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Learning as a Social Process
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Running Head:  Social Process








Learning as a Social Process

                                      by  Veronica M. Johnson


         Educational Psychology

             Dr. Brian Boehman

   Western Kentucky University

                                                  Spring 2008










Veronica M. Johnson

Dr. Brian Boehman

Educational Psychology 310

23 April 2008




“Of the many cues that influence behavior, at any point in time, none is more common


than the action of others.” –Albert Bandura, 1986



As students, we have probably all heard the phrase, “All students are capable of learning; however, every student learns in his or her own unique way.”  This statement is true from beginning to end because every student does learn in a unique way.  It is empirical for teachers to implement different methods of instruction while in the classroom in an effort to meet the special, or diverse, needs of each individual student.  However, in spite of the many student diversities found within a single classroom, all students have been found to share one commonality-they all learn through observing the behaviors, attitudes, reactions, and demonstrations of others.  This form of learning is known as social, or observational, learning.  Furthermore, in addition to understanding the unique educational needs of each student, teachers must also understand how concepts such as that of social learning, can affect his or her students.  The following resources and information both coincide with and expand on the information found within the section concerning “observational learning” derived from chapter six of Woolfolk, Anita (2007). Educational psychology. Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson Education, Inc., Allyn and Bacon.

Social learning takes place in almost every aspect of life.  From the day a child is born, he or she is observing the actions of others and learning what is both socially acceptable and how to perform certain tasks.  Thus, as individuals grow, they begin to model others to perform more difficult tasks.  For instance, many individuals learn how to perform arithmetic equations and chemical experiments through observing fellow peers.  Others learn how to express different emotions and understand others points of view by simply curling up to a favorite book; therefore, it is apparent that social learning is a vital part of everyone’s life and educators need to understand the overall concept of social learning, as well as needing to know how to implement positive social learning in all content areas.


In order to implement social learning in the classroom, educators must first understand the theory of social learning.  The website,, is an overview of the social learning theory which was developed and published by Albert Bandura in 1977.  It is a wonderful resource for teachers of all grade levels because it describes the social learning theory in context.  Because Albert Bandura was such a prominent figure in the development of this theory, it is beneficial to understand his point of view.  There are extensive examples of social learning situations which can help teachers implement the best teaching techniques for students.  In addition, it also provides a written description of Bandura’s main social learning theory principles.  This helps educate teachers on how, and in what situations, students learn best.  The following is a list of principles found on this particular site:

1.      The highest level of observational learning is achieved by first organizing and

rehearsing the modeled behavior symbolically, then by enacting it overtly.

Coding modeled behavior into works, labels, or images results in better retention than simple observing.

2.      Individuals are more likely to adopt a modeled behavior if it results in

outcomes they value.

3.      Individuals are more likely to adopt a modeled behavior if the model is

similar to the observer, has admired status, and the behavior has functional value.

These principles are useful to educators of all content areas for a number of reasons.  First, knowing that individuals code behavior into words and/or images is useful to teachers.  This helps them to understand what teaching methods are most effective.  For example, connecting concepts to specific images, or even mnemonics, is helpful to students.  Furthermore, in relation to remembering a concept or idea, students are more eager to learn a new concept or behavior if it is something in which they show value in.  Overall, understanding ways in which students learn is imperative to educators and this website is extremely effective in understanding these principles and how to apply them.


Another website I found that allows educators to see an alternative perspective to the social learning theory is:  It is a brief overview of Vygotsky’s theory on cognitive development in relation to the social learning theory.  This site provides the viewer a diagram, or illustration, describing his theory in brief detail.  It is sufficient for educators because it gives them an understanding of the different psychological views on the social learning theory.  Teachers will be able to use different approaches to their teaching styles through understanding several different view points.


It is apparent that social learning can affect education in a variety of ways.  For instance, students can model good behavior from their peers by working diligently on their homework assignments during study hall or by expressing their emotions in a unique, positive manner.  On the other hand, students can model bad behavior, too.  Students can react violently due to the violence they viewed on a television show two days earlier.  As Bandura discovered through experiment, social learning is linked to aggressive behavior.  With the rise of school violence, understanding and implementing the social learning theory in classrooms is prevalent now, more than ever.  The number one way to prevent violence and aggressive students from entering schools is to become educated on how to prevent violence and promote healthy peer relationships in the classroom.  Educators can do this a number of ways, and the articles found on the website are a wonderful resource for teachers.  The article about teaching self-control curriculum at, which is specifically designed for teachers, focus on teaching students appropriate social behaviors such as:

            ∙Controlling Impulses

            ∙Following School Routines

            ∙Managing Group Situations

            ∙Solving Social Problems

Many of the rules found on this site can be implemented through the use of literature.  Writing in journals on a daily basis is one way for students to learn how to control their impulses and manage stress.  This site teaches educators the basics on how to help students learn in a social environment.  Another article found at teaches educators how to both create and manage an effective classroom environment.  There are helpful curriculum tips for educators such as how to implement different activities into class time.  The site suggests that educators make use of two to three different activities during each period.  Examples include allowing time for lectures, time for small group reading, and time for a writing activity.  It also includes a “parent/student/teacher” compact, which is a great source for teachers to use with their students, and the students’ parent(s) to allow the students to see exactly what is expected of them in a social setting.  This also lets the parents know where you, the educator, stand on classroom management.  This helps to create a healthy social environment in which every student can model positive behaviors.  Basically, as an educator, it is important to implement cooperative learning in every classroom.  Students need to interact with their peers in order to maintain positive social relationships and grow as individuals.  Along with social relationships comes the acceptance, or rejection, of new ideas and concepts; therefore, as a teacher, it is important to promote positive social relationships with others. 


In order to create socially appropriate environments, educators must create and implement socially appropriate activities for their students.  As stated in Educational psychology. Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson Education, Inc., Allyn and Bacon, one great approach to initiating social learning in the classroom is to incorporate cooperative learning in daily lessons.  By placing students in cooperative learning groups and engaging them in social interactive activities, the students are able to model the behaviors of their peers.  They are exposed to new concepts and ways of completing tasks and assignments.  For example, students who are instructed to participate in small group discussions are implementing cooperative learning in the classroom.  Students are able to model the opinions, views, and behaviors of their peers.  On the other hand, by simply instructing students to read a poem and reflect on that particular poem is another form of social learning known as intertextuality.  Thus, because the student is interacting with the author who holds different ideas and styles of expression, the student is participating in social learning.  (The Literary Encyclopedia) 


“Read, Write, Think” was developed by the International Reading Association and is a great resource for educators who are looking for creative ways to implement social learning into their classroom activities and lesson plans.  It contains many great lesson plan examples on how educators can implement reading, or literacy, into their classrooms.  The website is a highly beneficial resource for teachers because it is specially designed for teachers of all grade levels.  It is extremely accessible because it is equipped with a search engine so that educators can find information pertaining to their area of expertise.


The website,, was established and created by experts in the field of education and designed to help educators promote positive social and emotional development in the school and home settings.  This is a great source because it provides lesson plans, professional documents, and educational surveys for teachers among a large number of grade levels. 


While we know that all students learn in his or her own unique way, it is important that we also know that teachers teach in a variety of ways; therefore, we, as educators, have to construct lessons so that every student can learn through observation.  Modeling, through cooperative learning groups, seems to be the consensus of all articles that I have researched. 


Woolfolk, Anita (2007). Educational psychology. (10th ed., p. 417) Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson Education, Inc., Allyn and Bacon.

            Allen, Graham Intertextuality. (2005). In The Literary Encyclopedia [Web]. The Literary Dictionary Company. Retrieved March 7, 2008, from

            Starr, Linda (2004). Creating a climate for learning: effective classroom management techniques. Retrieved March 7, 2008, from Education world: the educator's best friend Web site:

            Hopkins, Gary (2003, November 13). Wire side chats: teaching self control. Retrieved March 7, 2008, from Education world: the educator Web site:

            Drexel University (1999). Vygotsky's Social Learning: importance of social interaction in learning. Retrieved March 7, 2008, from Education world: the educator Web site:

            Gillies, Robin & Ashman Adrian F. (2003). Cooperative learning: the social and intellectual outcomes of learning in groups. Taylor and Francis.

            Haynes, Norris M., Zins Joseph E., Elias, Maurice J., Greenberg, Mark T., Kessler, Rachel, Frey, Karen S., Schwab-Stone, Mary E., Weissberg, Roger P., & Shriver, Timothy P.  (1997). Promoting social and emotional learning: guidelines for educators. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).

            Hodgon, Linda (1995). Visual strategies for improving communications: practical supports for school and home. Quirkroberts Publishers.

            Kress, Jeffrey S., Elias, Maurice J. & Novick, Bernard (2002).  Building learning communities with character: how to integrate academic, social, and emotional learning. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).

            Packer, Martin (2002).  Changing classes: social reform and the new economy (learning in doing: social, cognitive, and computational perspectives).  Cambridge University Press.

            Wray, David (2002).  Classroom interaction and social learning: from theory to practice.  Taylor and Francis.

            (2008). Retrieved March 7, 2008, from Center for Social and Emotional Education Web site:

            (2008). Retrieved March 7, 2008, from ReadWriteThink Web site: