Document Type

Honors Project On-Campus Access Only


Collaboration is an important aspect of computing. In a classroom setting, working with others can increase a student’s motivation to attempt more challenges, reduce the difficulty of complicated concepts, and bring about greater overall success. Despite extensive research in other domains, there has been minimal exploration within computing on what impacts a student’s decision to seek social assistance. To understand what affects introductory programming students' social help-seeking behavior, we conducted 32 semi-structured interviews and performed thematic analysis and qualitative coding on the ensuing transcripts. Our qualitative analysis revealed 18 significant factors that can fit into four broad categories: Internal Drivers, Social Constraints, Classroom Policy and Culture, and Practical Limitations. We found that some of these factors replicated prior work, while others were unique to the topic of computing and the specific environment of this study. The factors of communication style, type of question, and cheating policy were central when discussing code, which is an integral part of computing. Cheating policy, competition, explicit and implicit class standards, chain of order, and intimidation were all repeatedly reported factors when talking about the environment of the class, which had a constricting, competitive, and individual culture. Furthermore, we noticed that the decision to seek social help was two-fold; first, the decision to engage in social help-seeking and subsequently, the decision of who to ask for help. All but one of the factors, desire to complete alone, could be applied to the second step and eight were reported for the first step, indicating that students had multiple reasons for their choices. This suggests that understanding both steps is important in order to effectively lower the barriers to asking for help.



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