Social Learning Theory
By: Kalli Black


Social learning theory focuses on the learning that occurs within a social context. It considers that people learn from one another, including such concepts as observational learning, imitation, and modeling.


General principles of social learning theory follows:

1. People can learn by observing the behavior is of others and the outcomes of those behaviors.
2. Learning can occur without a change in behavior. Behaviorists say that learning has to be represented by a permanent change in behavior, in contrast social learning theorists say that because people can learn through observation alone, their learning may not necessarily be shown in their performance. Learning may or may not result in a behavior change.
praised for such action. Without being reinforced, the group of children began to also hit the doll .


Contemporary social learning perspective of reinforcement and punishment:

1. Contemporary theory proposes that both reinforcement and punishment have indirect effects on learning. They are not the sole or main cause.
2. Reinforcement and punishment influence the extent to which an individual exhibits a behavior that has been learned.
3. The expectation of reinforcement influences cognitive processes that promote learning. Therefore attention pays a critical role in learning. And attention is influenced by the expectation of reinforcement. An example would be, where the teacher tells a group of students that what they will study next is not on the test. Students will not pay attention, because they do not expect to know the information for a test.


Cognitive factors in social learning:


Social learning theory has cognitive factors as well as behaviorist factors (actually operant factors).
1. Learning without performance: Bandura makes a distinction between learning through observation and the actual imitation of what has been learned.
2. Cognitive processing during learning: Social learning theorists contend that attention is a critical factor in learning.
3. Expectations: As a result of being reinforced, people form expectations about the consequences that future behaviors are likely to bring. They expect certain behaviors to bring reinforcements and others to bring punishment. The learner needs to be aware however, of the response reinforcements and response punishment. Reinforcement increases a response only when the learner is aware of that connection.
4. Reciprocal causation: Bandura proposed that behavior can influence both the environment and the person. In fact each of these three variables, the person, the behavior, and the environment can have an influence on each other.
5. Modeling: There are different types of models. There is the live model, and actual person demonstrating the behavior. There can also be a symbolic model, which can be a person or action portrayed in some other medium, , such as television, videotape, computer programs.


Educational implications of social learning theory:


Social learning theory has numerous implications for classroom use.
1. Students often learn a great deal simply by observing other people.
2. Describing the consequences of behavior is can effectively increase the appropriate behaviors and decrease inappropriate ones. This can involve discussing with learners about the rewards and consequences of various behaviors.
3. Modeling provides an alternative to shaping for teaching new behaviors. Instead of using shaping, which is operant conditioning, modeling can provide a faster, more efficient means for teaching new behavior. To promote effective modeling a teacher must make sure that the four essential conditions exist; attention, retention , motor reproduction, and motivation.
4. Teachers and parents must model appropriate behaviors and take care that they do not model inappropriate behaviors.
5. Teachers should expose students to a variety of other models. This technique is especially important to break down traditional stereotypes.
6. Students must believe that they are capable of accomplishing school tasks. Thus it is very important to develop a sense of self-efficacy for students. Teachers can promote such self-efficacy by having students receive confidence-building messages, watch others be successful, and experience success on their own. .
7. Teachers should help students set realistic expectations for their academic accomplishments. In general in my class that means making sure that expectations are not set too low. I want to realistically challenge my students. However, sometimes the task is beyond a student's ability, example would be the cancer group.
8. Self-regulation techniques provide an effective method for improving student behavior.


Research on Social Learning theory:


Miller, N. & Dollard, J. (1941). Social Learning and Imitation. Yale University Press.

Link to Research on Social Learning and Cognitive http://edr.sagepub.com/cgi/pdf_extract/8/1/18