My second theory which I am going to discuss on education psychology and how it can be applied when in teaching is social cognitive approaches to Learning. This mainly focuses on how learning happen via observations. The social learning theory was proposed by Albert Bandura with his Bobo doll experiment where he demonstrated that children learn and imitate behaviours they have observed in other people. And this theory can be used in educational psychology where you can influence children and improve their learning and development via observation. In my earlier post I spoke about how behavioural theories of learning was the result of association formed by conditioning, reinforcement and punishment. In this section I would like to discuss about social learning theory where learning can also occur simply by observing the actions of others and how this can be used on classroom activities to educate children.
Social Cognitive Theory
Social cognitive theory explains that social and cognitive factors as well as behaviour plays an important learn in learning. And this plays a major role in schools and educational environments. Mostly because cognitive factors involved students brain development and success in their education and social factors include student’s observing their teachers and their behaviour.
In this example we will look at how Bandura’s social cognitive theory can be applied in a classroom environment to achieve success
- Cognition influences behaviour At school a student name Alex develop strategies to solve a maths problem by thinking logically about how to solve the problem.
- Behaviour influences cognition Alex working on the Math problem has led to her achieve good grades. And this will lead to self satisfaction which leads to cognition.
- Environment influences Behaviour Alex will enroll on higher maths program where it gives tips on solving problems efficiently and this will improve Alex’s maths skills.
- Behaviour influences environment The higher math class succeed and many student in Alex’s class join that same program so that they will get tips to succeed in maths.
- Cognition influences environment The teachers and principals feel the need and expectations to have the higher maths program.
- Environment influence cognition school establish a resources center where students can have books on tips on higher mathematics to improve their maths skills.
Bandura further discuss self efficacy also known as confident in doing something is also very important when it comes to social cognitive theory, as even if the students have all the resources and models students might not get motivated to observe or pay attention/study hard if he/she does not have confident in learning
There are three main concepts when it comes to observational learning or social learning and I will discuss each of these concepts from a teacher’s point of view and focus more on educational environment. 1) Students can learn from observation, 2) Student’s internal mental states matter when it comes to observational learning, 3) Just because a student learn some behaviour it does not mean he/she will change his behaviour.
1. Students can learn via observation
Observation learning is the learning that involves acquiring skills, strategies and beliefs by looking at others. And observation learning happen at classrooms by student’s observing models. There are three differant types of models that can influence observational learning
a) A live model This can be a teacher or another peer student at a classroom who is an actual individual demonstrating or acting out the behaviour
b) Verbal instruction model This can be a verbal instructor, a lecturer or announcer who make announcement at classrooms verbally who does not have to present while giving it.
c) A symbolic Model This can be a real or fictional character displaying the behaviour in books or documentary videos for example characters from history books or scientist on TV programs when it comes to educational environments
2. Mental states are important to learning
When it comes to observational learning mental state of the student is also very important. if the student is not confident when it comes to learning he/she will not learn at all. Bandura mention this as intrinsic reinforcement. If a student want to do observational learning he should get internal reward such as pride/satisfaction or some sense of accomplishment when learning the observations. This emphasis on internal thoughts and cognition helps connect learning theories to cognitive developmental theories.
3. Learning does not necessarily leads to a change in behaviour
When it comes to observational learning unlike behavioural learning learning does not lead to permanent change in behaviour, it can only demonstrate new information can be learn without demonstrating new behaviours
Bandura highlighted this theory using a modeling process, Modeling process highlight the factors that make a learning successful via observation. These factors are known as Attention, Retention, Reproduction and Motivation.
In order for a student to learn he/she must pay attention. Anything that distracts their attention is going to have a negative effect on learning. Therefore, teachers as model must make sure that students are paying attention while teaching and make sure the lesson are interesting so that students will pay more attention observing the teacher as the model
For student to observe and learn the student must have the ability to store information. Therefore teachers must ensure that students have the capacity to store what they learn when teaching and give enough breaks when modeling.
Once the student have paid attention to the teacher or the model and further retained information. As teachers, you should make sure students actually perfom the behaviour. It can be a language class or any other observation, students must practice what they learn in order to improve their skills
Finally, in order for observational learning to be successful, student must be motivated to pay attention, retain and reproduce. If the students are not motivated enough he/she will not learn properly.Reinforcement and punishment play an important role in motivation. While experiencing these motivators can be highly effective, so can observing other experience some type of reinforcement or punishment. For example, if you see another student rewarded with extra credit for being to class on time, you might start to show up a few minutes early each day.
How do you use observational Learning in your Classroom?
Examples of Social Learning at classroom
Even Though most of the observational learning is not done on purpose, most children learn by observing their teachers specially when it comes to kids who are at kindergarten and preschool. Therefore, its always important that teachers become good role models for their students. These are some of the outcomes in observational learning.
- Students learning how to solve maths problems by looking at their teacher solving the maths problem and they learn to solve similar maths problems by using the same theory.
- Student’s learn how to speak a foreign language by listening to their teacher. Therefore, the student will get the teacher’s accent.
- Students learn how write by looking at how the teacher writes
- Student can learn art and craft work by looking at their art teach and learn hand work
- Student learn how to keep their desks clean and tidy by looking at their teachers desks
These are few examples of social learning that happen at classroom, however, teachers can use this theory to educate children.
● For example teachers can invite popular athlete to come to class room and give their student a talk, so the student get influenced by the athlete and get motivated and learn skills from the athlete further that athlete can be a role model for students who are into athletics.
● Another example would be teachers can influence weak students (students who are behind their schedule) by making them associate with brighter peers, so that weaker students can observe and learn from their peers.
● Albert Bandura’s social learning theory can be applied in classroom with the use of technology. By doing educational computer programs and educational documentaries children learn and they change their behaviour by observing the characters on movies and educational games. A good example of this can be is the popular video game “Dora the explorer” or “Sesame Streat”, most preschoolers learn language and other soft skills by watching how dora plays and they learn via observations
These are few techniques that can be used at classroom, with the use of observational learning. However, its important that the teachers make sure the models for these observations are the right and very influential.
Advantages of Observational Learning
There are many advantages of observational learning as most children learn their basics at their very early ages via observation. These are the list of advantages you can gain at classroom via observational learning. The main advantage of observational learning is it lacks objectives most of the time and it is not traditional formal learning structure and students learn unknowingly with the uses of practical and real life experience and gain life skills at very young age.
● Learning makes fun and can learn things without effort.
○ Since observational learning is not like traditional learning student learn things more naturally and it does not take an effort to learn them. It further creates a flexible learning environment if applied in classrooms and unlike behavioural approaches children are able to explore and gain creativity. As a results children learn observation skills, problem solving skills and creativity.
● Encourages social interactions
○ Since observational learning is about observing others and learning children learn language and communication skills which are building blocks of social interaction. Further, observation learning encourage pretend play which improve development skills in early childhood development. Further it will build character and self esteem so that they can interact with the society with diverse activities.
● Improve their behaviour and quality of life
○ Teachers can discipline their students via observation learning. Specially if there are students with behavioural issues, teachers can improve their behaviour by showing models that students appreciate and they will eventually fix their behaviour by looking at the models they adore (this can be fictional or real life models).
● Improve memory and brain development
○ Observation learning practices retention and retention improves memory and cognition. When students learn from their environment by retaining the information they observe it will enhance their memory capacities.
● Expands and exchange knowledge
○ Observational learning helps students expand their knowledge by observing different roles. For example if a classroom supports observational learning, the children learn via various models including their peers. This helps them gain new information and also exchange new information via their peers. Further, if technology is used on observational learning, students can gain knowledge at international level.
Disadvantages of Observational Learning
Even though, observational learning has their benefits there are some drawbacks with observational learning at classroom when it is done poorly.
● Poor Role Models Demonstrate Poor Behavior
○ If the role models gives bad examples like teachers showing aggression in front of children or if teachers show war related documentaries children learn aggression via observation (just like bandura’s bobo doll experiment). Therefore as teacher’s they must be very careful when behaving in front of students, as they tend to learn a lot from teachers.
● Undesirable Models May Reinforce Behavior
○ When students work with their peers they can learn bad behaviours from their peers and learn bad behaviours as socially acceptable. This can happen via technology as well as the staff at school. Therefore, bad behaviour and bad practices seems very desirable to children and influence them in a negative way.
● Evidence of Learning is Not Always Visible
○ In observational learning students learn by observation retaining and reproduction. However, the outcomes of learning is not always visible. It can be good or bad behaviour, even if the children learn something it will not always show until it triggers.
● Observational Learning Requires Motivation
○ Unlike behavioural tools observational learning requires motivation within themselves. If students are not motivated to reproduce what they learn they will stop at attention model itself and for some students if the role models are not powerful for them, Further for students who have various disabilities like ADHD or Autism, observational learning will not be a good tool to use
In conclusion, observational learning can be a powerful tool for educating children. Most children learn from observation therefore, its important for teachers to make sure they are exposed to powerful role models who can influence students in a positive manner. Further teachers as educators must encourage collaborative learning and incentive and the supportive environment since learning happen via the environment. Further teacher must not miss use this observational tool and use it carefully since both good and bad can be observed by children and it can lead to socially unacceptable behaviours.