Social Learning Part 1

Social Learning Part 1

05 May 2022

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This informal CPD article is Part 1 of “Social Learning” provided by Vasilis Palilis director of WIDE Training Academy of the WIDE Services company.

The article has 4 parts.

1. In the first part, "Social cognitive theory - Albert Bandura", we discuss how people learn by observing the actions of others and the consequences of these actions in their early life.

2. In the second part, "Social constructivism- Lev Vygotsky”, we focus on learning constructed through learner's interactions (rather than mere observation) with their environment and precedes - triggers to cognitive development.

3. In the third part, "[Social] constructionism", the central concept is that people learn through making things and creative experimentation.

4. In the fourth part, “Apprenticeship-Situated learning", we discuss how people learn how to become professionals at something.

Let’s focus on the 1st part.

Social cognitive theory - Albert Bandura

Starting Point

Albert Bandura is a Canadian American psychologist who studied how people learn by observing both the actions of others and the consequences of those actions in his early career. Bandura has criticized the Behaviorism theory that denies that thoughts can regulate actions, does not lend itself readily to the explanation of complex human behavior.

Bobo doll experiment

In 1960-1961 Badura conducted the Bobo doll experiment Bobo doll experiment where children watched adults acting aggressively towards a Bobo doll, and imitated similar aggressive behaviors after watching the adult. The conclusion Badura drew, is that children learn vicariously by observing (observational learning) the model of others. The role models are often parents, other adults, or other children, but they can also be symbolic (e.g., a book or a TV character).

Social cognitive theory

Over the years Albert Bandura expanded the initial approach to include the environment as a determining factor in the learning process. Thus, the reciprocal determinism between personal factors, behavior, and environment work together to help the learner sort of, understand what's happening and what needs to be learned. Of course, learners’ beliefs and judgments as social beings, determine whether or not their actions will change.

We may ask what causes a person to learn and perform specific behaviors and skills modeled by others. Several factors play a role:

  • First, to learn through observation, we have to pay attention. Paying attention would include both selective attention which is paying attention to the correct cues and information, as well as sustained attention that is maintaining focus during practice.
  • Second, we need retention, perhaps through practice so the person can remember the steps of learning.
  • Third, once we understand and experience a behavior, the production phase helps make the behavior smoother with more and more practice, and feedback from an experienced coach.
  • Lastly, we should include motivation to pay attention and reinforcement to maintain learning through persistence. The coach or role model can help reinforce the production of the behavior by complementing it with good practices.


Another main concept within the social cognitive theory is self-efficacy. For Albert Bandura "people's beliefs about their abilities have a profound effect on those abilities. Ability is not a fixed property, there is huge variability in how you perform. People who have a sense of self-efficacy bounce back from failure, they approach things in terms of how to handle them rather than worrying about what can go wrong”.

Self-efficacy dependents on

  • Self-belief: It's dependent on their success with experiences. So, if you do something, and you are successful at it, you are likely to do it again.
  • Mastery experiences: These are our own personal and direct experiences. These are usually the most powerful sources of efficacy information. For example, if you are learning how to draw, your success is ultimately attributed to your ability persistence, and effort.
  • Watching other’s success: if you are watching others, who you identify with and you know, and you think that they are able to climb the rock wall, then you can say yes, that's actually something I can also do.
  • Motivation: You may or may not want to engage in climbing the rock wall. For instance, you may be afraid of heights, so climbing a rock wall may not be so exciting mainly because of your fear.
  • Emotions can play into self-efficacy as well.

The theory provides us with many good practices for those who influence others with their behavior, what to do and what not to do. Certainly, the theory is not a complete explanation of all behaviors, particularly in the absence of an obvious pattern of behavior.

We hope this article was helpful. For more information from WIDE Services, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

WIDE Services

WIDE Services

For more information from WIDE Services, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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