Bandura's Social Learning Theory in Education - Education Corner (2022)

Social Learning Theory: Albert Bandura

The way in which humans learn is something that has fascinated educators and psychologists alike for centuries, with the first scientific studies of learning taking place in the late 1800’s.

Since then, we have seen a surge of interest in learning concepts and theories, with various psychologists conducting studies to help them understand the way in which children receive, process and retain knowledge and skills during learning.

In this article, we will be looking at one of these learning theories – Bandura’s social learning theory.

Social learning theory is the idea that humans learn from observing and imitating the behavior modelled by others. Bandura labelled this phenomenon observational learning. In short, it is not necessary to have a direct experience of something in order to learn.

For observational learning to occur, there does not necessarily need to be a live observation (i.e. a real person modelling or demonstrating the behavior). It can also take place by observing characters, real or fictional, in movies, television programmes, video games etc.

Observational learning can also occur through verbal instruction or listening to someone describe or explain how something is done.

  • What is social learning theory? Social learning theory is the idea that behaviors can be learned through observation, modelling and imitation.
  • Who developed this theory? Albert Bandura developed his theory following a series of now famous studies known as the Bobo doll experiments.
  • Are there any other theories linked to social learning theory? Bandura built on the theories put forward by behavioral theorists Ivan Pavlov and B.F. Skinner of classical and operant conditioning.
  • What are the elements of social learning theory? Bandura identified four factors (or elements) required for observational learning to be successful.
  • How can we use social learning theory in our classroom? Educators have found social learning theory to be a powerful tool for teaching, learning, motivating students and managing behavior.
  • Are there any criticisms of social learning theory? Some have critiqued Bandura’s theory for its limitations and narrow view.

Let’s delve into each of these in more detail to gain a better understanding of social learning theory.

Social learning theory was developed by Canadian psychologist, Albert Bandura.

Bandura believed that all behaviors are learned through social imitation as opposed to genetics. In the early 1960s, he began conducting a series of now-famous studies known as the Bobo doll experiments which led to the development of his theory which he published in 1977.

As part of these experiments, a group of children were individually exposed to an adult model who was physically and verbally aggressive towards a Bobo doll.

When these children were left to play with the Bobo doll independently, many of them imitated and reproduced the behavior that they had observed.

This experiment was replicated at a later date but this time the adult model was either rewarded or reprimanded for the abusive behavior.

(Video) Social Learning Theory: Bandura’s Bobo Beatdown Experiments

The results of these experiments showed that children can be influenced and can learn from observing the behavior of others.

It also indicated that behavior that is reinforced or rewarded tends to be repeated, whereas behavior that is reprimanded is less likely to reoccur.

Social Learning theory is heavily rooted in Pavlov’s classical conditioning and Skinner’s operant conditioning.

Bandura’s social learning theory is often linked to behavioral learning theories which focus on the idea that all human behaviors are acquired through conditioning and interaction with the external environment.

Behaviorists believe that all humans can be trained to perform any task with the right environment and conditioning, regardless of their background or ability.

In social learning theory, Bandura agrees with the behaviorist learning theories of classical and operant conditioning put forward by psychologists Ivan Pavolv and B.F. Skinner respectively.

However, he believes that direct reinforcement cannot account for all types of learning as both children and adults often learn things without ever having had direct experience with it and without demonstrating their new behaviors.

For example, a child who has never been on a bicycle before will know that you need to sit on the saddle and push the pedals with your feet in order for the bicycle to move.

This child would have learned this behavior by observing a model.

This model may have been another child or adult in their environment but could also have been a cartoon character on TV.

This led Bandura to add his own two ideas when formulating his theory:

  • Behavior is learned from the environment through observational learning.
  • There are mental factors that determine whether or not a new behavior is acquired.

Accepting that not all behaviors that are observed will be imitated, Bandura identified four factors (or elements) required for observational learning to be successful.

  • Attention: A lesson must engage a student sufficiently to hold their attention.
  • Retention: Students must be able to remember what they have seen or heard.
  • Reproduction: Students should be given time to practice the observed behavior.
  • Motivation: A student must be able to see the benefit of a new behavior for long term assimilation.
Bandura's Social Learning Theory in Education - Education Corner (1)

Attention: In order for a behavior to be observed and subsequently imitated, the observer must first notice the behavior and focus their attention on it.

If the behavior does not hold the interest of the observer or they become distracted, it is unlikely that the behavior will be retained reproduced at a later stage.

(Video) Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory

Retention: The observer must be able to remember the behavior they have observed and store it in their memory to be accessed at a later stage.

Even if the behavior is imitated shortly after it is observed, this still requires significant memory skills. A student’s ability to retain can be impacted by a number of factors.

Reproduction: This involves replicating the behavior that was observed. The ability of the observer to reproduce the behavior will depend on whether or not they retained the behavior following observation.

Of course, retention is not the only factor here. A person’s physical capability may also limit their ability to reproduce the behavior.

Motivation: In order for a behavior to be replicated, the observer must be motivated to reproduce it.

This motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic. Reinforcement and punishment are key factors in motivation, with learners more likely to imitate an observed behavior if it results in a positive outcome.

Motivation can also arise from observing others being rewarded for the same behavior.

A person’s self-efficacy or belief in their own capability to reproduce the behavior can also have a significant impact on motivation.

As teachers, we want our students to be successful and to learn to the best of their ability. The way we teach and the strategies we employ, as well as our classroom environment, all have an impact on teaching and learning.

Let’s look at a few ways in which we can utilise Bandura’s social learning theory in our classroom.

Behavior

Good classroom management is key to successful teaching and learning. Without it, chaos can ensue and this will hinder both the teacher and the students.

(Video) 5 LEARNING THEORIES PART 1

Social learning theory can be used to encourage and teach desirable behaviors in the classroom through the use of positive reinforcement and rewards.

For example, a student who is praised for raising their hand to speak will more than likely repeat that behavior. Additionally, other students will follow suit and raise their hands after observing that the behavior elicited a positive outcome.

Conversely, a student who is reprimanded for an undesired behavior is less likely to repeat that behavior, as are their peers who will also wish to avoid the negative consequence of replicating the action.

Teaching

As previously stated, one the prerequisites for observational learning to be successful is that the observer’s attention is focused on the behavior.

Therefore, before demonstrating or modelling something to our students, it is paramount that we have their full attention. Ensuring that lessons are level appropriate and as engaging as possible will help sustain students’ attention.

Retention of the behavior or information modelled is also key to successful learning. As we know, individual students learn in a variety of ways.

One of the ways we can help our students to retain information and behaviors is to incorporate as many different activities into our lesson as possible. A multisensory approach to learning helps to increase retention.

For example, while teaching a lesson verbally, we can use visual aids to help reinforce the information.

Motivating Students

As Bandura identified, in order for observational learning to be successful, the observer must be motivated to reproduce the behavior.

Studies show that teachers who are enthusiastic and passionate when teaching can motivate students to learn as they are likely to imitate their teacher.

Teachers can motivate students extrinsically through positive reinforcement and rewards. They can also help boost a student’s intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy through verbal persuasion, positive reinforcement and constructive feedback.

Bandura’s self-efficacy theory is rooted in the social learning theory. If a student has confidence and believes that they have the ability to reproduce a certain behavior then they are more likely to try and to succeed.

Conversely, if a student lacks confidence and does not believe that they have the ability to carry out a task, then they are less likely to exert effort into the task and may ultimately end up failing.

As educators, it is our job to find different ways of motivating our students to learn.

Pair and Group Work

In our classroom, learning does not solely take place through students observing their teacher.

Learning also takes place through observing their peers which is why using pair work and group work in the classroom can have many benefits.

For example, pairing a higher ability student with a student that is struggling allows for peer coaching to occur.

(Video) Social Learning Theory Bandura’s Bobo Beatdown Experiments

This is a very useful and effective strategy used in classrooms today. Students are often more likely to pay attention to their peers than to another adult.

When facilitating group work, a teacher may place a less motivated student in a group with a highly motivated student with the intention that their influence will motivate the other student to take on some responsibility, helping the unmotivated student learn.

Each member of the group can act as a model and members of the group can learn through observing the behaviors and attitudes of their peers.

While social learning theory has been praised for offering us a different perspective on how learning occurs, it is not without its flaws and has attracted criticism from those that feel it has its limitations.

Many theorists feel that it offers too narrow a view, disregarding important environmental influences and factors such as socio-economic status.

Social learning theory suggests that a person’s actions and behavior are determined by society and fails to take into consideration individual accountability.

It also fails to take into account the influence of biological factors such as genetics, with biological theorists arguing that some behaviors are in fact partly inherited.

Conclusion

Social learning theory certainly has its place in our education system and offers us a greater understanding of the way our students learn.

However, it is also important for teachers to be aware that if strategies are not implemented correctly or are used inconsistently, they are unlikely to be effective.

It should also be noted that what works for some students may not work for others regardless of how much positive reinforcement or punishment is given. There is no doubt that there are many external factors that impact a student’s desire and ability to learn.

One thing that social learning theory does show us is that observation plays an important role in shaping the knowledge, behavior and attitudes of our students.

For this reason, teachers need to be excellent role models and ensure they are being inclusive, inspiring and compassionate towards their students.

What Is Social Learning Theory?

Bandura’s Social learning theory revolves around the idea that humans learn from observing and imitating the behavior modelled by others. Bandura labelled this phenomenon observational learning. In short, it is not necessary to have a direct experience of something in order to learn.

What Are the 4 Elements of Social Learning Theory?

Attention: A lesson must engage a student sufficiently to hold their attention.
Retention: Students must be able to remember what they have seen or heard.
Reproduction: Students should be given time to practice the observed behavior
Motivation: A student must be able to see the benefit of a new behavior for long term assimilation.

(Video) Learning theories Bandura, Skinner and Cognitive

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FAQs

What are the educational implications of Bandura's theory? ›

Educational implications of Bandura's Social learning theory

Students learn by simply observing others, so we teachers are the role model for students we must be good at Mannering in front of children. Self-regulation techniques provide an effective method for improving students' behaviours.

What are the contribution of social learning theory in educational setting? ›

Bandura's Social Learning Theory examines how behaviour is imitated by others, especially children. The importance of Social Learning Theory can unveil new methods of teaching. This can be looking at how children copy behaviour, identification, and implementing this learning-by-doing strategy.

What are the 3 concepts of Bandura's social learning theory? ›

Bandura asserts that most human behavior is learned through observation, imitation, and modeling.

How is social learning theory of Bandura used in school? ›

Social learning theory can be used to encourage and teach desirable behaviors in the classroom through the use of positive reinforcement and rewards. For example, a student who is praised for raising their hand to speak will more than likely repeat that behavior.

What are the practical application of Bandura's theory? ›

Three practical applications of Bandura's social learning theory include teaching young people basic behaviors useful for their survival. For example, people may watch going shopping or doing other tasks, learning through observation (social learning) how people behave in public.

What are the learning theories in education? ›

There are five primary educational learning theories: behaviorism, cognitive, constructivism, humanism, and connectivism.

How is the social learning theory used today? ›

A person who observes someone treating others poorly and being rewarded for it may follow suit. Social workers can use social learning theory to identify the behavioral models a client may be emulating and use that information to help correct negative behavior, such as underage drinking, drug use or unprotected sex.

How do learning theories help teachers? ›

An understanding of learning theories helps teachers connect to all different kinds of students. Teachers can focus on different learning styles to reach different students, creating teaching that focuses directly on student needs and aptitudes.

What are the benefits of social learning theory? ›

Some benefits of social learning include: Increased engagement across disengaged learners. Students developing self organisation skills. Encouraged collaboration.

Why is the social learning theory important? ›

Applications of the social learning theory may be particularly valuable, as they can empower people to recognize and trace the roots of their issues, identify patterns they may have not otherwise seen, and ultimately, break the habits and behaviors that harm them.

What is considered a strength of Bandura's social learning theory? ›

Even though this theory focuses on gaining knowledge and acquiring behaviors through environmental influences, one of its strengths is that there are multiple modes of learning. Bandura himself noted that individuals can learn through direct experiences or through observation.

What are 5 principles of social learning theory? ›

– Albert Bandura As the creator of the concept of social learning theory, Bandura proposes five essential steps in order for the learning to take place: observation, attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation.

What is basic concept of social learning theory? ›

Social learning theory is the philosophy that people can learn from each other through observation, imitation and modeling. The concept was theorized by psychologist Albert Bandura and combined ideas behind behaviorist and cognitive learning approaches.

What are the 4 processes of social learning theory? ›

The four steps in the Social Learning Theory of Bandura are attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation.

Why is Bandura Social Learning Theory important? ›

Bandura's social learning theory provides a helpful framework for understanding how an individual learns via observation and modeling (Horsburgh & Ippolito, 2018). Cognitive processes are central, as learners must make sense of and internalize what they see to reproduce the behavior.

What are some examples of social learning? ›

The behaviour shown by the children by observing their parents or the other family members is the most prominent example of the social learning theory. If the children feel that their behaviour is being rewarded by the others they keep on imitating that behaviour.

How do teachers apply observational learning? ›

For modeling to be effective, students must first pay close attention to the model. Models who are relatable, seem competent, and prestigious will receive greater attention than those who do not exhibit these qualities. In addition, students pay more attention to models who exhibit their own personal characteristics.

What are the three theories of education? ›

The basics of learning theories. Although there are various approaches to learning, three learning theories remain as the most well-recognized. They are behaviorism, cognitive constructivism, and social constructivism.

What is the importance of theory and practice in education? ›

Theory assists researchers and teachers to critically reflect on education policy and classroom practice in attempting to ensure best education practice. Theory assists researchers with a clearer understanding of a research problem.

What are the five theories of educational management? ›

Cuthbert (1984) classified educational management theories to five groups including analytic-rational, pragmatic-rational, political, phenomenological and interactionist models.

Is Bandura theory still relevant today? ›

Albert Bandura developed the theory in 1977, and it is still used today in all different fields of studies.

What is an example of Bandura theory? ›

3 Bandura's theory believed that direct reinforcement could not account for all types of learning. For example, children and adults often exhibit learning for things with which they have no direct experience.

Is Albert Bandura's theory still used today? ›

Answer and Explanation: While Bandura's practices and development of Social Learning Theory have been criticized by many experts in the field, this theory is still widely applied today.

What is the most effective learning theory? ›

1. Behaviorist Learning Theory. Behaviorism is one of the classic learning theories; it predates cognitivism and most of the other theories we'll explore in this post. Behaviorism suggests that the learner is a 'blank slate' and that all human behavior can be caused or explained by external stimuli.

How do learning theories facilitate learning? ›

These theories explain the processes that people engage in as they make sense of information, and how they integrate that information into their mental models so that it becomes new knowledge. Learning theories also examine what motivates people to learn, and what circumstances enable or hinder learning.

Which learning theory best explains the relationship between motivation and learning? ›

According to Hull's drive reduction theory, learning reduces drives and therefore motivation is essential to learning. The degree of the learning achieved can be manipulated by the strength of the drive and its underlying motivation.

What are the implications of observational learning? ›

Observational learning has the potential to teach and reinforce or decrease certain behaviors based on a variety of factors. Particularly prevalent in childhood, observational learning can be a key part of how we learn new skills and learn to avoid consequences.

What is the implication of the theory of cognitive development to the teaching/learning process? ›

2.2. 1 Implication of the cognitive theories of learning to the development of teaching. Teachers should organise the teaching materials in a way that the concept in them can easily be acquired and processed by learners' mind. Teachers need to use variety of teaching techniques.

What do you think are the educational implications of the theory on information processing? ›

Information-processing theory has definite educational implications for students with learning and behavior problems. Teachers with a greater understanding of the theory and how it is formed to, select learning strategies in order to improve the retention and retrieval of learning.

Why is Bandura social learning theory important? ›

Bandura's social learning theory provides a helpful framework for understanding how an individual learns via observation and modeling (Horsburgh & Ippolito, 2018). Cognitive processes are central, as learners must make sense of and internalize what they see to reproduce the behavior.

What are some real life examples of observational learning? ›

Observational Learning Examples for Children

A child learns to chew. After witnessing an older sibling being punished for taking a cookie without asking, the younger child does not take cookies without permission. A child learns to walk. A child learns how to play a game while watching others.

What are the benefits of observational learning? ›

Benefits of observational learning
  • Learning new skills: Children and adults can learn new skills through observational learning. ...
  • Reinforcing positive behavior: Some people can learn positive behavior by observing others. ...
  • Decreasing negative behavior: Observational learning can also decrease negative behavior in people.

What is the main idea of Social Learning Theory? ›

Social learning theory proposes that individuals learn by observing the behaviors of others (models). They then evaluate the effect of those behaviors by observing the positive and negative consequences that follow.

How learning theories help a teachers in teaching? ›

An understanding of learning theories helps teachers connect to all different kinds of students. Teachers can focus on different learning styles to reach different students, creating teaching that focuses directly on student needs and aptitudes.

What are the learning theories in education? ›

There are five primary educational learning theories: behaviorism, cognitive, constructivism, humanism, and connectivism.

Why is it important for the teaching learning process to be based on learning theories? ›

The importance of learning theories

Learning theories are important because they allow teachers to understand how their students learn. Through using different learning methods, teachers can develop more comprehensive learning strategies and help students find success in education.

How information processing theory can be applied in the teaching and learning? ›

Information Processing Theory uses a computer model to describe human learning. Information comes in, it gets processed, and then it gets stored and retrieved. Of course this is an oversimplification of human learning, but it gives us a good overview and simile by using the computer model.

What is the importance of information processing theory to the teacher and student? ›

Information process theory on education: The information process theory is used for how people will learn, think and view. It is used to understand the information processing model for teachers to provide suggestions in their learning experience. There are some concepts of learning: Attention.

How do you apply information processing in teaching and learning? ›

Keep Language Simple
  1. Provide instructions one-at-a-time.
  2. Have student demonstrate that he/she understands the directions (repeating the information back does not necessarily demonstrate understanding)
  3. Keep concepts concrete and provide examples.
  4. Use vocabulary familiar to students.

What are the benefits of social learning theory? ›

Some benefits of social learning include: Increased engagement across disengaged learners. Students developing self organisation skills. Encouraged collaboration.

What is the importance of social learning? ›

We learn well by observing others, but also with others. That's because social learning encourages discussion and the cultivation of a knowledge sharing culture. Studies have shown that knowledge sharing in the workplace can improve task efficiency and organizational performance.

What is considered a strength of Bandura's social learning theory? ›

Even though this theory focuses on gaining knowledge and acquiring behaviors through environmental influences, one of its strengths is that there are multiple modes of learning. Bandura himself noted that individuals can learn through direct experiences or through observation.

Videos

1. Theory Presentation
(Allison Miller)
2. Observational Learning: Bandura's Bobo Doll Study (Intro Psych Tutorial #67)
(PsychExamReview)
3. Social Learning Theory
(Elmar Cundangan)
4. HS6443 HealthBehaviorChange V Angellenew
(Victoria Angelle)
5. Scaffolding Learning Theory by Lev Vygotsky
(Ravishing Rocky)
6. Bandura's Bobo Doll Experiments | Social Learning Theory | A-level Psychology
(Bear it in MIND)

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