There’s no Self-Regulated Learning Strategy

Several advances in technology and help seeking will soon be available in an upcoming edited volume (Karabenick & Puustinen, Information Age Publishing). For example, Schworm and Nistor describe the development of user-generated, dynamic help systems within virtual communities of practice in which individuals have varying levels of expertise, with suggestions for the implementation of more effective help systems. Mäkitalo-Siegl and Fischer examine how different patterns of classroom interaction (classroom scripts) in technology-supported collaborative inquiry learning support or hinder help seeking processes, which exemplifies the need for the convergence of technological applications and classroom help seeking  research. Puustinen and Bernicot report their application of sophisticated linguistic analysis to study how adolescents construct messages when seeking and obtaining online homework help. Huet, Dupeyrat and Escribe focus on help-seeking intentions and actual help seeking in traditional and computer-based learning environments. And Boubée and Tricot explicate the difference between help seeking and information searching, which Makara and I are currently studying in the context of college students’ use of helping resources, as well as ways to classify types of help.

Technology also forces us to address whether seeking help from artificial intelligent systems is consistent with the classification of help seeking as a social form of SRL (cf. Zimmerman’s and colleagues’ model of SRL). One response is to recognize that social has been defined as the presence of “others” — real (e.g., a teacher in a classroom), imagined (e.g., “What would your mother think?”), or implied (e.g., “Someone will know that I sought help”). Thus help seeking becomes social when learners know (or suspect) that using systems such as gSTUDY leaves traces that are monitored, or that Google and Facebook use will be tracked and evaluated. Accordingly, whether learners consider themselves as seeking help is a subjective event that may not be discoverable through traces but, alas, must rely on self-report data. Rapid technological advances suggest that more research is needed to determine the conditions that lead learners to construe their actions as seeking help versus seeking information, relying on others or being autonomous.

Through it all, the central issue for help seeking, as with other forms of SRL, remains the same: to understand how to promote its effective use to facilitate learning. Adaptive help seeking is a desirable form of SRL, and translational research is needed to turn existing theory and empirical evidence into pedagogical practice. This includes confronting the potential for overreliance on and as some would suggest, even the abuse of such help resources as Google and Wikipedia.

In recent chapters, Dembo, Berger, and I recommend some ways to promote adaptive help seeking based on the accumulated understanding of the help-seeking process and the person and situation variables that affect that process. And remember, if you need more information about help seeking, don’t hesitate to ask (but not too often). It’s the strategic thing to do.