Academic Help Seeking of Undergraduate STEM Students: A Basic Psychological Needs Theory Perspective
This study aimed to investigate how the satisfaction and frustration of 776 undergraduate STEM majors’ basic psychological needs were related to their help seeking in a difficult course. It also identified the factor structures of adapted measures of academic help seeking and basic psychological needs. Factor analyses indicated that academic help seeking showed a 4-factor structure (adaptive, expedient, avoidant), with adaptive help seeking further distinguished based on the two sources (from the instructor/TA and from peers). Basic psychological needs exhibited an 8-factor structure, differentiated by whether each need (autonomy, competence, and relatedness) was satisfied or frustrated; relatedness satisfaction and frustration were also each differentiated by source (instructor/TA and peers). Psychological need satisfaction explained the data better than need frustration did in terms of both main effects and interaction effects. Interaction effects demonstrated that one psychological need was associated with academic help seeking through being moderated by another need or moderating a relation between another need and academic help seeking. Particularly, psychological need satisfaction showed some synergistic effects in that associations between one need satisfaction and academic help seeking were stronger when another need satisfaction was met. Implications for university educators, limitations, and directions for the future study were discussed.