Date of Award

Fall 1-10-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

David W. Stinson

Second Advisor

Audrey J. Leroux

Third Advisor

Miles A. Irving

Fourth Advisor

Laurn Jordan


When students experience difficulty with their coursework, they often utilize strategies such as rereading a text more slowly, organizing class notes, reviewing previous examples, or searching for information available on the Internet. If these efforts are ineffective, students may also consult their teachers, classmates, friends, or parents for assistance. Until recently, such reliance on others was considered of limited value and even stigmatized: the criticism being that learners who are truly independent are not supposed to need others to succeed (Karabenick & Newman, 2011). Recent theoretical developments and research, however, indicate that academic help seeking can be an important self-regulated learning strategy engaged in by highly motivated and academically successful students (Karabenick & Newman, 2011).

But help seeking for some students is not without risk. Help seeking can imply inadequacy, threaten self-worth, and subject learners to public scrutiny (Karabenick & Newman, 2011). Being viewed as less capable by teachers, other students, or anyone in an evaluative position could be disconcerting—especially for African American students in mathematics classes where there exists the idea that they are incapable of meaningful participation in mathematics (see, e.g., Jefferson, 1787; Kopan, 2015; Nisbett, 2007; Powell, 2012).

This quantitative research study, therefore, was intended to gain a better understanding of the factors that influence help-seeking behaviors of African American College Algebra students at the community college. The purpose was to inform community college mathematics instructors about efforts that might begin to break down teacher–student barriers so that students feel comfortable and encouraged asking for help. Grounded in self-regulated learning and achievement goal theories, this study employed hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) and multiple regression analyses to investigate the help-seeking behaviors of 341 African American community college students in 48 College Algebra classrooms. Students completed help seeking scales adapted for College Algebra (see Cheong, Pajeres, & Oberman, 2004), the Attitude Toward Mathematics Inventory (Tapia & Marsh, 2002), and the Professorial Concern Scale (Winston, Vahala, & Gills, 1989). Student-level (e.g., mathematics attitude, professorial concern, age, gender, and developmental status) and classroom-level characteristics (e.g., teacher sex and average classroom age) significantly predicted reported levels of help seeking. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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