what is social learning theory in education
Because learning is so complex, there are many different psychological theories to explain how and why people learn. A psychologist named Albert Bandura proposed a social learning theory which suggests that observation and modeling play a primary role in this process.
Bandura’s theory moves beyond behavioral theories, which suggest that all behaviors are learned through conditioning, and cognitive theories, which take into account psychological influences such as attention and memory.
Imitation through Real Plays
The final way to incorporate social learning into the classroom is through simulation and gamification. Gamification has been a growing trend, and when combined with simulation, can really bring social learning theory to life. The ultimate goal of classroom training, and social learning, is learning. However, observation does not necessarily equate to behavior change or learning. Yet, there is a higher likelihood for learning and behavior change when participants see a person taking an action and being rewarded for that action (or conversely, punished for an inappropriate action or inaction). This is the basis of simulation, and more specifically what is often called “best practice” computer-based simulation. Place learners in teams and have them collectively take on a role in a computer simulation. As they make decisions, they follow a decision-tree where they experience the outcome of their decisions – good or bad – in terms of reactions of other characters in the simulation, future events, and on their scores.
Social learning theories, however, are not limited to differential association. Rather, more contemporary social learning theories have expanded upon Sutherland’s work, spawning many variations. One of the more often cited social learning theories, from Burgess and Akers in 1966, includes more societal level concepts to explain how society as a whole contributes to delinquency and criminality as well. 8 For example, differential reinforcement explains how potential rewards and punishments that follow crimes can influence the potential offender and recidivists.
C. Esposito-Smythers, . D.B. Goldston, in Encyclopedia of Adolescence , 2011
In order to learn there are a series of processes that should occur as the learner sees a model and creates representations in their mind. The first process is simple enough. People must pay attention to the behavior being modeled. The chance that a person will learn increases when they pay a higher degree of attention to the behavior that is being modeled. Attention is impacted by the degree to which a person can perceive the details of an action, think on that action, and judge the success of that action based on past performance. As such, attention requires a high degree of engagement on the part of the learner. The event itself may cause people to pay greater attention to an action based on a number of factors. How novel the behavior is or how relevant it is to them, for example, may impact whether a person pays greater attention or not.
The third principle underlying the theory was the importance of observation, which was highly linked to the second principle. When observing, learners do observe the outcomes of an action, including whether it is rewarded or punished. However, they also identify other strands of information. Learners also observe the process that goes into the action so that they can repeat it themselves.
If students see other students paying attention, they are more likely to pay attention. So teachers utilize reward systems and punishments to help students learn from the examples of others. Social learning theory also has a great root in encouraging self-efficacy by using constructive feedback. Students who get positive reinforcement have more confidence in themselves and their abilities—this stands out in their mind and they want to repeat this behavior.
Reproduction. We reproduce our previously learned behavior or knowledge when it’s required. Practicing our response in our head or in actions can improve the way we respond.