Social Cognitive Theory

Topics: Educational psychology, Psychology, Albert Bandura Pages: 12 (4438 words) Published: March 7, 2011
Social Cognitive Theory
Social cognitive theory (SCT) refers to a psychological model of behavior that emerged primarily from the work of Albert Bandura (1977; 1986). Initially developed with an emphasis on the acquisition of social behaviors, SCT continues to emphasize that learning occurs in a social context and that much of what is learned is gained through observation. SCT has been applied broadly to such diverse areas of human functioning as career choice, organizational behavior, athletics, and mental and physical health. SCT also has been applied extensively by those interested in understanding classroom motivation, learning, and achievement (Pajares, 1996; Schunk & Zimmerman, 1994; 1998). SCT rests on several basic assumptions about learning and behavior. One assumption concerns triadic reciprocal-ity, or the view that personal, behavioral, and environmental factors influence one another in a bidirectional, reciprocal fashion. That is, a person's on-going functioning is a product of a continuous interaction between cognitive, behavioral, and contextual factors. For instance, classroom learning is shaped by factors within the academic environment, especially the reinforcements experienced by oneself and by others. At the same time, learning is affected by students' own thoughts and self-beliefs and their interpretation of the classroom context. A closely related assumption within SCT is that people have an agency or ability to influence their own behavior and the environment in a purposeful, goal-directed fashion (Bandura, 2001). This belief conflicts with earlier forms of behaviorism that advocated a more rigorous form of environmental determinism. SCT does not deny the importance of the environment in determining behavior, but it does argue that people can also, through forethought, self-reflection, and self-regulatory processes, exert substantial influence over their own outcomes and the environment more broadly. A third assumption within SCT is that learning can occur without an immediate change in behavior or more broadly that learning and the demonstration of what has been learned are distinct processes. One reason for this separation is that SCT also assumes that learning involves not just the acquisition of new behaviors, but also of knowledge, cognitive skills, concepts, abstract rules, values, and other cognitive constructs. This division of learning and behavior is a shift from the position advocated by behavioral theories that defined learning stridently as a change in the form or frequency of behavior. It also means that students can learn but not demonstrate that learning until motivated to do so. HISTORICAL ORIGINS OF SCT

Born in 1925, Albert Bandura was trained and began his career in the mid-twentieth century when explanations of human functioning, including classroom learning, were dominated by behavioral models advocated by researchers such as B. F. Skinner, Clark Hull, Kenneth Spence, and Edward Tolman. In this context, Bandura, along with his students and colleagues, initiated a series of studies designed to examine social explanations for why and when children displayed aggressive behaviors. These studies demonstrated the value of modeling for acquiring novel behaviors and provided initial evidence for the separation of learning and performance. They also indicated the importance of the learner's perceptions of the environment generally, of the person modeling a behavior specifically, and of the learner's expectations regarding the consequences of behavior. In doing so, findings from this systematic research contradicted assumptions within behavioral models that learning was the result of trial and error learning or that changes in behavior were due primarily to the consequences of one's own actions. Children learn by observing others.JENNY ACHESON/RISER/GETTY...
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