Developed by psychologist Albert Bandura, the social learning theory is based on the importance of learning through the observation and modeling of the behaviors, attitudes, and actions of others. Training and development professionals can leverage the benefits of social learning to enhance the retention of information.
There are three basic tenets of social learning. The first is that people learn through observation. Second, a person’s mental state contributes to the process of learning. Last, a person may not exhibit behavioral change even though they have learned something.
Learning can occur purely through the observation of others. Shadowing is a frequently used training and development technique that makes use of observational learning. In most shadowing scenarios, a new employee will watch a tenured employee perform a task or model behavior. However, observational learning is not only limited to demonstrations. After conducting various experiments, Bandura was able to determine that there are three different types of observational learning. These include:
- Live demonstrations include an actual person modeling a behavior, like shadowing.
- Verbal instruction model involves describing and explaining proper behavior. This can be presented in the form of a lecture or discussion.
- Symbolic model involves a real or fictional character demonstrating the behavior through media sources such as movies, books, television, radio, and online media.
Behavioral and Cognitive Processes
Providing an opportunity for observational learning is just the first step. There are also behavioral and cognitive processes that need to be engaged in the learner to obtain the desired learning objectives. Those are:
- Attention: The regard the learner has for the lesson as interesting or relevant is an essential factor in learning. Interactive learning content, chunking content, and telling learners why they need to know the information are ways to enhance a learner’s attention.
- Retention: Scaffolding, informal skills tests, and delivering content over several short periods are all ways of improving a learner’s ability to recall information.
- Reproduction: Learners should be able to demonstrate the behavior or actions they have learned. It is important to note that during the reproduction process, learners should be allowed to fail and correct their actions. Falling short, assessing ones’ activities, and correcting oneself is an essential part of learning.
- Motivation: Motivation comes in two forms: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivators are often reinforcement (or reward) and punishment. Support and discipline play a role in a person’s motivation. If a learner feels that they will receive some award for acquiring this knowledge, they will be more likely to pay attention, retain, and reproduce the behavior. Conversely, if learners feel that they will receive an adverse action if they do not participate, then they will also be motivated to participate. Intrinsic motivators include things like feeling good about yourself for accomplishing a goal, enjoyment of the challenge, and curiosity.
Use Mindflash for Social Learning
Training and development activities should be guided by these social learning concepts to improve the learner’s experience. Many organizations are moving their training and development courses to online learning platforms. This offers new and engaging opportunities for social learning. Mindflash is a learning management system that offers integrated multimedia authoring tools to enhance social learning. Request a demonstration of the Mindflash platform. See for yourself how easy the Mindflash LMS is to use.