Learning Hacks: Should I Ask For Help?

The Hack

If you aren’t sure if you are understanding, reach out to a peer or a teacher for help.

If you are embarrassed or worried what people might think of you because you reached out for help, try reaching out using technology, like email or chat message, as many students perceive this as less threatening.

bowl of alphabet cereal with letters forming the words "help me"The Story

Recognizing when you need help is hard. It requires a skill called metacognition. Metacognition means being aware of your own learning. It means you know when you are learning something and when you aren’t quite getting it. When you aren’t understanding something there are many ways to try to figure it out, but one of the most effective ways to learn is to reach out to someone who already knows the material to help you learn what you aren’t understanding.

The Research

Kitsantas and Chow studied (1) in which scenarios students are most likely to ask for help, (2) which kinds of students are more likely to ask for help, and (3) whether reaching out for help improved student success. They found that (1) students are more likely to reach out for help in an online environment because students perceive it as lower risk than if they had to reach out for help in person, (2) students with high self-efficacy, or belief in their abilities, were more likely to seek help, and (3) students that reach out more frequently did better in their courses than students who did not ask for help.

The Source

Kitsantas, A., & Chow, A. (2007). College students’ perceived threat and preference for seeking help in traditional, distributed, and distance learning environments. Computers & Education, 48(3), 383-395.