Stuart Karabenick and his colleagues suggest, an aversion to seeking help is, unfortunately, normal.
After all, seeking help means you're not adequate. It's a blow to your pride. And in the classroom, it means you don't get it. And what could be worse than acknowledging that you don't get it?
As some of you know, Carol Dweck is one of my favorite educational psychologists. Dweck's core insight is that learners tend to have either a mastery-oriented mindset or a fixed mindset. Those with the mastery mindset believe that learning is both possible and desirable, and hence respond positively to academic adversity. They see such adversity as an opportunity to increase or reconfigure their efforts and put success within their grasp.
Those with the fixed mindset respond to adversity by concluding that the adversity reveals their (in)ability. Since ability is fixed, the only role for adversity is to point out where you're deficient (and perhaps to guide you away from those subjects you struggle with and toward those you learn more readily).
Naturally, the former group is much more likely to seek help than the latter, so perhaps the infrequency with which students seek help is evidence of how regrettably frequent the fixed mindset is.
But Karabenick et al's research indicates that there are pedagogical approaches that can help students who need help help themselves.
Yes, Karabenick confirms that students who need help the most are least likely to seek it. But
the nature of the classroom itself affects the decision to ask for help as well as the kind of help sought. If it’s a classroom that emphasizes mastery goals, as in learning the material so it is really understood, students are more likely to seek help and they want help that goes beyond finding out the “right” answer. On the other hand, if it’s a classroom where students are regularly compared to and with other students, then students are less likely to seek help and what they want is not focused on understanding the material but finding the answers they need to out perform other students.I don't think many college-level teachers compare students in these ways, but I'm not sure. Other advice, perhaps obvious:
Of course, how the teacher raises the issue of getting extra help also makes a difference. Struggling students don’t need to be confronted in public. Embarrassment doesn’t make it easier to seek help. Better to convey the message privately with a note on the back page of the paper or exam, in an email or when you can talk to the student without others present. It also makes a difference when the teacher presents extra help as something beneficial for every one. There is always more to be learned and more ways to learn it. If you’re doing something well or have the potential to do it well, get some help and you may well excel.I'd be curious to know if anyone has strategies that seem to work in getting students to seek the help they need. And are there particular challenges that our discipline introduces into the equation — reasons why students might be less likely to seek help in philosophy courses than elsewhere?