How black students view help-seeking behaviors

Kindergarten teacher helping student with reading skillsIn classrooms where students are predominantly black, help-seeking behavior is not viewed negatively by peers and is not correlated with students’ acceptance by peers, reports an article in the Negro Educational Review.

University of Pittsburgh researcher Sharon Nelson-Le Gall examined help-seeking behavior, peer acceptance and academic competence in a sample of 99 black students (48 boys and 51 girls) in fourth-grade classrooms in one elementary school in a Pennsylvania city.

In more mixed classrooms, previous research has found that black children are perceived by their classmates to seek help more often than their white counterparts and that help-seeking is negatively related to acceptance by peers.

In this study, the researcher administered a sociometric measure, asking children to indicate how much they liked peers in their classrooms on a scale of 1 to 5. Peer ratings were also sought on on academic competence and prosocial competence (HELPER). In addition, the researcher observed children in their classrooms over a four-week period.

As predicted, girls were more highly rated as helpers than boys and were perceived to be more academically competent than boys.

“The findings of the present study suggest that the forms and functions of help seeking that occur among back children in the classroom may reflect culturally shared notions about appropriate and effective ways to interact with peers and are likely to be influenced by their experiences in their families, neighborhoods, and cultural institutions in their communities of origin,” the researcher writes.

“Peer Acceptance and Black Children’s Help-Seeking in School” The Negro Educational Review Spring/Summer 2006, Volume 57 Number 1-2 , pps. 5-13.

Published in ERN November 2006 Volume 19 Number 8

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