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Chapter2 Help-Seeking Behavior in Learning
SHARONNELSON-LE GALL Universityof Pittsburgh

Learning is rarely a completely asocial enterprise. Learners are influenceddirectlyand indirectlyby their social and culturalenvironment, so that the why, what, when, where, and how of learningare not always decidedby the individual alone. Becauselearninginvolveseffectingchanges in the individual'sknowledgestate and skill repertoire,it is not surprising that learnersmay seek help from others in order to effect such changes. Help-seeking has become a topic of growing interest for educators and psychologists concerned with the development and enhancement of children'sactive learning skills. Indeed, many scholarsconsider that the as ability to utilize adults and peers appropriately resourcesto cope with difficultiesencounteredin learningsituationsis one of the most important skills childrencan cultivate (Anderson & Messick, 1974;Nelson-Le Gall, 1981; Nelson-Le Gall, Gumerman,& Scott-Jones, 1983;White & Watts, 1973). The aim of this chapter is to explicate the instrumental role of of help-seekingin learning.Majorconceptualizations help-seekingthat are influentialin guidingpsychologicaland educationalresearchwill currently be examinedandevaluatedfor theirutilityin understanding help-seekingin learners.Cognitive,developmental,and motivationalcharacschool-aged of characteristics teristicsof the help-seekeras well as situational/contextual the helping interaction have been the focus of much research and will therefore be examined in this chapter. This review will concentrate on help-seekingin learningcontexts and give considerationto the role that school environmentsplay in teachingthis importantachievementstrategy.

of grantfromthe National Preparation this paperwas supportedin partby an institutional of Researchand Instituteof Education,UnitedStatesDepartment Education,to the Learning Development Center, Universityof Pittsburgh.



Reviewof Researchin Education,12

THEORETICAL CONCEPTIONS HELP-SEEKING OF Mostinvestigators havebasedtheiranalysesof help-seeking the values on of Western individualistic cultures. Such analyses typicallypoint out the inconsistencyof help-seekingwith the values of competitiveness,self-reliance, and independence that are characteristically emphasizedin such cultures.Indeed, help-seekingwas often viewed as an indexof dependence in the early studies of socialization and personality development (e.g., Beller, 1955; Murphy, 1962; Sears, Maccoby, & Levin, 1957). Early theoristscharacterized processof socializationas producingmovement the from an inherent dependence and reliance on others toward increasing of self-sufficiency. Help-seekingand otherbehaviorsregardedas indicators were seen as the result of deficient development and faulty dependency socializationif they were displayed beyond very early childhood. Thus, help-seekinghas taken on connotationsof immaturity, passivity,and even incompetence. Although help is sometimes recognizedto be beneficialand necessary, seeking help has been characterized,until very recently, as a degrading the activityto be avoided. Not surprisingly, bulk of the literaturederived from these conceptionsfocuses on the psychologicalrisks and burdensof askingfor help. For example,theoreticaland empiricalanalysesof the role of perceived personal inadequacy (e.g., Rosen, 1983), embarrassment (e.g., Shapiro, 1978, 1983), loss of self-esteem (e.g., Fisher, Nadler, & concernwith the presenceof 1982), and the individual's Whitcher-Alagna, onlookers (e.g., Williams& Williams, 1983) have all been undertakenin order to explain and predict help-seeking. These perspectives on help-seekinghave been advancedby social psychologistsand sociologists, andareprimarily concernedwithunderstanding attitudesandbehaviors the of adults regardinghelp-seekingin medical and social welfare contexts. Although there is no one theoreticalperspectiveon help-seekingthat is widelyaccepted,severalconceptionsare currently guidingresearch.Two of the more influential approaches to conceptualizing help-seeking and help-seekers are based in the social psychological and sociological literatures are concernedwithhelp-seekingin adultpopulations.These and models and self-esteemmodels. approachesare knownas social-normative characteristics are believedto that They focus on personalandsociocultural moderate the perception of the costs of seeking help. Because these approaches are central to the bulk of the empirical literature on help-seeking,each will be describedand evaluatedbrieflyin the following sections. Social Norms and Help-Seeking Social-normative perspectivesuse the extentto whichculturalvalues and
social roles emphasize norms related to dependence or independence as the

andto admitthisneed by actuallyseekinghelp. the aged. Nadler (1983) points out that in societies with institutionalized helping relations. females could be expectedto be morewillingthanmalesto perceivethe need for help.S.Nelson-LeGall:Help-Seeking Behavior 57 basis for predictingand explaininghelp-seeking. 1976). the traditional male sex role encourages independence. members may be discouragedfrom developing and utilizing effective interpersonalhelpseeking skills. not seeking help would be a sex-role-consistentbehavior. Wallston. social class. 1976). self-reliance and As waspreviouslyindicated.the literature appears to supportthis expectation (see McMullen& Gross. For females. for males.. The intensity to which norms of independence and self-reliance are emphasizedvariesbetween social roles in a social structure. of occurrenceor nonoccurrence help-seeking(e. and individual achievement. Thus. most of the studies .Wholesocietiesmaydifferin the emphasis placed on normsof self-reliance.individuals help as a function of the degree to which they have internalizedthese societalnormsandvalues. whereas the traditional female sex role encourages dependence and cooperation (Deaux. 1979) showed that U.For example. subjectsderogatedthe help seeker more than did the Dutchsubjects.Grafet al.Freer. interpreted these findingsas due to a stronger in adherenceto the normof self-reliance the United Statesthanin the Dutch culture. 1983. the poor. Freer. Consequently.g. Nadler. seeking help would be a sex-role-consistentbehavior. By andlarge.. and racial or ethnic minoritiesmight be expected to be more dependent than other segments of the society and therefore more likely to seek help. that attitudestowardinterpersonal help-seekingdo not accurately predictactual interpersonal help-seeking behavior.An exampleof social roles that differ in their emphasison these norms are the culturally defined sex roles. cross-culturaldifferences) to predict and explain the race.of course. Thus. 1983. McMullen & Gross. In Western societies. & Plaizier.Because of the emphasis given to normativeexplanations.researchundertakenwithin this framework employs demographic and sociocultural variables(e.culturalnormsemphasizing individual achievement may influence attitudes toward help-seeking. help-seekingis viewed as presenting coststo malesthanto femalesbecauseby seekinghelp greaterpsychological males violate their sex role standards. age. Graf. 1983. Similarly.g. 1979. & Plaizier. varioussubgroupsof a society such as the young. a comparisonof evaluationsmade describedas seekinghelp by Dutch andUnited Statessubjectsof individuals or being self-reliantin everydayneed situations(Graf. self-reliance. gender. for a detailed review of sex differences in help-seeking). However.It is recognized.Nadler (1983) has found that kibbutzchildrenin Israel were more likely to reportthat they would seek help in daily life situations than were their city-dwelling counterparts. couldbe expectedto differin the tendencyto seek Accordingly.

1973).1964. however.Sex differences. in consideringthe normativenessof help-seekingfor students. Druian & De Paulo. 1971). The classroomteacher typicallypresents these same On characteristics. Thus.g. An equally importantlevel of analysis is at the level of social norms and roles that structurethe individual'sbehavior in schools and classrooms.12 citing more help-seeking in females than in males are concerned with help-seekingin medicalor health-related settings. Etaugh & Hughes. On the one hand. Researchindicatesthat help-seekerstend to preferhelperswho are perceivedas being older.. 1977. In health-related settings. Barnett. Nelson-Le Gall & Gumerman.Kent. the other hand. although help-seeking is normative for the in costs student.studentswould be expected to seek out teachersfor help. and Limitations Contributions The social-normative approach has been useful in highlighting an individual'ssocioculturalvalues and beliefs that shape the help-seeking process. An interestingparadox arises. 1975. competent.althoughthereis evidencethatclassroomexperiencesduringthe elementaryschoolyearsare more consistentwith femalesex roles thanwith male sex roles (e. & Kobasigawa. At later ages. Givinghelpis a behaviorconsistentwiththe teacher role. male studentsmay seek help as muchas. whereasreceivingand seeking help are behaviorsconsistent with the reciprocalrole of student.. Greenberg& Shapiro.Serbin.are not as consistentwithrespectto help-seekingin non-health-related settings.1984).g.the "sickrole" may be seen as clearlymorecompatiblewiththe contextof the traditional female sex role stereotype. or more than. and obligated to complywith their requestsfor help (e.Help-seekingis seen as a socialbehaviorgroundedin the prevailing values and role structures a given social groupor culture. students are subordinatein status to teachers in the classroom. Ames & Lau. so dependence on the teacher is consistentwiththe studentrole.g.58 Reviewof Researchin Education.and the directionof differences. Holland. Evaluations the perceivednormativeness help-seekingfor occupants of of of the student role in learning settings are virtually is not clearthat the studentrole continuesto be clearlymore compatiblewith one sex role to the exclusionof the other throughoutthe school years. females (e.O'Leary. 1982. Therefore. role expectationsfor studentsinvolve demandsfor ever-increasing competencein academic displaysof individual performances as evidence that they are learning what teachers are attempting to teach.. Help-seeking in nonmedicalsettings may not be as clearlyalignedwithone or the othersex role.Kagan.This approach of hastendedto focuson the normsandrolesoperatingin groupsdefinedalong demographicdimensionsat the level of the general society.individuals the studentrole mayperceivethe psychological of seeking help to be too great to incur because the very act of seeking help . Darcie. For example. 1982. & Tonick.

Given the impact of social and cultural norms on help-seeking. 1983.Nelson-LeGall:Help-Seeking Behavior 59 may be perceivedby the teacher and other studentsas a failureto benefit from the teacher's instructionalefforts. Self-Esteem and Help-Seeking The self-esteem approach to understanding the phenomenon of in approach that it focuseson help-seekingis similarto the social-normative . Studies of social-normative but are of limitedvalue without an assessmentof the processesunderlying normativedifferences. Nadler. however. In such arrangements. & Schubot. Powell. When help-seekingfrompeers becomes institutionalized-that is. variablesprovide some useful information. Rosen. costsof help-seeking inherentto the Althoughthere maybe psychological studentrole. 1978). achievedrole of tutor is perceivedby the the tutee to be incongruent with the age identity of tutor and to violate social-normativeexpectations about teaching-learningrelationships. Fisher. researchersmust begin to give more attentionto the study of help-seeking behavior from a cross-culturalperspective.g. classroom norms support and encourage informal helping exchanges among peers. 1983). Cross-cultural investigations couldhighlightvariablesthat are relevantfor understanding help-seekingas a universalphenomenon. Supportfor this idea comes from the substantialliteratureon peer tutoring (Allen. the perceived costs of help-seeking may be lessened. Also. we know relativelylittle aboutthe social norms related to help-seekingin educationalsettings.1982). & Whitcher-Alagna. it takesplace in formalschool-based wherea same-age peer tutoringprograms or olderstudentassumesthe teacherrole vis-a-visanotherstudent-psychologicalcosts of help-seekingmaybe perceivedto increasefor the tutee (e. Researchers normsandvaluesin attempts need to give more attentionto classroom-level to understandhelp-seekingas it occurs among studentsin the classroom. The presence of norms discouraginglearningin the context of activitiesother than individualachievement and competition may account for students' failureto seek help fromtheirteachersandeven frompeers. These psychologicalcosts become particularly salientwhen a tutee has a youngeror same-agechildas tutor. If. these perceivedrisksmaybe mediatedby the classroomnorms regarding help-seeking that the teacher establishes and enforces.Limitsto the value of studiesof normativeand social variables are that (a) variabilitymay exist within a given group so that generalizationsare not possible and (b) measures of specific aspects of individuals'personalityand motivationalorientationsof the environment powerthando normative appearto have greaterpredictiveandexplanatory variables (Ames. 1983. 1976. Researchmust also begin to focus more on the betweenhelp-seekingand socialnormsthat operatein specific relationships social institutionswithina society.. Allen.

Nadler. 1983)and has shownthis variableto be an important influenceon the willingness unwillingness seek help (e. The beliefs in question. 1983. 1972).In explanationsrelyingon notions of vulnerability. for comprehensivereview) tends to supportthe consistency hypothesis over the vulnerabilityhypothesis. because low self-esteem individuals have few positive self-cognitions.12 the role of norms and beliefs in moderatingthe decisionto seek or not to seek help.however. 1982. or to Fisher & Nadler. 1976. 1978. In general.To date. Rosen. This predictionsuggests that it is the inconsistencyof incoming self-related information with existing self-cognitions that is threatening to the self. low self-esteemindividuals wouldbe expectedto seek help less thanwould high self-esteem predicting the effect of level of self-esteemon the individual's decisionto seek help as a to failure. In explanations relying on notions of consistency. the 1983)..high self-esteem is expected to be associatedwith less help-seeking.60 Reviewof Researchin Education.Self-esteem-related to constructs predictand explain conceptionshave used self-esteem-related factorshave received the lion's help-seeking.Self-esteemexplanations differ. high self-esteem individualswith many positive self-cognitionsare predicted to perceive more self-threatthan low self-esteem individualsand thereforeto be less likely to seek help.self-esteem(see Nadler. Researchtends to focus on individualdifferencesin levels of chronic.Tessler & Schwartz.The firstpredictionis basedon notionsof vulnerability. For example. amongthe firstto examinethe role of chronicself-esteem in help-seeking. Two opposing predictionscan be derived from the response variousmodelsof the effect of level of self-esteemon help-seeking(Nadler. Shapiro. According to this hypothesis.used college studentsidentifiedas low or highin self esteem as subjects. To make this task potentiallythreateningto their self-conception. Level of self-esteem is viewed as a personality characteristicthat moderates the individual'ssensitivityto the self-threateningsituation of admittinginadequacyto self and others. individuals theirinabilityto cope witha failureandlowertheir acknowledge sense of self-esteem. the research literature (see Fisher. self-esteem-related share of attention as personal determinantsof help-seeking behavior. & WhitcherAlagna. By making a request for help. secondon notions of consistency.g. or persistent. however.That is.if they so desired. Tessler and Schwartz(1972).Subjectswerepresentedwiththe taskof identifying instancesof neurotic behavior in tape-recorded dialogues and were given the opportunity to seek help with the task by consulting guidelines for judgments. subjects were told that performance on this task .they are more vulnerableto self-threatsituationof seeking help ening informationand avoid the self-threatening more than high self-esteem individualsdo. are deeply instilledpersonal beliefs and conceptionsabout the self as an individual.

but also because the individualsseeking help may not possess a concept of general self-worth if they are young learners.(c) the natureof the tasksused to elicit failure. Some of the issues that arise when findingsfrom self-esteem conceptionsare employed as a for students'help-seekinginvolve (a) the implicit framework understanding of globality in children'sself-evaluations.g. 1980).and (d) the direction of causal relations among self-esteem. Furthermore.There are. several methodological and conceptualfeatures of this literaturethat limit its generalizbetweenself-esteemand abilityandthatleave the subjectof the relationship help-seekingin educationalsettings open to question. The generalizability of self-esteem models to help-seeking in school-age populations is limited.. Researchers have usually examined chronic self-esteem in adults by measuringit as a global construct. Contributions and Limitations The self-esteem approach has been most useful in highlightingthe influenceof affectivereactionsand personalitydifferenceson help-seeking behavior. The focus on psychologicalcharacteristics that may vary from individualto individualwithin the same social group or occupyingsimilar roles is an importantcontribution. Childrenat this point in their developmentappearcapableonly of evaluating specific characteristicsand competencies of the self. however. the generalizability child samples must be suspect. Future investigations of the relationshipbetween help-seeking and self-esteem must certainly assess self-evaluations.Harter's(1983) researchsuggeststhat young children(e. Tesslerand Schwartz foundthatlow self-esteemsubjectssoughthelp sooner andmorefrequentlythandid highself-esteemsubjects.These findingsprovide additionalsupport for the consistencyhypothesis. not only because the problems and contexts elicitingthe possibilityof seeking help in educationalsettingscall for the individualto make specific assessmentsof him (her)self.Nelson-LeGall:Help-Seeking Behavior 61 depended on the subject's own mental health and native intelligence.g. Greenberg. and help-seeking. therefore. because inabilityto reciprocateis perceived by the individual to be inconsistent with self-conceptions of independenceand self-reliance. because the research samples are virtually all adult to samples.(b) the stability of assumption self-evaluations.especiallywhere elementarystudentsare domain-specific involved. achievement.Otherstudiesin the literaturehave shown that high self-esteem individualsare less likely than low self-esteemindividuals seek help if they feel that they will be unable to to reciprocate(e.. below the age of 8 years)do not have a sense of self in general. It appears of that the applicabilityof this perspectiveto understanding help-seeking behavior in elementary and junior high school students is not only .

Harter & Connell. Severalresearchers have also founddecreasesin level of self-esteemat the onset of adolescence and the transition to junior high school (e. Thus. Fisher and Nadler. 1983. Rosenberg. & Rosenberg. and also that changes in academic environments or interpersonal roles may bring about dramatic changes in level of self-esteem. These tasks may be seen as novel. the issue of stabilityof self-evaluation the applicabilityof self-esteem-relatedmodels to children'shelp-seeking behaviorin achievementsettings. and furtherdistract individual the fromthe taskcausinglowerachievement.however. the transitionfrom kindergarten first grade to bringsaboutchangesin self-evaluations (Harter..The bulk of the researchhas takenplace in controlledlaboratory settingswithcollege student populations. Typicaltasks on which subjects'help-seekingbehaviorhas been assessed include stock market investment simulations (e. For example. overlooks data from an alternativecausal model . becomessalientin considering Thus.1983).Measuring levels of chronicor persistent self-esteem as is done with adult subjects is also a more complex matter when childrenare involved. atypical.12 unproven.62 Reviewof Researchin Education. extremecaution must be exercised in drawing inferences from such studies about the relationshipbetween level of self-esteem and help-seekingin educational settings. and generallyisolated fromthe individual's usualdomainsof performance.. is also virtuallyuntried.This formulation.Performanceis often assessedby a relativestranger. Another limitation is that much of the research on self-esteem and help-seekinghas taken place in settingsthat bear little resemblanceto the learningcontextsencounteredby studentsin educationalsystems. Children's can self-conceptions be expectedto be less stable if one considersthat changesin cognitiveprocessingabilities occur with age. 1976) and social judgment tasks such as making judgments of symptomsof mentaldisorderdisplayedby others (e.increase concern over evaluation.g. Finally. and perhapsnot even with help. adultswill be more likely than young childrento have stable concepts of self-worthin many more areas of performance. the self-esteem-related paradigms involve the examinationof levels of chronicself-esteemin adults. Harter. if any. Needless to say. Simmons. 1972). Tessler& Schwartz.a majorconceptuallimitationinvolvesassumptions proposedby currentself-esteemmodels aboutthe relationship between self-esteemand achievement.and usuallyin the presence of few. after little or no training. other persons. Help-seeking is assumed to lower self-esteem because it implies the individualcannot succeedwithout help. 1973).g. These perceptionsare thoughtto furtherdecrease expectations for successful task performance.For the most part. The self-esteem formulationsof help-seekingfocus on the potentialnegativeeffectsof help-seekingfor the individual's self-conceptof which in turn is apparently assumed to detract from task ability. performance.

the applicability these frameworks the help-seekingof childrenandyouthin educational to settings is limited. predominant Thisfindingindicatesthatincreasesin achievementshouldlead to increases in self-concept of ability. Consideration the functions of help-seeking is particularlyimportant to a fuller adaptive understandingof learning as it occurs duringchildhood. ..Nelson-LeGall:Help-Seeking Behavior 63 advocatedby educationalresearchers(e. 1977. If seeking help can enhance learning and achievement.Forexample. Because the focus of these explanationshas traditionallybeen on adults' of help-seekingbehaviorsin noneducational settings.Harter & Connell. 1982).g. Treating help-seeking as incompatible with achievement can lead to overlookingmaladaptiveperformance patternsthat actuallyinterferewith motivationliterature. high self-esteem can be construed as a consequent of help-seeking. Calsyn& These recent data indicatethat achievementis causally over self-conceptof abilityandperceivedevaluationof others. self-esteem specific to one's sense of competence should increase. HELP-SEEKING RECONCEPTUALIZED As was illustratedby the precedingdiscussionof social-normative and self-esteem conceptions of the achievement who tend to persistat tasksof intermediate for difficulty long periodsof time are considered to be highly achievement-oriented (e. Summary Social-normative conceptionsandself-esteemconceptionsemphasizethe role of personalcharacteristics influencethe perceptionof the costs of that aboutpersonalvalues and seeking help. other conceptionswill or for the proveto be adequateframeworks understanding role of help-seeking in learning will ultimately depend upon their ability to incorporatethe influences of developmental and situational factors as determinantsof help-seeking.individuals learning.the integrating theme of consistency between the act of seeking help and internalized beliefs aboutself-reliance individual and achievement emerges. yet this bidirectionalityof effects is usually not taken into account. When the underlyingassumptions beliefs are examinedfor each of these modelsof help-seekingbehavior. Andrews & Debus. Currentself-esteem formulationsare lackingin explanatory of power since help-seekingmay be both determinedby and a determinant self-esteem. Thus. researchers in the area of risksand burdensof help-seekinghave usuallyfocusedon the psychological for help. Viewinghelp-seekingas incompatible withself-reliance and asking have tended to consideronly the costs of seeking achievement.researchers help for the individual'ssense of competenceratherthan the costs of not of seeking help for the acquisitionand masteryof skills.g.

In alternative productive strategies these cases. 1983).. 1983.g.may not alwayslead to task mastery.personalcharacteristics the individual.Nelson-Le Gall (1981)focused on the cognitive-developmental and social-cognitivefactors that influence help-seeking in learning contexts.Feather.Ames attempted an integrationof the extantsocial-psychological theoriesin orderto provide a basisfor comparing conditionsleadingto the decisionto seek or not to the seek others'assistance. In addition. Ames & Lau.64 Reviewof Researchin Education. self-threatening behavior to a view of help-seeking as an effective alternative for coping with current difficulties. Yet lengthof time on taskmaynot be as sensitivean indicatorof achievementas some measure of whether the time was spent in active pursuitof a solution. and importantly.g.usuallymeasuredas lengthof time workedbefore disengagement. Each of these perspectives will be discussed in the following sections.g.. Nelson-Le Gall's conceptions.Some researchers(e.. learning Ames's (1983) analysis focused on the cognitive-motivational conditions to that lead individuals seek help fromothers. (Nicholls. Persistence. but also by those interested in learning.e. PerformanceAttributions. This adaptive role of help-seeking in learning has generally been overlooked not only by researchersinterested in help-seeking. 1979) Two formulations the adaptiverelationship of between help-seekingand havebeen developedrecently(Ames. 1981).Nelson-LeGall.Childrenmay continue to work at a task of withouthelp despite prolongedlack of successand the availability more of in orderto forestalljudgments failure. 1982. The lack of attention to help-seeking by researchersstudying learninghas occurredin part because researchers usuallystudy learningin where learning is more often than not a solitary laboratory settings enterprise. 1978) have suggestedthat persistence may sometimesbe maladaptive.12 1978.. of Ames.such as perceived control and mastery orientation (e. 1961. children may be regarded as highly achievement-oriented becausethey have spenta long time workingon the task. and more recently elaborated formulations(e. and situational characteristics the achievement setting are used to predict and explain help-seeking. Ames. 1962). Diener & Dweck. and Help-Seeking Ames (1983) suggestedthat individualsprocess informationabout their own actionsand performance the context of value prioritiesthat assigna in . 1983).The achievement-related focus on the costs of not seeking help. can be classifiedas achievement-related view of help-seekingis uniquein its conceptions. of Nelson-Le Gall (1981) arguedfor a reconceptualization help-seeking that shifts the focus away from a view of help-seeking as stigmatizing. In the context of achieveof its treatmentof help-seekingas a part of an ongoingprocessratherthan as a dichotomous (i. help-seeking-no help-seeking)decision. AchievementGoals.

Weiner. and help-seeking.that they failedto mastercertainskillsor concepts. stable qualitythat can be judgedto be adequateor inadequate. attributionsfor perceived achievementoutcomes. then. or impossiblydifficulttasks were not amongthe factors contributingto their performance(Ames & Lau.can lead to the inferenceof low abilityandconsequentlyto loweredperceptionsof self-worth. help-seeking would be perceived as most relevant to achievement when students believe that they are generally capable of successfulperformance.This quality or entity is believed to be displayed in the individual'sperformance. Thus. and that biased teachers. task difficulty.This assumption. personal and situationalfactors determinethe salience for a particular value in specific between achievementsettings. 1979). These values.however. Seeking help can be classifiedas an act of effortin thatthe help-seekeris activelyusingavailable resourcesto increase the likelihood of future success.Nelson-LeGall:Help-Seeking Behavior 65 level of importanceto variousgoals related to achievement. of course. Individualsmay conceive of ability as a global.tricky. To the extent that a to studentperceivesseeking help to be relevant.and luck to which achievement outcomes may be attributed. In Ames's analysis. however. such as that the individualis independent or competent. the studentis expectedto be willingto seek help.that is. that they need to work or study more. requirethe assumptionof equal and optimaleffort acrossindividuals. In Ames's formulation. Ames (1983)has noted that help-seekingis perceiveddifferentially the by made about task studentdependingnot only on the patternof attributions performance. there are variousspecificcausessuch as ability. is not always warranted. In contrast to the entity .effort.The attributions studentsmake serve to maintaina self-conceptof ability.g. In attributional formulationsof achievement(e. and unfair.Goals will be selected and pursuedto the extent that their attainmentimpliessomething desirable to individualsabout themselves. to be instrumental futuresuccess. Ames drewupon Nicholls's(1979) and Dweck & Elliott's(1983)reanalyses of achievementmotivation. Failing after trying again. Comparisonsof performanceoutcomes. help is seen as relevant when the student's attributionalbeliefs about achievement outcomes include internal or external controllable factors. Thisperspectivefocuses on the relationship self-worthbeliefs. 1982). Judgmentsof the performanceoutcome in comparisonto the outcomes of membersof a normativereferencegroupare seen as indicatingwhetheror not one is competent. bad luck..but also dependingon the achievementgoal being pursued.but the patternof attributions mayor may not logically entail the alternativeof seeking help. are closely tied to the individual's sense of self-worth. Nicholls (1979) and Dweck & Elliott (1983) have argued that the specific actions individualsundertaketo preserve a self-conceptof ability depend on the particularconceptionsof ability and achievementgoals held.

the student'spurposein seekinghelp maybe to . and use help becomes an importantlearning skill (e. different achievement goals. Murphy& Moriarty. of Instrumentality Help-Seeking Nelson-Le Gall's (1981.learnproblem-solving ers may be affordedopportunitiesto call upon problem-solving resources externalto themselves(Cole & Traupmann..thatis. Individuals' of othersto acquireand masterskillsplaysa centralrole use in currently influential theories of mental development and learning (Brown. seekingto obtain favorablejudgmentsof competence and seeking to avoid unfavorable judgmentsof competence. 1974.. help-seekingis more likely to occur when studentsare pursuinglearninggoals. According to Ames (1983). The student'sgoal in seeking or help maybe merelytask completion. the abilityto solicit.withoutcomprehension masteryas an objective. Level of ability is own perceivedknowledgemastery. It has been suggested (Murphy. Vygotsky. Entity conceptions of ability lead to the espousalof performance goals in achievementsituations.Mentalfunctionsfirstdevelop on a social level as childreninteract with adults who serve as supportive. In Vygotsky's view. After with othersin learningsituations.g. Alternatively. knowledgeable others. and evaluate the child's task activity. Incrementalconceptionsof abilitylead to the espousalof learninggoals in achievementsituations. other individualsmay view abilityas a repertoireof skills that can be endlessly expanded through efforts to learn what is presently not known.or judgedin relationto the individual's These alternateviews of abilityorientthe individual toward understanding. Under suchconditions. knowledge and understandinghave their roots in social interactionswith more mature problem solvers who plan. 1962. 1983) formulationof help-seeking as an adaptive alternativeto individualproblem solving is based on analyses of achievement activity in everyday learning and situations. 1983). This view has been labeled the instrumentalor incrementalview of ability (Dweck & Elliott. seekingto acquire knowledge or skills.In everydayproblem-solving situations.1976).help-seeking less likelyto occurbecause it is viewed as drawingattention to one's lack of ability and. direct. 1978).66 Reviewof Researchin Education. 1982. When is performance goalsareoperative. as in conflictwiththe goalsof demonstrating abilityandavoidingdemonstrations of a lack of ability.childrengradually internalize interacting the supportiveother role and begin to performthese regulatorybehaviors for themselves. 1981) that help-seekingmay serve multiple purposes. Nelson-Le Gall et al. to master and understandsomethingnew.that is. 1981). obtain. Anderson & Messick. Nelson-Le Gall. Help-seekingis seen as task-relevant effort and as such is an investment that increases competence. thus.12 conceptionof ability. monitor.

and thus as continuedtask involvement. 1983. In otherwords. is masteryorientedandrefersto those instancesin whichthe help requested successfulprocessesof problemsolution appearsto be focusedon acquiring and is limited to the amount and type needed to allow learnersto solve problemsor attain goals for themselves.Nelson-Le Gall. 1978.g. Help may be sought.g. then. direct help and ready-madesolutionswould be of interestto those seeking executivehelp.1975)as behaviordirectedtowardthe attainmentof a solution to difficultor challengingproblems. therefore. may serve as a mechanism of transition from other-regulationin problem solving to self-regulationin problem solving. Thus. Help-seeking behavior from a person whose goals can be obtained readily and economically without the mediation of others should thus be judged differently than such behavior from a child whose goals could not be achievedwithouthelp. but continued reliance on others to provide more than is needed would be detrimentalto the developmentof independentmastery and mighteven inducedependency. Instrumentalhelp-seeking.Murphy.yet they can obtain help when it is needed. Diener & Dweck.Some researchers (e.Nelson-Le Gall et contrast..indirecthelp.. hints. The distinction between "executive" or dependency-oriented help or seeking and "instrumental" mastery-oriented help seeking. Learnerswith effective instrumentalhelp-seekingskills are able to refuse help when they can performa task by themselves. 1981). creatingthe opportunities for constructive other-regulation and at the same time enhancing . and explanationswould be of interest to those seeking instrumental help. Thus it is importantto consider the appropriatenessof help-seeking for a person having an assumed or known capacityfor coping with the difficultyencountered.. however. Learnersseeking executive help with problems beyond their current level of competence appearto be more interestedin the productor successfuloutcome than in the processes or means of achievingthe outcome. then. behaviorhas been characterized variousresearchers Mastery-oriented by (e. It is suggested. Accordingly. Executive help-seeking refersto those instancesin whichthe student'sintentionis to have someone else solve a problemor attaina goal on his or her behalf.Instrumental help-seeking. 1981. Some problems encountered by learners undoubtedlycall for executive help-seeking.or to avoidthe task altogether. 1983) have arguedthat mastery-oriented help-seeking should be considered an achievement behavior.the necessityof seekinghelp for goal attainment in the task setting should be considered in characterizing help-seeking as constructivefor masteryor not. that help-seeking may act to keep mastery-orientedlearnersinvolved in difficult tasks. 1962. for a far more constructive purpose.Harter.such as enhancingthe student'sown competence.Nelson-LeGall:Help-Seeking Behavior 67 avoid criticismfrom an agent of evaluation. is an importantone to make (Nelson-Le Gall. Ames.

they also seek help with other domainsof developmentsuch as masteryof the immediatephysical environment. Studentsmust learn to monitortheir own task performance and attemptto deal with difficultiesor problemsbecause the teacher in a large classroom cannot always perform this function for them. The importance of instrumentalhelp-seeking for learning and skill acquisitiondoes not diminishacrossthe school years.Instrumental contextsoccurring help-seekingbehaviors in the context of the child'searly learningexperiences. it is now acknowledgedthat the adaptiverole of help-seekingis evident in learning acrossthe lifespan. To cope in the school environment childrenmust adaptto the classroom contexthelp-seekingskillsdevelopedin the contextof earlysocial relations with parents.g. the requestedhelp was more likely to be for academicor problem-relevant informationthan for social attention.but they mustbe completedbeforethe next taskin the sequence is undertaken.In addition... If seeking help were provoked merely because of general inexperienceit might be expected to decrease steadily with increasingexperiencein the problem area because the need for help would lessen as a function of the accumulation of . a student requestedhelp from a peer).e.According develop to Sears(1972). (1982) foundthat in a randomsampling of peer instructionalinteractions in the classroom. Winterbottom. Marquis. 1958).there are often time constraints imposedon task Under such conditions. teachers of elementary school children tend to believe that children who seek help are more task-orientedand more involvedin the learningprocessthan childrenwho give up easily or wait for others to offer them help (Nelson-Le Gall & Scott-Jones. & Ayers-Lopez. DevelopmentalRole of Help-Seekingin Learning In contrast to the earlier views of developmentalists. infantsnot only elicit help with satisfyingbodilyneeds such as hunger. 1982). Cooperet potentialinstructors. In addition.seeking out a competentperson for performance.. Thispoint of view is in contrastto that underlyingstudiesof achievementmotivationin whichhelp-seekingis consideredto be the antithesisof achievementbehavior(e.g. the majority were learner-initiated (i. Cooper. as well as teachers. in press). Individual school assignments often represent steps in an ordered learning sequence. Naturalisticobservationsof peer interactionsin classroomssuggest that help-seeking is a frequent occurrence (e. Children mustlearnto utilizetheirpeers.12 the developmentof self-regulatory skills. aid or advice may represent a more adaptive strategy for coping with a difficult task that must be mastered than giving up or persisting unsuccessfullyat the task without help.68 Reviewof Researchin Education. This means that not only must school tasks be completed. Indeed.

Nelson-LeGall:Help-Seeking Behavior 69 knowledge and skill. In fact. In orderfor help-seeking to be both effective and instrumental. knowledgeandskillwith increasing more likely to occur (given supportiveclassroom environments)among studentsat higher. Flammer. The more knowledgeand experiencelearners can have. Too little or too much knowledgein a problemarea will lessen the probability of using help-seeking as a strategy for solving problemsthat are encountered. Bruner.Miyake& Norman. cognitive psychologistshave demonstratedthat questionasking is basic to knowledge acquisition (e. .1981.Webb(1980)found that achievement of individual group members.the relationship between help-seekingand knowledge appearsto be somewhatcurvilinear (Miyake & Norman.. Researchshows that childrendo differ developmentally the tendency in to seek help and in the abilityto use the help availablein formallearning situations.These researchers at the fifth-gradelevel than at the lower grade levels. The relationshipbetween increasingknowledge and experience. 1981) and is dependent on the individual'scurrent knowledge base (e. measured in terms of successful solution of similar post-test problems.For example.So.Leonard. 1979). Kaiser. and to have some reasonableideas about where and how such knowledge might be gained. The youngest children.. the morelikelythey are to recognizewhen seekinginformation be useful.and 5-year-oldswere more willing than 3-year-oldsto use an adult tutor in a task. to the extentthatstudentsacquiremore school experience. the older childrenused the tutor. tended to ignore the tutor most frequently. and found a higherincidenceof fifth-grademathclassrooms.g.Myersand Paris (1978) found that sixth graderswere more likely than second gradersto report seeking help as a strategy for handling reading difficulties.who most needed help with problem-solving the problem. Wood.Analyzingthe verbalinteraction highschoolstudentsworking in smallgroupsto solve a difficultmathematics problem.and Ross (1976) foundthat 4. gradelevels and amongstudentsat moderatelyhigh skill levels.however. was greatest for those studentswho were activeexplainersandfor those who were activesolicitors of explanations.and Flavell (1975)also found an increasewith age in the reportedusage of seekinghelp fromother personsas a strategyfor handlingmemorytasks. Flammer. & Mueller-Bouquet.g. third-.In opposed to not quite so linear. help-seeking Instrumental help-seekingcontinuesto be adaptiveas a problem-solving skill in formal and informal learning situations into adolescence and of adulthood.the individualmust know enough to know what is not known. to know what could be known. Age-relatedincreasesin help-seekingwere also reportedby Nelson-LeGall and Glor-Scheib(in press) in an observationalstudy of first-. but only when they experienceddifficultyor wantedtheir solutionschecked. 1979). Similarly.To the contrary. is clearthatinstrumental in remainsimportant help-seeking situationsin and beyond adulthood. individualsmust become awareof obstaclesto goal to be a dichotomoussocial behavior(i. In the experienceson how they havecopedwithdifficultwork-related more structuredapprentice-mentor relationships. the expertrendersmore assistancethan when help is not actually needed. and correctingthe novice's task performance in a manner responsive to the novice's own internal resources (Scribner & Cole. In the context of achievementperspectives.70 Reviewof Researchin Education.12 The phenomenon of help-seeking occurs in learning situations in adulthoodwhen an individualon a new job seeks out more experienced the trade colleaguesfor help "learning ropes"or whenworkersor managers tasks. When help is requested and needed for task solution. to of and encouragesattentionto help-seekingas a system of behaviorin itself.must learn to view other people as resourcesvaluablefor goal achievement. monitoring. In these one-to-one instructional exchanges. The reconceptualization presentedunderscoresthe factthathelp-seekingis often instrumental the acquisition competence.the adult in the role of withproblemsolvingin the task apprenticerequestsand receivesassistance situation from a mentor who is an expert in the task domain. research and theory on achievement-relatedfactors and help-seekingare less well developed. learning Summary Achievement-related frameworks conceptualize help-seeking as an that is sufficiently activitythat permitsthe learnerto createan environment supportive to allow progress. The achievement-related perspectivesare more recent than the social normativeand self-esteemperspectivesdiscussedin the precedingsections. zation is also timely in that it addresseswhat are now recognizedas glaring gaps in our knowledge about the interface of social development in childhood with intellectualcompetence in childhood..thisperspectiveappears to hold great promise. the more expert memberof the dyad assists in planning. Thus.e. interpersonal process.Nevertheless. 1973).the learner can undertake more challenging tasks than he or she could otherwise.By seeking instrumental help from others when necessary. yet sufficiently challenging to remain interesting. seek help--not seek help) and is better characterized an as multidimensional the reconceptualiongoing. rather than merely as a measure of dependency.In order to initiate help-seeking. Thus.and must . Help-seeking thus allows the learner to acquire and master increasinglycomplex skills. DEVELOPMENT HELP-SEEKING OF SKILLS The deliberateuse of help-seekingas a problem-solving activityrequiresa fair amount of cognitive sophistication.

were allowedto seek help if they desired. and other social science disciplines. in press).Nelson-LeGall:Help-Seeking Behavior 71 learn means of enlisting others to help attain these goals.andwere then requiredto subsequently give their final solutionto the task. Individuals' between themselvesas learnersand the knowledgeabout the compatibility learning situation plays an important role in effective problem solving (Baker & Brown. this review brings together studies from diverse areas of inquiry in psychology. Childrenwere found to engage in both necessary and unnecessary help-seeking.the net result of this behavior being fewer wrong final answers on the task..they are in a relativelygood positionto utilize help-seeking as a strategy to enable them to cope with the problem. education. Therefore. This age-related . If individualsare not aware of their own limitationsor the complexityof the task at hand. 1977) concerning (a) the characteristicsof the of help-seeker(PERSONvariables). Children gave tentative solutions to a task. Nelson-Le Gall (1984b)studiedthird-and fifth-grade task-related help-seekingusing a procedurethat allowedfor an objective assessmentof the need for help. Awareness of Need for Help Seeking help is an intentional act and therefore is contingent on the individual's becomingawareof the need for help (i. Interesting grade differences of occurredin the appropriateness help-seeking.e.(b) the characteristics the targethelper and natureof the problem (TASK variables). then they are not likely to anticipatedifficultiesand take preventiveaction or to recover easily from difficulties encountered. The skills that are discussed in this section were derived from a task analysis of the help-seeking process and include both cognitive and behavioralactivities in which the help-seeker may be thought to engage abilityto engage in each priorto.Fifthgraders' help-seeking more often thanwas that of the thirdgraders.and afterseekinghelp. The available literature concerned explicitly with the adaptive functions of children'shelp-seekingskills is somewhat limited. Children's of these component processes depends in part on their metacognitive knowledge (cf.Discussionof these skillswill proceedwith referenceto their developmentalstatusduring the preschool and elementary school years.Fifthgraders was appropriate sought more necessaryhelp than did third graders. The following sectionspresent a selective review of researchrelevantto the development of important skills involved in acts of interpersonalhelp-seeking. Age differenceshave been found in children'sabilityto assesstheir need for help. If individuals have some awareness of the complexity of the task and can monitor their progress on the task well enoughto detect a problem. Flavell.and (c) the suitabilityof the means employedto gain assistance(STRATEGYvariables). realizingthat his or her own availableresourcesare not sufficientto reacha goal). during.

their requestsare less likely to be specific because they are less likely to have surmisedthe exact natureof the problem.72 Reviewof Researchin Education. Another possibilityis that younger generatedsigns thanolderandmoreexperiencedlearners childrenmayset a highercriterion for when they will attendto possibleproblems. When task demands are simple or familiar. for assessingthe need for help. Also. Young childrenmay have a higher threshold for confusion or ambiguity.childrenas young as 3 years of age appearto employ to metacognitiveskillssuch as attempting execute mentallythe instructions for performing a task before actually beginning it. 1977.may mentalprocessingand maybecome awareof fail to execute the appropriate of understanding throughactiveattemptsto performthe task theirlack only or throughfeedbackfrom others.comparedto older children.It shouQ noted 4be suggested that third and fifth gradershad approximately equal numbersof correct whether or not help was subsequently tentative responses (disregarding These findings suggest that younger children had difficulty sought).Young childrenwho are in general less knowledgeable and less skilled than others may as a consequencebe more often confused.g.adults or experts who are able to make complex inferencesare able to function without help in more situationsthan the child or novice. the requestis likely to be for help that is very specific and limited in scope. One possibleexplanation this age difference lies in differentialmetacognitiveskills. rely The developmentalliteratureon metacomprehension (e. On very difficulttasks.The literatureindicatesthat the ability to evaluate the need for help is a skill influenced by both maturationand experience. When mature learnersrequesthelp fromothers. 1979) provides additionalsupportfor the notion that the ability to assess one's need for help is a requisiteskill for effectivehelp-seeking. even adultsmay appear to lack these skills (Brown.In contrast. 1978)..12 is increasein the adaptiveuse of help-seekingas a problem-solving?strategy also by data on children'stentative answers. The younger children may have made a less complete or less accuratesurveyof what they did and did not know prior to taking advantageof the availablehelp. Markman. however. or it may be that they ignore contradictionsand difficultiesso as to avoid having to ask for additional informationor help (Markman. for of The implication metacomprehension seekinghelp in learningis that children often do not ask for help because they are not aware of the incompatibilitybetween their own resources and the task at hand. . The to failureto detect a problemmaybe due to insufficient sensitivity internally that a problem exists.youngerchildren.1980). When tasks are or unfamiliar difficult. Whenyoung childrendo seek help. the younger childrenmay have been simplyless experiencedwith evaluatingtheir own to in performances academicsettingsandthereforemayhavebeen reluctant on their own impressionsof their performances.

a problem must be resolved in an appropriateway. such as becomingindebtedto the helper and admittingcurrentskill inadequacies(e. Help-seeking for may not occur.Nash & Torrance.Feldman.1971). DePaulo & Fisher. Gumerman(1982) found that kindergarteners first gradersoften did not seek help when and confrontedwith problemsbecause they did not assume responsibilityfor completingthe task. of costs of askingfor help 1976).Nelson-LeGall:Help-Seeking Behavior 73 Decision to Seek Help Once perceived. it is importantfor them to considerthe possibilityof seeking help from a more expert learner. Because childrenare frequentlynovices at many spontaneously of the taskswith whichthey are confrontedand may not benefit as muchas more skilled learners from their own continued individualefforts. like adults.1974)..1979. Althoughanalysesof costs and benefits maybe of concernto olderchildrenand adolescentswho. Whether and to what extent perceived costs of asking for and receiving help influence the decision of childrenof different ages and in different problem contexts to seek help requires more empiricalstudy.Piaget. loss of perceivedcompetence)do not influenceyoung children'sdecisionsto seek help. 1932. it maybe thatsome of the psychological that affect adults'help-seeking(e. Markman. 1980).but there are no guarantees that otherswill automatically anticipatethe child'sneed for help and always intervene.g. the decisionto seek help maybe affectedby the assessmentof the relativecosts and benefitsassociatedwith seekinghelp. Young and inexperiencedstudentsmay receive more unsolicitedoffers of help thanolder andmore experiencedchildren.g.& Loebl.Greenberg& Shapiro.g.Thus. Type of Help Sought The ability to make and convey distinctionsamong types of help is important for effective use of help-seeking in learning situations. 1976.. It hasbeen reportedthatchildrenat a "pre-operational" level of cognitive to the outcomesof actionsin theirverbaland attendedprimarily functioning non-verbalreconstructions series of events (Brown. however. . if the learnerdoes not also take responsibility alleviation of the problem and for task completion. since childrenwould be more attentiveto the successfuloutcomethanto the mannerin whichit was engagein socialcomparison is doubtfulthat such analyseshave the same importanceto young children. 1980. It might be assumedthat awarenessof the inadequacyof to one's knowledgeandskillwouldbe sufficiently motivating cause a person to seek help (e. and research needs to examine the acquisition and development of this skill. These childrenperceivedthe adult as responsiblefor the alleviatingany problemsencounteredand for accomplishing assigned task.have a morestableconceptof theirown competenceandwho maybe morelikelyto (Ruble. Boggiano. Even when the help-seeker assumes responsibilityfor the task..

distinctionsare made.g. Janicki. Webb also reported that the type of response received was significantly related to achievement. 1983. 1982).g. explanations. 1982)also in reportvariations the type of help soughtby studentsof differinggradeand ability levels.Webb. the relationship between higher-order responsesreceivedand achievement on the participants'age and skill level. 1984b. It is not clearfromWebb'sstudieswhetherstudents'requestsdifferentiated between answerswithout explanationsand elaboratedexplanationsas the type of help desired from group members. Younger students may depends simply not provide as effective explanationsto their peers as do older students. When (e... between receiving explanationsand achievement.12 Unfortunately. 1981).. Webb (1982) studied junior high and high school students in small learninggroups and reportedthat receivinghelp from group membersin response to questions was significantlyrelated to students' achievement. In these cases the type of help sought has been shown to be related to achievementoutcomes (e. boys in particular. elaborated examples. Taken together with .Swing& Peterson. 1984b) that such a distinctionis evident in students'requests. In one such study. The findingsindicatedthat fifth graderspreferredinstrumental over executive help significantly more than did the third graders.. Otherstudies(e.g. answers only) help help. Low-abilitychildren. 1983). For example.Peterson. Nelson-Le Gall.. (1983) studied the requestsof second and third gradersin small learninggroups and found that most of children's requests were not for explanations.g.g.g. Apparently. Peterson et al. Nelson-Le Gall. Yet the distinction is an one important to be madeby students. Nelson-LeGall. Peterson et al. Nelson-Le Gall (1984b) investigatedthe studentsof highandlow abilityin help-seekingbids of third-andfifth-grade order to determinechildren'spreferencefor instrumental(e. When no distinction is made.Like Webb.& Swing. as did high-ability children and girls.andit appearsfromfindingsof recent research(e. Peterson et al.. hints) versus executive (e.The relationshipbetween receivingexplanations and learningthe task was found to be positive.the studies reported in the literaturedo not consistently between the types of help soughtor even differentiatebetween distinguish solicited and unsolicited help received. however.No relationship found.. found a negativerelationshipbetween the frequencyof a child'sreceivinganswers was only to questionsand subsequentachievement. is generallyno relationship foundbetween receivinghelp and achievement Peterson & Janicki.did not show a preference for instrumental help.74 Reviewof Researchin Education. 1979. 1984b. whereas the relationship between achievementand receivingno response from group membersor was receivingrestatedsolutionswithoutexplanations foundto be negative. receivinghelp has been shown to be effective only when the help is in response to expressedstudent need (Webb.

the learnermustidentifypotential helpers. Kindergarteners spontaneouslyreported positive behaviors and global descriptive of qualities. Nelson-Le Gall and Glor-Scheib.throughfifth-gradechildren. Thus.Nelson-LeGall:Help-Seeking Behavior 75 Peterson et al.'s (1983) findingthat low-abilitychildreninteracting work in groups tend to get only answers. Edwards& Lewis. allowing children to make spontaneous nominations.. Characteristics the press). In could recognize these contrastto the older children. Nelson-Le Gall & Gumerman. Two studies.preschoolerstended to preferadultsand older childrenas helpers(e. Bachman (1975) and Nelson-Le Gall and Gumerman (1984). a good helper was perceivedby young childrenas someone who playedwith them or someone who was nice. Naturalistic observationsof childrenin their classroomsindicatethat childrenseek out for theirclassmates help even whensuchbehavioris discouraged teachers by (Nelson-Le Gall. Third and sixth gradersalso mentioned these such but characteristics. 1979). Boehm (1957). teachers. Barnett et al. 1978). One aspect of the social knowledgeimportantfor help-seekingis the knowledgethat all personsdo not bringequal credentialsto the role of of helper. the findings of Nelson-Le Gall's study suggestthat the reasonthat young and low-abilitychildrenare not effective help-seekersis not solely that they may lackskillsto recognizetheirneed or to elicit help. and friendswere the helpers nominatedmost frequentlyamong first. and sixth-grade children to determine their perceptions of characteristicsassociated with good helpers. usinga forced-choice with increasingage elementaryschool childrentendedto preferadviceon a problem from a talented peer rather than from an adult. Severalstudiesof older children'shelper preferencessuggest that peers are often preferred helpers (Boehm. Developmental differences in children'shelper preferenceshave been noted in the literature.andof the helping context may singly or jointly affect helper choice.g. it may also be becausethey fail to seek the type of help that is most conducive to learning and mastery. Northman. Childrenmustlearnto distinguish betweenvariousothersin termsof their and willingnessto help. the kindergarteners .also foundthat increasingage. Barnettet al. 1984a. third-. (1982) and competence Nelson-Le Gall and Gumerman(1984). 1957.of the help-seeker. interviewedkindergarhelpers using teners and first-.WhereasBachmanfound motherto be foundthatthe the firstchoice in all characteristics good helpers. they increasingly generatedspecificcharacteristics of as willingnessand competenceas requiredqualifications good helpers. 1984.such as kindness.Nelson-Le Gall and Gumerman choice of preferred helper shifted from parent to teacher to peer with format.Generally. examinedchildren's perceptionsof an interview format. Identification and Selection of PotentialHelper(s) Havingmadethe decisionto seek help. found that family.

Similar to the Barnett et al. kindergarteners often cited global characteristics importantfor the selection of as graders peer helpers. For example.1974). whereasthird and fifth gradersfrequentlymentionedglobal characteristics criteriafor choosing parent helpers.helperwillingnessandrole obligations reported olderthanby youngerchildren. More researchis needed to determinewhich of attributes the helperandof the helpingtasksare most salientfor children of differentsexes and differentages. At later ages childrentended to considermore the likelihoodthat the helper would also be motivatedor obligated to comply with a request for help. However. Thus. and willingnessas importantcharacteristics of preferredhelpers.andotherlearning settings. researchmust examine children'sknowledge about and employmentof helpers who are actually availablein the naturalcontextsof the school.helpercriteriawere foundto by tendedto varywith the specifichelperchosen. findings. with increasing age children mentionedhelper competenceless as a criterionfor helper choice. and fifth-grade students. but in a mannerdifferentfrom that describedby Barnettet al. the family. Globalhelpercharacteristics be cited as criteria by children when the helper was not among those and first generally preferredby their age group. attemptingto establish eye contact.Nonverbal strategiesmightincludeestablishing proximityto the helper. spontaneous children in Nelson-Le Gall and Gumerman's study perceived global prosocialqualities. the kindergartenersand first-gradersin the Nelson-Le Gall and Gumermanstudy frequentlyreportedhelper competence as a reason for choice.Elicitingassistancefroma specificpersonbecomes a matterof social problemsolving.12 characteristics importantfor effective helping but could not spontanas eously generate them. We still know little about the criteriachildrenuse in selecting peers and adults as helpers. The criteriaemployedfor choosinghelperswere also found to varywith the age of the child. Furthermore. as whatdevelopswithrespectto children's Exactly knowledgeabouthelpers is not clear. were morefrequently Thus. study.unlikethe kindergarteners in the Barnett et al.the help-seekermustobtain thatperson'sassistance. watching the behavior of others for a guide to . Nelson-Le Gall and Gumerman obtainedrationalesfromchildrenfor their choices of helpers. Nelson-Le Gall and Gumerman (1984) investigated perceptions of helpers among preschool and first-.In addition. third-. Strategies for EnlistingHelpers Once a potentialhelperhas been identified.the extent and natureof the child'ssocialstrategyrepertoire important(Spivack& Shure.Both is nonverbalandverbalstrategiesare availableto the help-seeker. That a helper should be competentto deal with the problembecame a given.therefore.76 Reviewof Researchin Education. competence.

crying. establishingproximityand eye contactwith caretakers)may be effective strategiesfor obtainingassistancefromparentsand other familiar adults..& Finley. 1979.. In assuming that help-seeking is a goaldirectedactivity.e. This literature. soliciting information about the problem at hand or about the helper's abilities vis-a-vis the problem. The selection of helpers and attempts to engage their help may be repeated until the needed help is the obtained.g. If children are unsuccessfulin engaginga potentialhelper or if the help receiveddoes not facilitate goal attainment.1983).Clark& Delia. 1973. & Michlin. and whetherthe strategiesare sensitive to the demands of the problem.. For example. help-seekersneed to monitorthe help-seekingeffort while it is ongoing and to evaluate the outcomes. These judgmentsmay influence future help-seeking behavior. making statements about one's competence.. 1979). threats and demands may not be the most effective strategiesfor obtaininghelp from adults.the most importantoutcomevariableis whetheror not the help-seeker is successful in obtaining the required help. Ostrowski. Help-seekers may evaluate the successor failureof the help-seekingattemptin termsof the responsesof the helper approached.and using physicalexpressionsof confusionor exasperation. tacticsusedby childrenin convincing Bearison & Gass.if the help-seekingactivityis ultimatelyunsuccessful. but they may be quite effective with peers (Ladd. Many of these same strategies. the effectiveness of their own help-seeking strategies. 1976. and remindingthe helper of some obligationto help (e. 1977.. Pich6. whetherthe strategiesemployedvarywiththe age and sex of the help-seekerand the potentialhelper. Cooperet al. i.however. Verbal strategies might include directly asking for help. Green & Smith. mightbe counterproductive when used by older children.the adequacyof the help obtainedas an aid to problem solving. then they must reevaluate their strategies for obtaininghelp and/ortheir choice of helper.g. Studiesof the developmentof persuasiveappealshave identifiedverbal othersto accedeto theirrequests(e.g.g. Rubin. & Oden. and the reactions of others toward well as the social problem-solving literature and the sociolinguistic literature on in communicating classrooms(e.. Merritt.Nelson-LeGall:Help-Seeking Behavior 77 performance. 1980).nonverbalbehaviors(e.suggeststhatthe importantquestionsfor researchconcernthe flexibilityof strategiesused to obtain help. EvaluativeResponses Finally. children . Naturalisticstudies of children's discourse have found age differences in the means employed to seek informationfrom childrenof differentages and adults(Ervin-Tripp. For very young children. 1982.1982). Wilkinson & Calculator. 1978).expressing confusion. The effectivenessof nonverbalstrategiesmayvarywiththe help-seeker's age.

age. Recipient reactions to aid among both adults and childrenhave been studied (see Eisenberg. and high ability duringtheir readingand math lessons. 1983. however.andfifth-grade studentsof low. In addition. 1983). and quality of children'sreactions to help-seeking.For example. Nelson-Le Gall and Glor-Scheibfound that girls. or to effectivelycomplete and also mastertasks(i. spontaneousacquisitionof aid by the person helped.. engaged in mastery-oriented help-seekingin reading classes. & Nadler. engagedin mastery-oriented help-seekingin math classes. more than boys. frequency. When students are task-involved. A situational variable of importanceto help-seeking in achievement settings concerns the goal of the achievement activity (e. Fisher.and (c) increasetheir skillsin using appropriateand effective help-seekingstrategies. individualsfocus on the task and on the processing of task-relevantinformation.Nicholls. characteristics the helperandof the helpingcontext)mayalso be relevant of to the study of reactionsto help-seeking. it becomes clear that we are dealingwith person x situationinteractionsratherthan with person main effects.12 may desist from active attemptsto resolve the problemor pursuethe goal. 1981. however. 1983. there are no datathatwould allowus even to describethe form. When the focus of the activityis to acquire new skills and to mastercurrentskills. such that children can (a) further their acquisitionand masteryof skills.third-..g. for comprehensive reviews of this literature). ability. however.g. help-seeking occurred with the greatest frequency during small group learning activities. Webb. (b) maintainor enhancetheirperceptions of themselvesas learnersand goal-achievers.Nelson-Le Gall and Glor-Scheib observedfirst-. The literature on recipient reactionsto press). At the present time. DePaulo. does not alwaysfocus explicitlyon the active.g. Help-seekingmay vary as muchwith the learningsetting as it does with personal characteristicssuch as gender (e.In academicsettings. We can nevertheless speculate that many of the determinants and correlates of recipient reactions (e. sex.78 Reviewof Researchin Education. Dweck & Elliott..Such situationsare characterized task-involby vement.. Help-seekingwas found to vary with characteristics both the learning context and the of learner. to be ableto completespecifictasksnow andon one's own in the future). whereas boys. average.althoughstudentsspentmostof theirtime engagedin individual seatwork. Nelson-Le Gall & Glor-Scheib. CHARACTERISTICS ACHIEVEMENT OF SETTINGS In preceding sections the influences of personal characteristicswere highlighted. A study by Nelson-Le Gall and Glor-Scheib(in press) providesa good illustrationof these influences.. and need state of the person helped. 1979).g. Successful help-seeking may have positive social and cognitive consequences (e. more than girls.e.learningis a demonstrationof .

Ames & For Ames. It is through mastery socializationexperiencesin the familycontext (see Scott-Jones. Feelings of competenceare producedfrom the perception of learning. is membership not definedby ability. of Severalcharacteristics classroomorganization Rosenholtz & Simpson.when the focus of the activityis to obtain immediatesatisfactionand success in demonstrating skills or avoiding the demonstration of lack of skill.. 1983. (mastery-oriented) 1983) is valued. comparisonsof ability become more difficult.In contrast.the structures for evaluationof academicoutcomesthatoperatein the classroom. Studentswho are allowedto scheduletheir own work assignments have the of increasingtheir performanceoptions (e. These situationsare characterized ego-involvement (Dweck & Elliott. Wang. Rosenholtz & Wilson. a Achievementgoals may be definedby the individual undertaking given or they maybe imposedfromwithoutby the taskor some aspectof the task.. Accomplishment instrumental help-seeking(Ames & Ames.g.. 1978) has consistentlyshown that children in competitive learning environments tend to focus on obtaining . Crockenberg& is moredifficultfor othersto observe A andinterpretpatternsof taskperformance. studentsact in waysto maximizethe chanceof learningandto minimizebehaviorthat will not producegainsin mastery. If possibility studentsare performing differentactivitiesat the sametime. or even similar activitiesbut at differenttimes. example. Developmental achievement motivation research learningand suggeststhatall childrenstartout in life espousingandpursuing as goals of their activity (e. 1959). or in differentways and in differentplaces. 1978.. It appearsthat aspectsof the instructional and organization proceduresof in classroomsmayencouragetask-as opposedto ego-involvement students. A third characteristicof is classroomorganizationthat may help to promote task-involvement the extent to whichgroupingof studentsby abilityfor instructional purposesis When studentswork as individualsor in varyinggroupswhose practiced. 1980) that may contributeto task-involvedlearningorientationsby actingas deterrentsto of a social comparison performance. Nicholls.One suchcharacteristic. task environment.research(e.mayalso influencestudents'task-involvement.Ames.1984.g. individuals tend to focus on themselves and on their performance in by comparisonto others.Behavior Nelson-LeGall:Help-Seeking 79 througheffort. for a comprehensivereview of familyinfluenceson children'sachievement)and the school context that children orient themselves increasingly to performancegoals. have been identified(e. relatedfeature. 1983). 1978.e. White.A second characteristic the degree of autonomygranted studentsto make choicesaboutwhatworkto do andwhen and how to do it..g. qualitativelydifferentinstructional is thought to inhibit global comparison among students' materials) is performances. differentiated methods and academicstructure(i. including abilityand thus an end in itself. 1979).

that may foster task-involvementand adaptive help-seekingskills. and functionof help-seekingactivities. However. These include (a) the collection of naturalisticobservationaldata on the frequency.80 Reviewof Researchin Education. The need for researchon the effects of help-seekingfor children'slearningis is in fact a pervasivefeature of everydayproblem solving. The distinction between ego. then.such as contemporaneous currentachievementlevel. learning.and task-involvement is crucial for educational thinking. It is important. there is a greater chance that more studentswill be optimally task-oriented. motivationalorientations. It is somewhat ironic that children find themselves increasingly in competitive settings and under greater exposure to social comparisonin school at a time when their cognitiveand metacognitivecapacitiesprovide them with the tools for effectively utilizing help-seeking in service of competence-increasing activities. and skill acquisitionacross the lifespan. featureswork to reduce students' All of these classroomorganizational orientation toward making judgments of their ability that are based primarilyon social comparison.Furtherresearchshould also attend closely to variablesassociatedwith individualdifferences. This basis for task orientation would not be available to all students when classrooms emphasize social comparisonof performance.and communicative and social interactionalskills.form. because it is conditionsin the to appropriate promotehelp-seekingundertask-involved classroom. and other learning settings to which children are exposed.Studentswith high self-conceptsof ability can remain sufficiently confident about their ability in the face of task difficulty and thus can remain oriented to the task. as opposedto demonstrating one knowsmore than other students. we will need studiesto investigatepossible antecedentsof individual differencesin help-seeking.12 favorableand avoidingunfavorablecomparisonof their ability to that of their classmatesmore than do childrenin cooperative learning environments. In remedyingthe lack of positive attention given to children'shelp-seeking skills. DIRECTIONS FOR FUTURERESEARCH Although the role of help-seeking has been relatively neglected in accountsof learning.(b) the collection .When classroom learning proceduresemphasizemasteringtasks and increasingskills and knowledge that over one's currentlevels. we probablywant to avoid promotinghelp-seeking under conditions of ego-involvement because such help-seeking would probablybe maladaptivein the long run and encouragecheatingor other undesirable performance tactics. to identify for educators those instructionalpractices occurring in school. a varietyof researchmethodologieswillhaveto be employed. To this end.

Within this frameworkhelp-seeking becomes a potential mechanism of transitionfrom necessaryreliance on more expert thinkers and problem solvers to independentachievement(e. Successfulexperiences in collaborativedyads with more capablepartnersmay providethe context for the developmentof attitudes and expectanciesabout learningthat promote task mastery. have come to acknowledge children's active influence upon the individual in the role.such as age..researchershave tended to focus on the passive or static meansof influencethat childrenbringto bear upon the interaction.andpeer collaboration dyads relationships. 1984. 1980. 1982.Nelson-LeGall:Help-Seeking Behavior 81 of open-endedand semistructured interviewdata on children'sknowledge of whatis involvedin seekinghelp and theirperceptionof the opportunities for help-seeking in specific situations. Recently. whether they are parents (e.or morecompetentpeers (e. gender. & Middleton.g. however. and (c) the use of structured interviewsand experimentalproceduresto highlightthe role of development in the varioushelp-seekingskills. Griffin& Cole.butalso for highlighting possibilitiesfor improving practice. & Budwig. McLane.g. 1978). 1980. 1984.The notionof the zone of proximal developmentwas introducedby Vygotsky(1978) and refersto the distance between the level of performancethat a child can reachwithout assistance . Adoption of this frameworkshouldbe useful not only for clarifying continuitiesand the discontinuitiesin children'sexperiences with help-seekingacross various the instructional settings.. Wood. 1980). Socializationof AdaptiveHelp-Seeking in Severalexistinglines of researchon cognitivesocialization parent-child in interactions.g.teacher-student or small groupscan complementone anotherin addressing basic questions aboutthe child'sorientationtowardhelp-seekingand its appropriate in use achievement settings.. When the child's contributionsare acknowledged. parent-child.child behaviorand characteristics have traditionallybeen neglected. researchersinvestigating the origins of learning skills in mediated learningsituations (e. 1979. 1984). Feuerstein. Palincsar& Brown. etc. Revivalof theoriesof learningand developmentthatplace "teaching" emphasis on mediated learning experiences provides a frameworkfor studyingthe socializationof help-seekingbehavior in its adaptivemode. For example. Malkin. Brown. Wertsch. McNamee. and peer-childrelationsall allowfor reciprocalrelationsamongpartners. currentability. teacher-child.g. In the followingsectionsa few of the areas ripe for furtherresearch are discussed. Wertsch. 1984). 1979).will attemptto operatewithinthe child'szone of proximaldevelopmentin orderto induce changesin skill level and affectlearning. & Gilbride. Effective teachers. Wood. Wertsch.g. professionals (e. Rogoff. Feuerstein.. Griffin & Cole.Yet in the varioustypes of adult-childexchanges.

Studiesareneededto examinethe role of help-seeking the developmentof task competence. the development of self-relianceand perceived competence is not merelya questionof the developmentof the skillsnecessaryfor competence in the task domain. 1959) suggest that mastery may be more salient than independenceas a factor in the early development of perceived competence and control.tend to have childrenwho develop early self-relianceand a sense of perceived control. behaviorsunderconditionsof task-involvement Descriptionof achievement (Nicholls. Thus. because mastery providesits own feedbackand rewards.There is the need for data to answer . 1984b)indicatethat studentsshow a preferencefor tasks that make neither success nor contrast. but it also involvesdevelopingthe self-perception that this competence rests within the self apartfrom the helping relationship. Classroomteachersmay also vary in the emphasisthey place on independence versus mastery in classroom activities.12 andthe level of performance attainedunderguidanceby or in collaboration with anothermore knowledgeableindividual.82 Reviewof Researchin Education.may or may not involve mastery.andpraiseduringtask activity. With the assistance of a helping other. the help-seeker accomplishesproblems too difficult for him or her. An equally important issue. this success at to problemsolvingmaybe attributed the helperor to the helpingdyaditself. namely.helpfulsuggestions. Rosen & D'Andrade.Independence. Yet. Chandler. Motivation and Learning The motivational components of help-seeking also require further in empirical support. & Dugovics. Cook.needsto receiveresearch in attention. 1980.g. Wolf. It is interestingto observethe similarity betweenthe child'sattitudesand behaviorswhen engaged in learningactivitieswithin the zone of proximal development and his or her task-involved achievement behaviors.When operatingin the zone of proximaldevelopmentstudentsare presentedwith tasksthat are beyond theircurrentlevels of successfulperformance are attainable but withguided effort and aid. Researchers studyingparentalsocializationof achievement(e. The match or mismatchof the teacher'ssocializationemphasiswith that experiencedby students in the family context deserves furtherstudy. 1984a. Parents who encourage mastery of tasks by providingsupport.The learningtasks are those beyond the child's current state of competence (thus ruling out certain success) but not so far beyond the child's reach that (s)he could not accomplishthem even with moderate guidance from the more capable partner(thus rulingout certainfailure). The mergingof the two research traditionswould help to create a more coherent picture of the learner's activities. how the help-seeker develops self-reliance the contextof the helpingreaction.

Instructional Grouping An immediate line of inquiry to pursue is the relationshipbetween studentability. (b) the differentialuse of executiveversusinstrumental help-seeking as problem-solvingstrategies. one would control of the solutionprocess to the expect to see the child relinquishing If help-seekingis functioningas a mediatorof independenceand helper. .however. and children should initiate successivelymore task behaviors without input from the adults. average-.and low-achievingstudents(Nelson-Le Gall & students sought help Glor-Scheib. Recent developmental and cognitive psychologicalstudies of learning have providedus with the conceptualframeworkand methodologicaltools for undertaking on investigations this subject. the help-seeking bids of average-abilitystudents were ignoredand rejectedmore frequentlythan those initiatedby low and high achievers. competence as hypothesized. and microdevelopmental changes in problem solving. potentialinstructional resourcesin the lesson context. In other press) indicatedthat average-ability less than low-ability students but more than high-ability students. then it wouldbe expectedthatoverthe courseof for interactionwitha helper. Strategies for problem solution should also become increasinglyindependent of external assistance over time. and from a classroomobservationalstudyof help-seekhelp-seeking. average-ability students received fewer unsolicited offers of help from peers and teachers than their low. refers to changesin behaviorduringa work session.childrenwouldaskincreasingly adultinputand feedbackon the correctperformanceof a task. If help-seekingleads to dependence on externalsourcesof help. rather than for direct help with individual problem elements. the There should be more requestsfor help with conceptualizing problem and strategies for solving it.and withthose of Webb These findingsarecompatible high-ability counterparts.then children'sbehaviorin the task setting should manifest continued (and even increased)involvementin the task. Interestingly.Nelson-LeGall:Help-Seeking Behavior 83 between children's perceptionsof their questionsabout (a) the relationship own competence and their solicitationand the use of the help in problem solving. Microdevelopment Such investigationswill require a procedure that allows for controlled observation of children's more natural or spontaneous help-seeking behaviorsin a problem-solving setting. Studiesby Anzai and Simon (1979) and Karmiloff-Smith(1979) provide excellent examples of the of microanalysis learning.Applicationof these methodologiesto studying learning in task-involved situations and the functions of instrumental help-seekingin such settings are recommended.Findings ing among high-. (c) the relationshipbetween mastery motivation. preference for instrumentalhelp. Furthermore.

84 Reviewof Researchin press) it has been noted that on many occasions. Finally. In observational studiesof help-seekingin the classroom(e.such high-ability sophisticatedhelp-seekingbehaviorsbecause there will be more students perceivedas potentiallycompetentto help. In just the past five years or so. studentsengagedin little help-seekingin those situationswhere high-ability help-seekingwouldhavebeen an appropriate problem-solving strategy. it is hoped that this chapter has clearly established the importance of help-seeking activity for children's learning and mastery.12 (1980) and Peterson. In conclusion. current conceptions of help-seeking were discussed and their as for the appropriateness frameworks understanding role of help-seekingin children'slearningand skill acquisitionwas examined. Becausethereare so few studies investigatingacademichelp-seekingamongstudentsof variousskill levels. and Swing (1981). yet at present no clear of on interpretation the effectsof classroomstructure learningoutcomesfor these students can be offered. therefore. and ideas for future research on help-seekingin childrenwere suggested. the impactof situationalvariationsin the learningand achievementsetting of the classroomwas discussed. The effectiveuess of different classroom in and organizations instructional learning groupings fosteringtask-involved conditionsfor studentsof varyingabilitylevels warrants furtherattention.andin formalandinformal and situations. did not need help. Janicki. High-abilitystudents may not have engaged in help-seeking when they needed help because they perceivedhelp to be unavailable. In this paper. there has been an exponentialincreaseof theoreticalandempiricalactivityin the area. they perceived the pool of potential helpers to be substantially limited. The .The low frequencyof help-seekingamongthese studentsmaybe taken to mean that they understood the material and. Alternatively it may be that because the high-abilitystudents received instructionin the same classrooms with lower-achievingstudents. no firm conclusions or recommendations about optimal classroom organization can be made.In classrooms with more homogeneous ability grouping. AND CONCLUSION SUMMARY Ten yearsago the researchliteraturefocusedspecifically help-seeking on could probablybest be describedas a scatteredset of apparently unrelated studies.Priorresearchon the developmentof skills relevantto learning help-seekingwas reviewed. however.. Nelson-Le Gall & Glor-Scheib. The role of instrumental help-seeking acrossthe developmental spanfrominfancyto adulthoodwas illustrated in the contextof parent-child peer relations. such as honors programsor enrichment studentsmayshow appropriate and programs.g.A reconceptualizafunctions its tion of help-seekingthatemphasized adaptiveandinstrumental in achievementactivitieswas outlined.

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