Albert Bandura’s Theory of Social Learning and Its Educational Implications

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Canadian psychologist born on December 4, 1925. Bandura conducted psychological studies on learning, giving a crucial role to the cognitive aspect. This means that Albert Bandura will support a social-cognitive approach. Basing human behaviour on the interaction between the subject (interpretations) and the environment (punishments and responses).In relation to this, Bandura elaborates his famous theory of social learning, also called vicarious learning or modelling, which we will see in more detail below. Though it may seem unrelated, the following article presents the power of imitation in human emotions and is an interesting study.

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Theory of social learning: Learning by observation

According to Albert Bandura: Most of the images of reality on which we base our actions, are really inspired by the experience we acquired through other people. And we spend many hours of the day acquiring knowledge through this type of learning. Each of us has a repertoire of people that we take as a reference in different areas of life: Our parents, our teachers, our work colleagues, our friends, public figures who "inspire" us.

Almost without realizing it, we repeat behaviours that we see in others. However, we are not automatons. We choose the model, we watch carefully, we memorize and we evaluate if it is worth to imitate him, or not. Within vicarious learning, this evaluation is very important. In fact, it is what differentiates the way of seeing the learning of Bandura with respect to other models, and what will cause that later, the theory is reevaluated denominating cognitive-social learning.

When people put memory to work, we execute mental images of what we have seen our model do. We also use an internal verbal discourse, and we remember what happened at that moment. From there, we make decisions: "if we want to reproduce the learned behaviour or not"; "If we do it in an exact way if we innovate" We can even modify it according to our objective. The motivation of each person and the interest they have in performing the behavior come into play.

Processes of social learning theory

In the theory of social learning, Bandura differentiated 4 processes that are necessarily developed in social learning:

  1. Attention

It is absolutely essential that the apprentice's attention is focused on the model that performs the behaviour. Any distractor would interrupt the learning task.

  1. Retention

Memory plays a very important role. The person who is integrating a new behaviour must store it in his memory to reproduce it next time.

  1. Reproduction

At this point, in addition to the implementation of the behaviour, the person must be able to symbolically reproduce the behaviour. For example, as much as a child sees his favourite tennis player playing, it does not mean that he is going to hit the ball just like him, he must first have the motor ability to perform those movements. The type of movement and action will be integrated, but this requires repetition to perform the behaviour correctly.

In addition, there must be a cognitive capacity to be able to start all the mechanisms of symbolic recovery. That is, the child necessarily needs to have reached this level of cognitive development.

  1. Motivation

Even having the mental images of the observed behaviour, it is necessary to want to realize it. We can have different reasons, for example:

How can we use Bandura's learning strategies? Educational implications of vicarious learning

  1. Observational learning applied to education

In all cultures, children focus on adults to learn and modify patterns of behaviours. They learn through references. Bandura says that:

"Fortunately, the most human behaviour is learned by observation through modelling."

From the perspective of the cognitive social theory of learning, we could apply it to the classroom in different directions. It is advisable that children perceive the teacher or educator as someone who constantly presents behavioural, verbal and symbolic models to the students. Its effectiveness will depend on the consistency between the models, the adequacy of these to the competences of the students, the effective valence between them and the educator himself, and the effectiveness of the procedures that the educator puts into play in the presentation of the models. On the other hand, students not only get observational learning opportunities from what educators do and say, but also from their peers.

  1. Prediction and learning applied to education

Bandura talks about prediction, a very important element when working with children's learning because they internalize very quickly what the consequences of their behaviour are, knowing how to differentiate in different cases.

For example, some parents wonder why there are teachers with whom children always behave badly and teachers with whom children behave superbly.

This is because of the predictions that the boys make. For example, if every time Juan remains seated in his room, his teacher "A" does not value him (he does not say "very good Juan, you are doing very well"), Juan will continue doing what interests him the most. every moment Now, if Professor "B" shouts every time Juan gets up and orders everyone to remain seated, in addition to teaching that when he gets up there is a reprimand, he will teach that you have to sit down every time he shouts. Therefore, Juan and the other children will know that with A, it does not matter if you sit down or not and with B when he shouts and gets angry, you have to sit down.

This is why the teacher in the classroom, is not only teaching to perform behaviours or behaviours but that, according to the theory of social learning, creates situations and patterns of response.

  1. Motivation and learning applied to education

Bandura is clear here that the consequences of behaviour (both reinforcements and punishments) have an important degree of influence to increase or decrease a behaviour (respectively).

This is principal in motivation and in what classical learning is based on. But, the difference between Bandura's model and Skinner's model is that for the former, the consequences create expectations that will increase or decrease future behaviour. In contrast to Skinner, who defends that the consequences are the determinants in themselves of the repetition of a behaviour.

Therefore, if we follow the assumptions of Bandura, the anticipated consequences control the behaviour more than the real ones. This explains why a behaviour occurs even if sometimes it is not reinforced. Why does a child try to get attention in class every day, even though sometimes he is ignored? Because you know that other times, you pay close attention.

  1. Thinking and cognitive regulation applied to education.

As we have seen before, for Bandura, thinking is a key element in behaviour. When a child learns, it is very important that he build conceptual symbolic representations. That is, to understand the context, the behaviour and the why. Bandura states that if a child is not aware of the consequences of his behaviour, he will not learn correctly. Based on the theory of social learning, when we educate children in the classroom, we must explain what is achieved with the things they do, what they learn and what the objectives are. If not, following this theory, they will only develop behaviours that are meaningless to them and will be automatons. In addition, the conscious repetition of the behaviours will produce an integration and automation of the same, thus leaving "mental space" to continue learning.