Social learning – tips for instructional designers

The theory or social learning is anything but recent. Back in 1977 Albert Bandura developed it from the behaviorist theories that supported the ideas of operant and classical conditioning. He shows, however, that learning is mostly done by observing others.

Children pay attention to those they perceive as models and encode the behavior they exhibit. Later they will replicate these behaviors. Most often than not children will chose to imitate what is socially considered “gender appropriate”. This is because usually they copy those who seem similar to themselves. Whether they will keep replicating a certain behavior depends on the type of reinforcement (positive or negative) they receive.

It’s important to note that the learner also plays an active role in this process and does not simply receive information, but his behavior impacts the environment as well. In scientific terms this is called reciprocal determinism.

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