Thursday, October 8, 2015

Social Learning Theory

This is number 3 on my list of Learning Theories That Actually Work

The following is authored by Mary Miller at the University of Georgia, and can be found verbatim here (italics added by me):
  • This theory suggests that an individual learns attitudes by observing the behaviors of others and modeling or imitating them (McDonald and Kielsmeier, 1970). 
  • An observed behavior does not have to be reinforced to be learned (Zimbardo and Leippe, 1991)
  • The model "can be presented on film or by television, in a novel, or by other vicarious means" (Martin and Briggs, 1986, p. 28). 
    From Questia Blog post: Role Models
  • The model must be credible to the target audience (Bednar and Levie, 1993). Credibility is largely a function of expertise and trustworthiness. 
  • Observational learning is greater when models are perceived as powerful and/or warm and supportive, and "imitative behavior is more likely when there are multiple models doing the same thing" (Zimbardo and Leippe, 1991, p. 51). 
  • While "attitudes formed through direct experience with the attitude object or issue are more predictive of behavior than those formed more indirectly" (Zimbardo and Leippe, 1991, p. 193), "media can be substitutes for many live experiences" (Wetzel et al., 1994, p. 26). Thus, observing a model via video is a viable method of learning a new attitude
  • For passive learners, instruction delivered by media may facilitate the rapid acquisition of complex affective behaviors more effectively than live demonstrations (McDonald and Kielsmeier, 1970). 
  • However, receivers may attend mediated messages less closely than those presented directly, thereby diminishing their effectiveness (Bednar and Levie, 1993).
This easily meets my 4 criteria to be included on a short list of "Learning Theories that Actually Work":
  • It makes sense on the face of it
Role models. We get it.
  • It has a solid history in research and practice
The theory has weight and a track record. Plus, a large number of the ads you'll see on commercial television use this learning theory, trying to get someone to react in exactly this way. Here's one example. If you watch it and you say, "I want to be like that," you've just experienced it.
  • It's easy to implement
Assuming you're doing video already, it involves making the choice to show someone who is really good at something, doing exactly that something. It involves shooting the right activities, and asking the right questions in interviews. It also involves choosing a person to be on-camera whom others will want emulate: Someone who is cool, maybe, or delightful in some way, or fun, or funny, or just powerfully confident. None of this costs an extra dime. Well, maybe a little extra time.
  • I've tried it, and it works
People love likeable experts. This has been particularly successful for me in the early courses within degree programs, when we consciously created the image of a successful graduate, and continued to reinforce that image throughout. It improved retention by double digits.

(More on this theory here.)

Click here to go to the next theory.


Click in any order you prefer:

1. Gagne's 9 Events (Learning Model)
2. Felder-Silverman Learning Styles Model (Global/Sequential, Visual/Verbal)
3. Social Learning Theory (Role Models)
4. Maslow's Hierarchy (Identity-Level Outcomes)
5. Bloom's Taxonomy (Critical Thinking)
6. Active Learning (Discovery, Flipping the Classroom)
7. Metacognition (Self-Awareness)
8. Kirkpatrick's 4 Levels of Evaluation (Outcome Measurement)

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