Bandura, Theory of Learning

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Headlines trumpet the latest educational statistical casualty while firing teachers across the nation for students’ poor performance becomes commonplace (Butrymowicz & Garland, 2011). Measuring performance daily or weekly, forces teachers to develop not only the multitasking skills commonly required of business managers but also a blend of learning theories within their prescribed pedagogy to manage the challenges of teaching a broad spectrum of students. Psychology during the first half of the 20th century concentrated on the basic interpretations of learning through the experiments of Pavlov and others, while in the second half, psychologists concentrating on behavior began to dominate the discussion. Neither of these perspectives completely explains observable behavior. Toward the latter half of the 20th century, Albert Bandura described another idea, social learning (Kretchmar, 2008). Social learning fills in gaps within the behaviorist models and provides a better interpretation of early learning than simple motivational schemes do. Combining the more relevant parts of each of these models allows an instructor to adapt to the different learning styles of a multi-faceted student body.

Social learning as described by Albert Bandura has four principle components. These components are “attention, retention, motor reproduction and motivation” (Kretchmar, 2008, p. 1). In Bandura’s theory of social learning, people learn by modeling others through observation. They retain this knowledge and then reproduce it. This is the opposite of the behavioral models, which predict that learning takes place over a period and through a process of rewards and punishments while learning takes place (Kretchmar, 2008), instead Bandura describes learning as a more fluid process possibly taking place in a relatively short span. Bandura further goes on to say that “unless people believe that they can produce desired results by their actions, they have little incentive to act or to persevere in the face of difficulties” (Bandura, 2004, p. 1). This notion that motivation relates to achievable benefits goes to the heart of observable behavior in the business world and should be equally demonstratable in an educational context.

Bandura proffers the idea that behavior reinforcement relates to observed benefits. When someone takes action and receives a reward or a punishment, then the observer will intuitively anticipate the same result (Kretchmar, 2008). A readily observed example of a police officer stopping a speeder and issuing a speeding ticket reinforces the idea that speeding results in financial loss. Others observing this action will expect punishment for committing the same offense. In point of fact, a person does not need fining by the police to learn this particular lesson. When a teacher fails to correct a student for negative behavior, the teacher can expect other students to imitate the original offender. Conversely, when the teacher rewards a student for high performance other students will choose to emulate this student (Reitman, et. al., 2003).

The principal application for Bandura’s theory is with behavioral modification. Through introducing class activities that allow positive modeling, an instructor can reinforce expectations in the classroom and through trial and error develop systems to redirect students’ natural energy into new learning processes. Another application best suited for social learning is in a multicultural classroom environment. Each culture has its own moral standard that children learn from their parents through observation (Kretchmar, 2008), this leads to confusion among children from different cultures. A successful teacher develops a learning culture for the classroom that supersedes the students’ normal cultural responses.

Ordinarily, one might consider business management to be an unlikely training ground for aspiring teachers. However, there are various training...
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