People learn by watching others.
What is Social Learning Theory?
Psychologist Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory outlines how people learn vicariously.
People watch others, examine behaviours, observe resultant consequences, which in turn affect their own future behaviour.
The theory contains four principles that are required for learning: Attention, Retention, Motor reproduction, and Motivation.
- Attention — For learning to occur, people must be focused.
- Retention — Information must be stored for later use.
- Motor reproduction — Once a focused learner has retained the information, they have to reproduce the behaviour.
- Motivation — Learner must be motivated to repeat behaviour.
Social learning theory covers both behavioural and cognitive characteristics, and applied to your learning design it can improve the chances of your learners acquiring the content.
Bandura stated that “most human behaviour is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action” (Bandura, 1977).
Although Social Learning Theory is based on the behaviourist concepts of reinforcement, it is the cognitive processes, or internal mechanics of the brain in attention, motivation and memory that are key. This internal thought process encouraged Bandura to rename it Social Cognitive Theory in 1986 to acknowledge the mental processes that occur.
Why is Social Learning Theory useful?
Social Learning Theory can be used to predict learner behaviour and benefit your design process.
Rather than learning in an isolated manner, people internally process new information in a social context and are highly influenced by others. People learn vicariously and observing consequences, both positive and negative, greatly influences their behaviour.
How to apply Social Leaning Theory
You can include behaviour modelling in your training through the use of case studies, stories and scenarios. These can include elements such as consequences containing high emotional stakes. Things to consider including in your learning designs include:
- Attention: Provide a novel/unique way to provide the training, either through content, people, or style to amplify the behaviour in question.
- Retention: Context — people are able to recall information if context is relevant to them. Make the learning memorable through visuals and language. Heighten emotion.
- Reproduction: Provide practice scenarios — allow learners to rehearse responses.
- Motivation: Provide examples of people being rewarded or punished, to encourage or deter.
Pros: Provides insight into how people learn from others and provides ideas for including effective elements into your scenarios.
Cons: Not a model for how everyone might behave, more of a guide that can predict behaviour.