 2003; Puustinen, 1998; Ryan & Shin, 2011; White & Bembenutty, 2013).
Studies found some impact factors that affect help-seeking behaviors and performance, such as prior knowledge and context. Prior
knowledge has a positive relationship with help-seeking behaviors and performance (Aleven et al., 2003; Ryan & Shin, 2011). The
reason may be that students with higher prior knowledge are better able to judge their need for help. Students may reveal different
help-seeking tendencies in different context (Aleven et al., 2003; Karabenick & Dembo, 2011). They may seek different kinds of help,
such as instructional worked-out examples or hints, from different help resources, such as peers, teachers, parents, systems, text-
books, or websites. In the classroom, students may seek help from peers or teachers, but studies in the classroom context found that
some students are avoidant help-seekers who regard help-seeking from peers or teachers as a defeat, a threat, or shameful
(Karabenick, 2003). A study uncovered that online anonymous help-seeking environments nullify students' perception of help-
seeking as a threat (Puustinen, Bernicot, & Bert-Erboul, 2011). Similarly, in interactive learning environments, students may feel less
threatened in seeking help from systems than in seeking help from peers or teachers in the classroom. The reason that students seldom
seek help from systems may be that they consider themselves capable of solving problems. Such students are classified as in-
dependent, not avoidant, help-seekers. On the other hand, students in interactive learning environments may tend to overuse help
(Baker et al., 2008). Some students were classified as executive help-seekers who tend to seek executive help merely to obtain the
correct solution and complete tasks without learning. However, interactive learning environments may provide different kinds of
help and encourage different help-seeking tendencies and levels of performance (Aleven et al., 2003; Karabenick & Dembo, 2011).
For example, Cognitive Tutor is an intelligent tutoring system that provides two kinds of help: multi-level context-sensitive hints
and a glossary (Aleven, Roll, McLaren, & Koedinger, 2016, 2006; Roll et al., 2011). Cognitive Tutor diagnoses whether students have
help-seeking bugs, such as help abuse or help avoidance, and includes a help tutor to provide meta-cognitive feedback, which has
been proved to improve students' help-seeking behaviors. Dutke and Reimer (2000) proposed two kinds of help: operative help lists
action steps to achieve a goal, while function-oriented help explains how a function works. They found that operative help is more
effective in helping students solve problems, while function-oriented help is more effective in transferring tasks. This study proposes
an adaptive learning system to enable students to read instructional worked-out examples and solve problems under tutoring by
adaptive hints. This study also proposes a negotiation mechanism of help-seeking between students and the system to regulate
students' help-seeking behaviors.

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2.2. Negotiation-based adaptive learning system (NALS)

Studies have found that students have individual differences that have different impacts on learning outcomes (Cassidy, 2012;
Jonassen & Grabowski, 1993). Individual instruction, which provides students with individualized learning support, has proved to be
effective (Bloom, 1984), and many interactive learning environments are designed to provide individual instruction (Fletcher, 2003).
In general, interactive learning environments adopt two adaptation approaches to provide students with individual learning support,
i.e., adaptability and adaptivity (Frias-Martinez, Chen, & Liu, 2009). Adaptability indicates that the system provides an adaptable
framework and that the students propose/initiate/control adaptation (i.e., self-regulation) (Carolan, Hutchins, Wickens, & Cumming,
2014; DeRouin, Fritzsche, & Salas, 2005; Kay, 2001; Ross, Morrison & O'Dell, 1989). For instance, many adaptive learning systems
enable students to seek help from the system when the students decide that they need help. Adaptability gives students control of and
responsibility for their learning; however, students with low self-regulative skills often make poor choices, which lead to poor
learning performances (Clark & Mayer, 2008; Scheiter & Gerjets, 2007; Vandewaetere & Clarebout, 2011; Winne, 2011; Young,
1996). Adaptivity indicates that the system proposes/initiates/controls adaptation by diagnosing students and providing them with
adaptive learning support, such as tools, hints, tutoring, or peer assistance (i.e., external regulation) (Azevedo et al., 2016;
Brusilovsky & Millan, 2007, pp. 3–53; Kenny & Pahl, 2009; Magoulas, Papanikolaou, & Grigoriadou, 2003; Roll et al., 2014; Wenger,
1987; Woolf, 2008). For example, intelligent tutoring systems often tutor students to find and correct errors detected by the systems.
However, adaptivity involves complex artificial intelligence techniques and deprives students of self-regulation (Chrysafiadi &
Virvou, 2013; Desmarais & Baker, 2012; Holt, Dubs, Jones, & Greer, 1994). Some studies have tried to combine adaptability and
adaptivity to allow both students and the system to control the adaptation (Bunt, Conati, & McGrenere, 2007; Corbalan, Kester, & van
Merriënboer, 2009; Krogsaeter, Oppermann, & Thomas, 1994). However, students may come into conflict with the system in con-
trolling the adaptation. For example, some students may choose to study the next topic even though they have a poor performance for
the current topic; in this case, the system suggests that they re-study the current topic (Chou, Lai, Chao, Lan, & Chen, 2015).
Negotiation-based adaptation was proposed to enable students to negotiate with the system to reach an agreement on adaptation
(Chou et al., 2015). In other words, negotiation-based adaptation is a mixed-initiative adaptation to enable co-regulation between the
student and the system (Hadwin et al., 2011; Roll et al., 2014).
A negotiation between the system and students has been shown to improve students' meta-cognition. For example, a negotiation
of peer assessment facilitates the better accuracy of the peer assessment and learning performance (Lan, Graf, Lai, & Kinshuk, 2011); a
negotiation of self-assessment improves the accuracy of the self-assessment (Chou et al., 2015; Kerly & Bull, 2008); and a negotiation
of learning content choices promotes the better regulation of the learning content choices (Chou et al., 2015). This study proposes a
negotiation mechanism of help-seeking to regulate students' help-seeking behaviors.

3. An NALS for regulating help-seeking behaviors

An NALS was implemented to enable students to solve problems and seek help from the system. The NALS diagnoses students'
solutions and provides adaptive domain-level feedback to help them. The NALS also contains negotiation mechanisms for help-
seeking as scaffolding by offering SRL prompts to promote students to seek help when they need help and by providing meta-
cognitive SRL feedback on students' imperfect help-seeking behaviors.

3.1. Problem-solving and help-seeking interface

The NALS provides an interface to enable students to solve program output prediction problems (observing a program and
predicting its output) and to seek help from the system (Fig. 1). For example, the output of the program in Fig. 1 has five lines; thus,
students must correctly solve the problem with a five-line output. The problem can be regarded as having a five-step solution, with
each one-line output representing one step. The NALS has a “Next line” button for students to enter the next line of output and a
“Previous line” button for them to go back to edit the previous line. The NALS provides two kinds of help: instructional worked-out
examples and adaptive hints. It has an “Examples” button to allow students to read instructional worked-out examples (example
programs with instructional explanations of the program output). The problem programs are similar to the example programs. The
instructional worked-out examples are provided before students solve the problems, and students can review the instructional
worked-out examples when solving the problems. The NALS has a “Hints” button to enable them to seek help from the system. Hints
are displayed in a textbox.
The worked-out examples provided by the NALS are programs with instructional explanations, including the meaning of each
program code, execution flow, change processes of variable values, and execution output. These worked-out examples provide
students with instructional models of how programs work to finish assigned tasks. Program output prediction problems ask students
to predict the output of programs. These problems are used to enable students to reflect and apply what they have learned from
worked-out examples. Students need to understand the meaning of each program code and own the program-tracing ability to
correctly predict the output (Chou & Sun, 2013). However, students may encounter difficulties in solving problems. The NALS
diagnoses students' solutions and provides adaptive hints to help them solve problems (see Table 1). Students' solutions can be
classified into three types: correct solutions, incomplete solutions, or incorrect solutions. The NALS provides verification feedback to
inform the types of students' solutions (correct, incomplete, or incorrect solutions). Correct solutions successfully solve the problem.
The NALS confirms correct solutions by saying, e.g., “Congratulations! You solved the problem.” Incomplete solutions indicate
unfinished solutions without errors. The NALS provides 3 levels of hints for incomplete solutions to promote students to finish their

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Fig. 1. The NALS interface.

Table 1
Adaptive hints for different solution conditions.
Correct Incomplete Incorrect

Level 1 Verification Verification Verification


Level 2 – Instruction-based hint Error-indicting hint
Level 3 – The answer with elaborated explanation Instruction-based hint
Level 4 – – The answer with elaborated explanation

solutions. The level 1 hints inform students that the solutions are incomplete and have no errors (verification). However, students
may be stuck for an answer. The level 2 hints are instructional-based hints to prompt the next line of output, such as “The third-line
output is to output the j value in the inner loop where the i value in the outer loop is 3.” The instructional-based hints instruct
students how to solve the problem without informing the answer. The level 3 hints are answers with elaborated explanations to show
and explain the correct output of the next line, such as “The third-line output is to output the j value from 3 to 7 in the inner loop
where the i value in the outer loop is 3; that is, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.” The level 1 and 2 hints are classified as instrumental help, and the level 3
hints are classified as executive help.
Incorrect solutions have errors, and some may have multiple errors. The NALS provides 4 levels of hints for incorrect solutions. It
detects the first error and provides hints for correcting it. The level l hints inform students of incorrect solutions to enable them to
reflect on their solutions, saying, e.g., “Your solution is incorrect.” The level 2 hints indicate the location of the errors to enable
students to reflect on the erroneous part, saying, e.g., “Your solution is incorrect in the second line of output.” However, students may
be unable to find their errors. The level 3 hints are instructional-based hints to prompt the correct output of the line in which the error
is located. The level 3 hints for incorrect solutions are identical to the level 2 hints for incomplete solutions. The level 4 hints are
answers with elaborated explanations to show and explain the correct output of the line where the error is located. The level 4 hints
for incorrect solutions are identical to the level 3 hints for incomplete solutions. The level 1, 2, and 3 hints of incorrect solutions are
classified as instrumental help, and the level 4 hints are classified as executive help.

3.2. Negotiation mechanisms

The NALS contains negotiation mechanisms to negotiate with students on help-seeking (Fig. 2). The negotiation mechanisms are
designed to form a mixed-initiative co-regulation of students' help-seeking behaviors. When students solve problems, they also self-
assess whether they are encountering difficulties and whether they need help. If students self-assess that they need help, they can seek
help from the system by clicking the “Hints” button. The system may agree to provide help or disagree and reject the request. If
students receive help and then require further help, they can click the “Hints” button again. On the other hand, the system may
propose providing help when it considers that a student may need it. It displays a pop-up message asking, “Do you need help?”
Students can agree or disagree.

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Fig. 2. Negotiation process for help-seeking with the NALS.

The system contains a student model and a pedagogy module to assess students' solutions and determine whether they need help.
If the system and the student reach an agreement that the student needs help, the system will provide hints. If the system and the
student do not reach an agreement, the system contains a conflict resolution and concession strategy to determine whether to adopt
its assessment or the student's assessment. Table 2 lists the heuristic rules of the system assessment, conflict resolution and concession
strategies adopted in this study. These rules were designed to regulate students' imperfect help-seeking behaviors, such as seeking too
much help, being unaware of their need for help, or avoiding seeking help. First, students may ask for excessive executive help,
particularly among executive help-seekers. Rule #1 is set to remind students not to ask for too much help when they ask for executive
help in one step and then ask for help in the next step. The system assesses that a student has asked for too much help, rejects the help
request, and disables the “Hints” button for 20 s, saying, “You asked for executive help in the previous step. You can try to solve the
problem by yourself. If you still need help, you can ask for help after 20 s” Second, students may encounter difficulties and need help,
but they may not be aware of the difficulties. Rules #2 and #3 are designed to prompt them to seek help when the system assesses
that they have difficulty. When students have incorrect solutions with errors over two steps or are idle for 40 s, the system considers
that they have difficulty and need help; it proposes providing help by showing a pop-up message that reads, “Do you need help?” with
a choice of two answer buttons, “Yes” and “No.” Third, students may become stuck and still reject the system's help proposal,
particularly among avoidant help-seekers. Rule #4 forces help on students who continue to reject it and remain stuck. When students
reject the system's help proposal twice and still have incorrect solutions or are idle, the system considers that they are stuck and
definitely need help. The system will display “I think you need help” and then provide the help. Fourth, students are sometimes in a
borderline situation in which they may solve the problem by themselves or need help to find and correct errors or for the next step.
When students have incomplete solutions or incorrect solutions with errors within one step, the system respects their help request
(Rules #5 and #6). If students seek help, the system will accept the request. Otherwise, the system will accept that they are not

Table 2
Heuristic rules of system assessment, conflict resolution and concession strategy of the NALS.
Rule Brief Situation System-assessment Conflict resolution & concession

#1 Remind not to seek too Students asked for executive help in the previous Students ask for excessive help Reject students' help request and
much help step and are asking for help in the current step disable “Hints” button for 20 s
#2 Prompt to seek help Incorrect solution with errors over two steps Students have difficulty and need Propose to provide hints and accept
(errors) help students' choices
#3 Prompt to seek help Idle for 40 s Students have difficulty and need Propose to provide hints and accept
(idle) help students' choices
#4 Force help Students reject the system's help proposal twice Students are stuck and definitely Force hints
and still have difficulty need help
#5 Respect students' help Incomplete solution Students do not need help or may Accept students' help request
request need help for the next step
#6 Respect students' help Incorrect solution with errors within one step Students may need help to find and Accept students' help request
request correct errors

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currently seeking help. In summary, rules #2 and #3 are SRL prompts to promote students to seek help when needed. Rules #1 and
#4 provide SRL feedback on student's imperfect help-seeking behaviors.

4. Experiment

4.1. Method

An experiment was conducted with 39 college undergraduate students who were enrolled in a computer programming course. The
participants were randomly allotted to two groups: the experimental group and the control group. The experimental group had 19
students, and the control group had 20 students. First, before the experiment, students were instructed in basic programming
knowledge and skills and basic concepts of loops and arrays. The basic programming knowledge and skills included variables, logical
operations, and decision control (if/else). Second, the participants were asked to take a pre-test in the form of a pencil-and-paper test
to evaluate their basic programming knowledge and skills. The pre-test contained four programs and twenty program output pre-
diction problems with different inputs. Each problem was worth 5 points. The pre-test demonstrated an acceptable level of internal
consistency and reliability as measured by a Cronbach's alpha of 0.66. Third, a 10-min instruction video with four example programs
was displayed to the participants. Two of the example programs concerned nested loops, and the other two applied loops to assess and
operate arrays. The video explained these example programs and the related program outputs. Fourth, the participants were asked to
practice predicting the outputs of four exercise programs within 25 min using the learning system. These four exercise programs were
similar to the four example programs in the instruction video. Each exercise program's output had five lines. Each exercise program
represented an output prediction problem, and each problem had five steps to predict the five-line outputs. Students in the control
group used a student-controlled adaptive learning system. The system allowed them to seek help from it at will. Students in the
experimental group used an NALS; that is, they negotiated with the system in help-seeking. Finally, a post-test was conducted to ask
students to predict the outputs of four evaluative programs. These evaluative programs were similar to the example and exercise
programs. Each program had a five-line output, and each line had five output values. Each output value was worth one point. The
post-test demonstrated a high level of internal consistency and reliability as measured by a Cronbach's alpha of 0.75.
Certain indicators were assessed to indicate students' prior knowledge mastery, learning performance, and problem-solving and
help-seeking behaviors. The pre-test evaluated students' prior knowledge mastery, and the post-test evaluated their learning per-
formance. Students' problem-solving attempts (PSA) were counted to obtain a total of the steps that they were taking in their attempts
to solve the problems, whether or not they were correct. The solved steps (SS, maximum = 20) were counted to reveal their per-
formance with the scaffolding of examples and hints. The time of reading examples (TRE, seconds) was measured to uncover the
degree to which students sought help through reading instructional worked-out examples. Students might solve steps by themselves
without requesting hints, with instrumental help, or with executive help. The ratio of steps solved by themselves (RST), the ratio of
steps solved with instrumental help (RSI), and the ratio of steps solved with executive help (RSE) among all the solved steps were
calculated to indicate students' problem-solving and help-seeking behaviors.

4.2. Basic analytic results

4.2.1. Research question #1: Do students reveal different help-seeking tendencies in an interactive learning environment that provides
instructional worked-out examples and adaptive hints?
Students' data (Table 3), after removing group information, were provided to two researchers for classifying the help-seeking
tendencies of executive, instrumental, independent, and avoidant help-seekers. They observed and discussed the data to propose two
classification principles: First, students with high RSE (greater than or equal to 38%) were classified as executive help-seekers. The
researchers chose 38% as the RSE threshold value because two students' RSE was exactly 38% and the other students' RSE was either
greater than or much lower than 38%. Second, among the remainder of the students, those with high TRE (greater than or equal to
120 s) or high RSI (greater than or equal to 25%) were classified as instrumental help-seekers. Other students were classified as
independent help-seekers. According to the principles, 15, 11, and 13 students were classified as executive, instrumental, and in-
dependent help-seekers, respectively (Table 3). Among the 11 instrumental help-seekers, nine were classified due to high TRE, while
two were classified due to high RSI. No avoidant help-seekers were classified because students either successfully solved problems by
themselves or sought help by re-reading worked-out examples or asking for adaptive hints.

Table 3
Problem-solving and help-seeking behaviors of different help-seekers (M/SD).
PSA SS TRE RST RSI RSE

Total (N = 39) 24.03/10.15 12.59/3.98 158.77/232.70 0.64/0.25 0.09/0.08 0.27/0.27


1: Executive (N = 15) 28.67/9.85 12.93/3.69 131.60/134.25 0.39/0.17 0.06/0.08 0.55/0.18
2: Instrumental (N = 11) 14.45/6.96 9.82/3.76 361.45/328.33 0.81/0.11 0.13/0.11 0.06/0.08
3: Independent (N = 13) 26.77/7.33 14.54/3.36 18.62/27.56 0.80/0.12 0.10/0.05 0.10/0.10

1>2 1>2 2>1 2>1 1>2


3>2 3>2 2>3 3>1 1>3

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Table 4
Comparison of problem-solving and help-seeking behaviors of different help-seekers.
PSA SS TRE RST RSI RSE

Executive High High Low Low – High


Instrumental Low Low High High – Low
Independent High High Low High – Low

ANOVA analyses were conducted to evaluate whether help-seeking differences existed among the different types of help-seekers.
The results showed that there were significant differences in PSA [F(2, 36) = 10.342, p < 0.001], TRE [F(2, 36) = 9.653,
p < 0.001], SS [F(2, 36) = 5.219, p < 0.05], RST [F(2, 36) = 41.840, p < 0.001], and RSE [F(2, 36) = 55.993, p < 0.001].
Instrumental help-seekers seemed to have better RSI, but the difference did not reach significance. The results of LSD pairwise
analyses revealed that instrumental seekers had less PSA and SS and more TRE than executive and independent help-seekers, and
executive help-seekers had less RST and more RSE than instrumental and independent help-seekers. In sum, executive help-seekers
had high PSA, SS, and RSE and low TRE and RST; instrumental help-seekers had high TRE and RST and low PSA, SS, and RSE; and
independent help-seekers had high PSA, SS, and RST and low TRE and RSE (Table 4). The results revealed that these problem-solving
and help-seeking indicators can be applied to classify students' help-seeking tendencies. The results also confirmed hypothesis H1:
students had different help-seeking tendencies in interactive learning environments.

4.2.2. Research question #2: Do students with different help-seeking tendencies have different levels of learning performance in an
interactive learning environment that provides instructional worked-out examples and adaptive hints?
The results of an ANOVA analysis of the pre-test showed that there were significant differences in pre-test scores among students
in the three clusters [F(2, 36) = 6.042, p < 0.01]. The results of pairwise analysis revealed that independent help-seekers
(M = 64.23, SD = 11.15) had higher pre-test scores than instrumental (M = 53.18, SD = 17.07) and executive (M = 45.33,
SD = 14.70) help-seekers. Furthermore, an ANCOVA analysis, which adopted the pre-test score as a covariance, was conducted to
evaluate whether the adjusted group post-test means differed significantly from each other after adjusting for differences in the
covariate. The results of the ANCOVA analysis revealed that there were significant differences among students in the three clusters [F
(2, 35) = 3.391, p < 0.05]. The results of pairwise analysis showed that executive help-seekers (M = 52.20, SD = 30.52, adjusted
value = 52.89) had lower post-test scores than instrumental (M = 74.82, SD = 22.28, adjusted value = 75.24) and independent
(M = 86.00, SD = 20.24, adjusted value = 77.20) help-seekers. The results confirmed hypothesis H2: students with different help-
seeking tendencies had different levels of learning performances in interactive learning environments. Therefore, there is a need to
regulate students' ineffective help-seeking behaviors.

4.2.3. Research question #3: Does the negotiation of help-seeking promote better help-seeking behaviors in students?
The pre-test scores of the control group and experimental group were compared by a t-test analysis. The results revealed that there
was no significant difference between the pre-test scores of the two groups (control: M = 53.75, SD = 15.12; experimental:
M = 53.95, SD = 17.61). This result indicated that students in these two groups had similar prior knowledge mastery; thus, t-test
analyses were applied to evaluate whether students in the two groups had different help-seeking behaviors and performance.
Table 5 lists the statistics for the problem-solving and help-seeking behaviors of the two groups. The results of a t-test analysis of
PSA showed that students in the experimental group made more PSA than students in the control group (27 steps vs. 21 steps,
t = −1.874, p = 0.069). The result of t-test analyses of SS and TRE showed that there was no significant difference between these two
groups. However, individual differences existed in problem-solving. Some students solved all steps, while some students solved few
steps. The results of the t-test analyses showed that students in the experimental group had a higher RST (72% vs. 57%, t = −2.052,
p < 0.05) and a lower RSE (19% vs. 34%, t = 1.879, p = 0.070) than students in the control group. The results implied that the
negotiation of help-seeking promoted better help-seeking behaviors (more PSA, higher RST, and lower RSE) in students. Hypothesis
H3 is confirmed.
Table 6 lists the distributions of different types of help-seekers in the two groups. Although the experimental group seemed to
have a lower percentage of executive help-seekers and a higher percentage of independent help-seekers than the control group, the
result of a chi-square test did not reveal significantly different distributions of help-seekers in the two groups.

4.2.4. Research question #4: Does the negotiation of help-seeking help students learn better?
Although students in the experimental group seemed to have better post-test scores (M = 72.21, SD = 27.38) than students in the
control group (M = 67.60, SD = 30.40), the results of a t-test analysis showed that there was no significant difference between the

Table 5
Problem-solving and help-seeking behaviors of the two groups (M/SD).
PSA SS TRE RST RSI RSE

Control 21.15/8.15 13.10/4.06 178.75/216.42 0.57/0.29 0.09/0.09 0.34/0.31


Experimental 27.05/11.34 12.05/3.94 137.74/252.92 0.72/0.16 0.09/007 0.19/0.18

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Table 6
Distribution of different help-seekers in two groups.
Executive Instrumental Independent

Control 9 (45%) 6 (30%) 5 (25%)


Experimental 6 (32%) 5 (26%) 8 (42%)

two groups. Hypothesis H4 is unconfirmed.

4.3. Discussion and further analyses

4.3.1. Implications of different help-seeking tendencies


The analytic results confirmed that students had different help-seeking tendencies in interactive learning environments (Table 3).
Some students solved steps mostly by themselves, while others solved steps mostly with executive help. Executive help-seekers had
PSA and SS similar to those of independent help-seekers, but executive help-seekers replied mainly on executive help (high RSE and
low RST), whereas independent help-seekers solved problems mostly by themselves (high RST and low RSE). Instrumental help-
seekers had higher TRE than other help-seekers; thus, they had less time to solve problems, which led to lower PSA and SS.
Studies have found that students' prior knowledge mastery may influence their help-seeking behaviors (Aleven et al., 2003;
Puustinen, 1998). To confirm this phenomenon, we calculated the correlations of prior knowledge mastery (pre-test score) with
problem-solving and help-seeking behaviors (Table 7). The results were consistent with the findings of previous studies because they
showed that students with better prior knowledge had better help-seeking behaviors (higher RST and lower RSE). Students with low
prior knowledge mastery may be incapable of learning the current tasks; thus, they need more help or must rely on executive help to
finish tasks. Based on mastery learning theory, it is better for students with low prior knowledge mastery to enhance their prior
knowledge than to continue their current learning tasks (Bloom, 1968).
Students' help-seeking tendencies may be influenced by different goals of help-seeking, such as learning-oriented or performance-
oriented goals (Aleven et al., 2003). Students' help-seeking tendencies are usually assessed by teachers (Ryan & Shin, 2011) or self-
reported questionnaires (Karabenick, 2003). It is difficult to assess their help-seeking tendencies in interactive learning environments
because it is difficult to detect their goals. Researchers have suggested assessing students' help-seeking behaviors by their mastery,
help-seeking actions, and response time (Aleven et al., 2006); for example, a help abuse bug was identified if students spent too little
time with a hint and asked for the next hint, and a long response time between receiving bottom-out hints and entering the answer
may indicate that students regard the bottom-out hints as self-explaining worked-out examples rather than a help abuse bug (Shih
et al., 2011). This study proposes some problem-solving and help-seeking indicators that focus mainly on help-seeking actions. It also
applied these indicators to classify students' different help-seeking tendencies. However, students' mastery and response time could be
included to construct more help-seeking indicators. Further investigation is required to compare the classifications of help-seeking
tendencies between these indicators and questionnaires.
Studies have found that students with better help-seeking behaviors have better learning performance (Karabenick, 2003;
Puustinen, 1998; Ryan & Shin, 2011; White & Bembenutty, 2013). In this study, we calculated the correlations of learning perfor-
mance (post-test score) with problem-solving and help-seeking behaviors (Table 8). Students' performance was significantly posi-
tively correlated with SS and RST, and negatively correlated with TRE and RSE. In sum, students with better help-seeking behaviors
(a higher RST and a lower RSE) achieved better performance. The results are consistent with the findings of previous studies. Thus,
there is a need to promote students' improved help-seeking behaviors and thereby to improve their performances. Students with
higher SS achieved better learning performance; however, students may solve problems by themselves or with the help of executive
hints. The SS indicator should be accompanied by RST and RSE. The phenomenon that students with higher TRE had lower learning
performance may be attributable to the short experimental period, as those students spent more time re-studying worked-out ex-
amples and had less time to solve problems. The results might change if students were provided with enough learning time.

4.3.2. Negotiation of help-seeking


This study proposes a negotiation mechanism for help-seeking to combine student-controlled and system-controlled help-seeking
to form a mixed-initiative co-regulation of help-seeking. Help can be proposed by students or the system. Students and the system can
accept or reject each other's proposals. The help-seeking negotiation between students and the system was analyzed, including
system-proposed help, student-requested help, and whether proposals were accepted or rejected (Table 9). The frequency of the
student-requested help was twice that of the system-proposed help. Most (89%) of the student-requested help was accepted by the

Table 7
Correlations of prior knowledge mastery with problem-solving and help-seeking behaviors.
PSA SS TRE RST RSI RSE


Pre-test 0.000 0.301+ −0.227 0.372 0.082 −0.370∗

Note: +: < 0.1; *: < 0.05.

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Table 8
Correlations of performance with problem-solving and help-seeking behaviors.
PSA SS TRE RST RSI RSE

Post-test 0.035 0.425** −0.365* 0.609∗∗∗ 0.050 −0.579∗∗∗

Note: *: < 0.05; **: < 0.01, ***: < 0.001.

Table 9
Help-seeking negotiation of experimental group.
Student-requested help System-proposed help

Total Rejected by Accepted by Total Rejected by Accepted by Forced help Received hints for Received hints for
system system students students idleness errors

M 19.37 2.11 17.26 9.00 4.47 4.53 1.26 1.79 3.95


SD 18.18 2.47 15.96 4.53 3.95 3.31 1.66 2.15 3.21

system and half of the system-proposed help was accepted by students. Most (69%) of the system-proposed help received was
proposed due to students' errors, while 31% of the system-proposed help received was proposed because students were inactive for a
certain time (40 s). All types of help-seeking negotiation data had a high standard derivation; that is, individual differences existed in
help-seeking negotiation. For example, some students always requested help, while others seldom did; some students always accepted
system-proposed help, while others always rejected it. In sum, the help-seeking negotiation mechanism provides an approach of
mixing student-requested and system-proposed help to provide an adaptive help-seeking environment. In other words, a student and
the system form a mixed-initiative co-regulation of help-seeking.
Individual differences existed in the post-test and help-seeking negotiations, and the correlations of the post-test and help-seeking
negotiations were computed (Table 10). In general, students' performance was negatively correlated with student-requested help; in
particular, students' performance was significantly negatively correlated with student-requested help that was rejected by the system.
Students' performance was positively correlated with system-proposed help, but there was no significant correlation. The results
showed that students' help-seeking negotiation and performance vary.
The study proposes six negotiation heuristic rules to remind students not to seek too much help and to prompt them to seek help
or actively offer help when they need it (Table 2). However, many possible negotiation heuristic rules require further investigation.
The negotiation heuristic rules could be extended to involve re-studying worked-out examples and to consider a student model of
cognitive mastery, motivation, and meta-cognition of help-seeking.

4.3.3. Consequence of negotiation of help-seeking


The NALS aims to regulate students' imperfect help-seeking behaviors: being unaware of their need for help or seeking too much
help. During negotiation, the NALS offers SRL prompts and SRL feedback on students' help-seeking. When the NALS detected that
students were unaware of their need for help, it proposed help (SRL prompts). When the NALS detected that students sought too much
help, it rejected their requests for help (SRL feedback). The negotiation results of help-seeking and the related consequences of help-
seeking were further analyzed to evaluate the impact of SRL prompts and SRL feedback as follows.
When the system regarded students as struggling and needing help, it proposed providing help that students could either accept or
reject. The consequences of the system-proposed help were analyzed according to whether the help-targeted step was solved and how
it was solved. The system proposed help in response to students' errors or idleness. Table 11 lists the consequences of system-proposed
help for errors. About half (56%) of the system-proposed help was accepted by students. Students solved the step with instrumental
help (34%) or executive hints (11%) or were unable to solve the step because they ran out of exercise time (11%). Of the system-
proposed help, 44% was rejected by students. Students solved the hint-targeted step by themselves (18%), required help later (14%;
7% of the steps were solved with instrumental help and 7% with executive help), or received forced help and solved the step with
instrumental help (9%). In sum, when the system proposed providing help because of errors, students occasionally corrected the error
and solved the step by themselves (18%), frequently needed help to correct the error (68%; 50% needed instrumental help and 18%
executive help), or were unable to correct the error (13%). This result revealed that in most cases, when the system proposed help due

Table 10
Correlations of performance and help-seeking negotiation.
Student-requested help System-proposed help

Total Rejected by Accepted by Total Rejected by Accepted by Forced help Received hints for Received hints for
system system students students idleness errors

Post-test -.354 -.467∗ -.331 .280 .345 -.028 .067 .264 -.177

Note: *: < 0.05.

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Table 11
Consequences of system-proposed help for errors.
Students' response Consequence Frequency %

Accepted Solved with instrumental help 15 34%


Solved with executive help 5 11%
Unsolved with instrumental help 5 11%
Rejected Required help later (solved with instrumental help) 3 7%
Required help later (solved with executive help) 3 7%
System forced to provide help (solved with instrumental help) 4 9%
Solved by themselves 8 18%
Unsolved 1 2%

to errors, students indeed required help to correct errors. In summary, the NALS offered SRL prompts to remind students to seek help
when they were unaware of their errors.
Table 12 lists the consequences of system-proposed help due to idleness. Of the system-proposed help, 46% was accepted by
students. Students solved the step with instrumental help (24%) or executive help (22%). Of the system-proposed help, 54% was
rejected by students. Students solved the help-targeted step by themselves (20%), required help later (22%; 13% of the steps were
solved with instrumental help and 9% with executive help), received forced help and solved the problem with instrumental help
(2%), or were unable to solve the step (11%). In sum, when the system proposed providing help because of idleness, students
occasionally solved the step by themselves (20%), frequently needed help to solve the step (70%; 39% needed instrumental help and
31% executive help), or were unable to solve the step (11%). This result revealed that in most cases, when the system proposed help
due to idleness, students indeed required help to solve the step. In summary, the NALS provided SRL prompts to prompt students to
seek help when they were stuck.
The system could reject student-requested help when students sought too much help. Table 13 lists the consequences of rejected
student-requested help. Students solved the step by themselves (21%), required help after trying (38%; 28% of the steps were solved
with instrumental help and 10% with executive help), requested help without trying (38%; 17% of the steps were solved with
instrumental help and 21% with executive help), or were unable to solve the step (3%). The results indicated that in 21% of the cases,
students could solve the problems by themselves and did not need help. The results also revealed that the NALS offered SRL feedback
to reduce cases of seeking too much help. In sum, when the system rejected help, students occasionally solved the step by themselves
(21%), frequently needed help to solve the step (76%; 45% needed instrumental help and 31% executive help), or were unable to
solve the step (3%). Among students who requested help, half (38%) sought help after trying, and half (38%) sought help without
trying. This result revealed that some students did not try and waited for help. They might have lacked motivation or really needed
help. Determining how to help these students requires further investigation.

5. Conclusion

This study proposed an interactive learning environment to enable students to solve problems and seek help by re-studying
worked-out examples or requesting adaptive hints. However, help-seeking is an SRL process, skill, and strategy, and students may
have ineffective help-seeking behaviors. This study also proposed some problem-solving and help-seeking indicators that could be
computed by the record of students' problem-solving and help-seeking behaviors. These indicators can be applied to classify different
help-seeking tendencies. This study confirmed students' different help-seeking tendencies, executive, instrumental, and independent,
in interactive learning environments (hypothesis H1). In addition, executive help-seekers had worse learning performance than other
students; that is, some students had ineffective help-seeking in SRL (hypothesis H2). Therefore, students' imperfect help-seeking
behaviors must be regulated to improve their learning performances.
In this paper, we propose a help-seeking negotiation mechanism to enable students to negotiate with the system to reach an
agreement on help-seeking. The negotiation mechanism is a kind of scaffolding for SRL that functions by forming a co-regulation
process of help-seeking between a student and the system. The negotiation mechanism aims to regulate students' help-seeking be-
haviors by reminding them not to seek too much help (a type of SRL feedback) and by prompting them to seek help (a type of SRL
prompt) or actively offering help when they need it (a type of SRL feedback). The results reveal that students indeed required help in

Table 12
Consequences of system-proposed help due to idleness.
Students' response Consequence Frequency %

Accepted Solved with instrumental help 11 24%


Solved with executive help 10 22%
Rejected Required help later (solved with instrumental help) 6 13%
Required help later (solved with executive help) 4 9%
System forced to provide help (solved with instrumental help) 1 2%
Solved by themselves 9 20%
Unsolved 5 11%

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Table 13
Consequences of rejected student-requested help.
Consequence Frequency %

Solved by themselves 6 21%


Requested help after trying (solved with instrumental help) 8 28%
Requested help after trying (solved with executive help) 3 10%
Requested help without trying (solved with instrumental help) 5 17%
Requested help without trying (solved with executive help) 6 21%
Unsolved 1 3%

most cases when the system proposed it (Tables 11 and 12). The NALS provided SRL prompts to prompt students to seek help when
needed. When the system rejected student-requested help, students solved the problems by themselves and did not need help in 21%
of the cases (Table 13). The NALS offered SRL feedback to reduce cases of seeking too much help. The experimental results show that
students using the help-seeking negotiation mechanism had better help-seeking behaviors (a higher RST and a lower RSE) than
students without the negotiation mechanism (Table 5). The results confirmed that the negotiation of help-seeking promotes better
help-seeking behaviors in students (hypothesis H3). When students sought executive hints, the SRL feedback of rejecting the next
student help request and disabling the “Hints” button for 20 s might have caused the lower RSE in the experimental group. The SRL
feedback may lead students to not seek executive hints as often as possible. This study revealed the plausibility of applying help-
seeking negotiations to form a co-regulation process of help-seeking to regulate students' help-seeking behaviors.
Students in the experimental group had better help-seeking behaviors (a higher RST and a lower RSE) than students in the control
group (Table 5). In addition, learning performance was positively correlated with RST and negatively correlated with RSE (Table 8).
Students in the experimental groups seemed to have better post-test performance than students in the control group. However, the
analytics results revealed that there was no significantly different level of learning performance between the experimental and
control groups. Therefore, hypothesis H4 is unconfirmed. One possible explanation for this phenomenon may be that the experi-
mental period is too short to reveal the effect of negotiation because help-seeking is a meta-cognitive process that is not easily
changed over a short period. For instance, a four-week study revealed the effect of the negotiation of self-assessment and learning
content choices on learning performance after students used NALS for three weeks (Chou et al., 2015). Another possible reason may
be that the number of participants was not large, which may hinder significant statistical difference. Further investigation of the
effect of help-seeking negotiation on learning performance with more participants over a longer period is required. In addition, room
remains for further investigation of negotiation mechanisms, including system assessment of student help-seeking behaviors, conflict
resolution, and concession, to improve the regulation effect on help-seeking behaviors and performance.
This study has certain limitations, and some issues of negotiation-based regulation of help-seeking remain to be explored further.
First, the negotiation of help-seeking is a type of scaffolding for help-seeking, and the effect of the scaffolding includes both its impact
and the transferred impact afterwards without it (usually termed “fading”) (Aleven et al., 2016; Chou & Chan, 2016). Thus, the
research issues of the effect of negotiation include a scaffolding effect (i.e., whether the negotiation assisted students in their current
help-seeking and learning) and a transferred effect (i.e., whether students could learn from the negotiation and whether it was
beneficial and transferred to their future help-seeking and learning even after the scaffolding was removed) (after fading) (Roll et al.,
2014). The scaffolding effect concerns whether the negotiation assists students in their current learning. The transferred effect
addresses whether the negotiation can be applied to train students' help-seeking. This study investigated the scaffolding effect of
negotiation on current help-seeking behaviors and learning performances. Evaluating the transferred effect of negotiation on future
help-seeking and learning requires further investigation. The issue of applying NALS to train students' help-seeking also concerns the
detection of students' help-seeking behaviors and appropriate fading. This study proposes some problem-solving and help-seeking
indicators to identify students' help-seeking tendencies. These indicators can be applied to detect and evaluate students' help-seeking
behaviors. The NALS can be designed to gradually fade the scaffolding by changing the negotiation strategy and reducing the system's
initiative.
Second, due to the short experimental period and less student data to assess and analyze, the system of this study mainly detected
the current problem-solving status and help-seeking behaviors to regulate students' help-seeking behaviors. It would be better to
apply complex student modeling techniques to diagnose students more deeply and accurately when more student data could be
collected. For example, the system can build confidence, independence, and effort models to model students' motivation in de-
termining whether to offer help (del Solato & Du Boulay, 1995) or detecting whether help-seeking bugs exist in students' help-seeking
behaviors for regulation (Aleven et al., 2006). A deeper and more accurate student model could lead to better and more varied
negotiation and regulation. Third, this study proposed several heuristic rules of help-seeking negotiation. Different possible nego-
tiation mechanisms of help-seeking exist; thus, the effect of different negotiation mechanisms requires further research. For example,
this study prompted students to seek help when they had incorrect solutions with errors over two steps or were idle for 40 s. The
appropriate prompt timing remains to be explored. This study forced help when students rejected the system's help proposal twice
and still experienced difficulties. Different types and timings of interventions must be investigated.
Third, this study adopted experts to classify students' help-seeking tendencies based on the record of students' problem-solving
and help-seeking behaviors. The experts proposed two principles to classify students' help-seeking tendencies. However, these
principles were based on the experimental data of this study. No avoidant help-seekers were classified in this study; therefore, no
principle of classifying avoidant help-seekers was proposed. Developing general principles to classify students' help-seeking

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tendencies requires further investigation. In addition, developing system classification mechanisms of help-seeking tendencies is
required to reduce the load of experts, generate objective and reliable classification, and enable real-time detection for adaptive
regulation. However, students' help-seeking tendencies are traditionally classified by the results of questionnaire surveys. Comparing
the classification results based on system classification and questionnaire surveys remains to be further investigated.

Acknowledgements

The authors thank Tsung-Hsin Chen for his assistance in the system implementation and the experiment.

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