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Social Cognitive Theory (SCT)

Describing learning as the interrelation between behavioral, environmental, and personal factors.

 

According to Social Cognitive Theory, interactive learning allows students to gain confidence through practice. A spacedog can practice spacewalks using simulators to overcome his fears before his first spaceflight.

Problem

How do people’s experiences, environments, and behaviors affect how they learn?

Theory

Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) describes learning in terms of the interrelationship between behavior, environmental factors, and personal factors. It also provides the theoretical framework for interactive learning used to develop both Constructivism and Cooperative Learning.

According to SCT, the learner acquires knowledge as his or her environment converges with personal characteristics and personal experience. New experiences are evaluated vis-a-vis the past; prior experiences help to subsequently guide and inform the learner as to how the present should be investigated.

Because SCT is based on understanding an individual’s reality construct, it is especially useful when applied to interventions aimed at personality development, behavior pathology, and health promotion. For example, SCT could be used to help a patient quit smoking in so far as a smoker may be more willing to learn from an ex-smoker who may share experiences that resonate with a patient’s unique personal history. Ideally, the patient’s affinity with the ex-smoker, when combined with a supportive environment,would help him or her butt out for good!

Discussion

The SCT-based framework for designing, implementing and evaluating online learning programs include the following:

Observational (vicarious) learning:
Because learning is expedited when individuals are able to observe the behaviors of others who are similar to them, online learning can incorporate video clips of people with similar backgrounds who provide commentaries and stories from their own points of view. Because the material resonates with the social and cultural sensibilities of the user, it makes the learning experience more effective and increases the probability of the knowledge being put into practice.

Reproduction:
Facilitating reproduction involves providing individuals with readily available means to put their newly acquired knowledge into practice. In the instance of an online health education module, patients could practice creating questions that communicate their concerns to health practitioners or educators. Achieving reproduction success simultaneously encourages self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy:
Learning is a function of the extent to which individuals are able to reflect upon and internalize their own successes and failures. Self-efficacy is achieved when the learner identifies his or her ability to perform. Using interactivity in online learning provides a mechanism that allows the learner to apply knowledge accurately and reliably and therefore increase his or her confidence. For example, it is possible to read a book about driving a car, but it is not until the learner actually drives successfully that learning is complete. Interactive, online educational materials can provide extensive, repetitive practice until mastery – and thus self-efficacy – is achieved.

Emotional coping:
Coping mechanisms are learned in a stimuli-response environment conducive to self-efficacy and observational learning. In online education, emotional coping can be facilitated by incorporating multimedia demonstrations of culturally sensitive examples of both appropriate and inappropriate methods of coping.

Self-regulatory capability:
Self-regulation is what allows a person to control his or her response or behavior when confronted with externally imposed stimuli. Feedback is an externally imposed control that works with a person’s self-regulatory capability in order to make adjustments to behavior. Online learning materials can use feedback techniques to reinforce behavioral change and help learners achieve self-efficacy. For example, when performing a task correctly, the learner can be advised that his or her performance is correct. Conversely, immediate corrective feedback can be given when needed. As the learner’s ability increases, the feedback can become more detailed and sophisticated, which allows the learner to refine and master the task. When learning to drive, for example, the student initially needs to get the vehicle on the road. As the student progresses, however, he or she needs to achieve specific speed limits and signaling requirements to achieve safe and efficient driving habits.


Reference: Bandura, A. (1986) Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

 

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