Before we started writing any software, we had this foundational belief that asking questions not only affords opportunities for learning and development, but also is often the most efficient way to solve problems. Further, the collaborative nature of asking questions is critical given that significant problems are rarely ever solved by individuals in isolation.
So we began conducting our own interviews with people in and around education, and simultaneously scouring academic journals and similar resources for what work had already been done in this area. One study that we happened across (thanks to a brilliant and kind graduate student at Columbia) was this one
(you can download the full paper from the site) wherein researchers studied help-seeking behaviors of undergraduate engineering students. From the abstract:
To learn more about students’ help-seeking behaviors, we interviewed and surveyed 66 undergraduate engineering students. The interviews gauged the extent to which students reached out to resources such as their professors and peers and their comfort level seeking help from these resources.
Here’s what a few of the students had to say:
Sometimes, it’s scary because I don’t know things, and I don’t know if I should ask. Because I know I’ll have to ask cuz I need to know how to do it. At the same time, it’s always thinking like, “Oh, what if they think that I’m just a little baby?”
I feel like if I do ask for help [the professor’s] like, “Oh, why can’t you figure this out? You should be able to get these problems….” I kind of feel dumb going to them and asking questions.
When I ask for help, I feel kinda like if I’m weak. Then just being a girl studying engineering, I have more challenges than a guy, so then I don’t want people to figure out my weaknesses, just because it’s much tougher for me than a guy studying engineering.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t need the help, but for some reason…I’ve never really gotten used to asking for help.
Reading studies like this makes us not want to sleep or eat for fear that we are wasting time. So much work to be done!
-Jeremy & Jake