Social Learning Theory in Education: How to Create Collaborative Learning Environments (2024)

In exploring social learning theory in education, we uncover how crucial observation and collaboration are in shaping learners’ experiences. This article delves into practical applications of the theory, guiding educators in creating environments where students learn as much from each other as from formal instruction.
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In exploring social learning theory in education, we uncover how crucial observation and collaboration are in shaping learners’ experiences. This article delves into practical applications of the theory, guiding educators in creating environments where students learn as much from each other as from formal instruction.

What we will learn together:

  • Social learning theory, credited to Albert Bandura, demonstrates that learning is a cognitive process that benefits from personal experiences and observing others. With attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation as core principles, platforms like Disco, the #1 AI-powered social learning platform, can significantly enhance these learning experiences.
  • The 70-20-10 model integrates seamlessly into social learning with the aid of Disco. This model emphasizes that most learning (70%) arises from hands-on experiences, 20% from social interactions, and 10% from formal instruction.
  • Implementing social learning in the classroom is made more effective with platforms like Disco. Educators can create collaborative opportunities, leverage educational technology to boost engagement and incorporate practices of reflection and feedback to internalize and evaluate learning experiences, all within Disco's AI-powered social learning environment.

What are the Core Principles of Social Learning Theory?

Albert Bandura’s social learning theory, also known as social cognitive theory, pioneered by the psychologist himself, posits that learning is a cognitive process that occurs in a social context. This theory underscores the fact that we learn not just through our own experiences, but also by observing the actions of others and the outcomes of those actions.

This observational learning forms the bedrock of Bandura’s social learning theory which emphasizes the intertwined nature of cognitive processes and learning theories like social learning in acquiring new knowledge and skills.

Key points of social learning theory:

  • Learning is a cognitive process that occurs in a social context
  • We learn by observing the actions of others and the outcomes of those actions
  • Observational learning is a key component of social learning theory
  • Social learning theory emphasizes the intertwined nature of cognitive and social processes in learning.

There are four core principles of social learning theory:

  1. Attention: We pay attention to the behavior of others.
  2. Retention: We remember what we observed.
  3. Reproduction: We imitate or reproduce the behavior we witnessed.
  4. Motivation: We are motivated to repeat the behavior if it leads to a positive outcome
social learning theory in action

Not all observed human behavior is effectively learned; individuals learn new behaviors by observing others, but they are more likely to imitate behaviors that lead to positive consequences, a concept known as positive reinforcement. This process of acquiring knowledge through observation is called vicarious learning, which is a form of vicarious reinforcement.

Observation and Attention

Observation and attention are the first steps in the social learning process. Imagine a child watching their parent prepare a meal. The child observes the parent’s actions, paying attention to how they chop vegetables, stir ingredients, and use kitchen appliances. This is a classic example of observational learning, as delineated in Bandura’s studies.

However, not every observed behavior is learned. Attention plays a crucial role here. The child must pay attention to the parent’s actions to learn how to prepare the meal themselves. This highlights the importance of managing distractions in the learning environment, as distractions can hinder the child’s ability to learn effectively.

In addition, the child doesn’t just imitate the parent’s actions; they also adopt the parent’s behaviors, values, beliefs, and attitudes, contributing to a more comprehensive learning experience than mere imitation.

Imitation and Reproduction

Once a behavior is observed and stored in memory, the next step is imitation or reproduction. This step involves performing the behavior that was observed. However, simple imitation isn’t enough; effective learning involves reproducing the behavior accurately. This is termed motor reproduction, which is the ability to perform a behavior demonstrated by a model.

For instance, if a student observes a teacher solving a math problem, they would need to reproduce the steps the teacher took to solve the problem accurately. If the students can correctly solve the problem by themselves, it indicates that they have successfully learned through imitation and reproduction.

Motivation: The Driving Force

Motivation serves as the driving force in the social learning process. It involves the desire to imitate and replicate the observed behavior. Motivation is influenced by the perceived rewards or consequences of the observed behavior.

If a child observes that a behavior is followed by rewards, they are more likely to imitate that behavior. Conversely, if the behavior is followed by punishment, they are less likely to imitate it.

However, it’s important to note that not all observed behaviors are imitated, even if they are followed by rewards. The observer’s perception of the importance of the reward also plays a role in their motivation to imitate the behavior. If the observer perceives the reward as unimportant, they are unlikely to imitate the behavior.

In essence, motivation plays a crucial role in determining which behaviors are imitated based on thought processes, including most human behavior.

Social Learning VS Asocial Learning

While social learning involves interaction with others, asocial learning involves learning in isolation without social guidance. Observational learning, a core concept of social learning theory, involves learning by observing the behaviors of others. In contrast, asocial learning involves individuals learning without observing others or receiving feedback.

Social leanring vs Asocial learning

Moreover, social learning theory has practical applications in understanding real-world phenomena, like the transmission of aggression, which shows the impact and relevance of social learning beyond the confines of solitary study methods.

In essence, social learning and asocial learning present two different approaches to learning, each with its own merits and limitations.

Benefits of Social Interaction in Learning

Social interaction in learning has numerous benefits. It plays a pivotal role in developing essential interpersonal skills such as effective communication, teamwork, and the ability to understand and appreciate diverse perspectives. Moreover, social and emotional learning (SEL) in schools correlates with more positive student attitudes and behaviors, which is reflected in improved test scores and reductions in risk-taking behaviors.

Social interactions have several benefits, including:

  • Facilitating experiences with peers, leading to better retention of learned material
  • Helping individuals recall information better when it is associated with interpersonal exchanges
  • Helping students succeed academically, in their careers, and life by building self-efficacy, confidence, empathy, and a sense of purpose.

Challenges of Asocial Learning

On the other hand, asocial learning has its limitations. One significant challenge is that it poses the risk of individuals facing unexpected obstacles and frustrations due to unrecognized limits and weaknesses. Without the benefit of feedback and guidance from others, learners may struggle to overcome these obstacles and improve their skills.

Plus, asocial learning limits opportunities for collaboration and group exercises, which are essential components of the learning process. Without these opportunities, learners may miss out on the chance to develop essential interpersonal skills, receive constructive feedback, and build a sense of community with their peers.

Integrating the 70-20-10 Model into Social Learning

Now, let’s take a look at how the 70-20-10 model fits into social learning. This model suggests that:

  • most learning (70%) comes from hands-on experiences,
  • with 20% from social interactions, and
  • only 10% from formal instruction.
Illustration of the 70-20-10 model in social learning

This model emphasizes the significant role of social learning, as it assumes that a substantial portion of learning occurs through observing others, collaborating, and receiving feedback.

By adapting the 70-20-10 model to educational contexts, educators can emphasize activities that promote learning through experience and social interaction, rather than relying solely on formal teaching methods.

This approach aligns well with the principles of social learning theory, reinforcing the idea that learning is not a solitary activity but a social process that involves interacting with others and learning from their experiences.

(70%) Job-Related Experiences in Education

Job-related experiences play a crucial role in the 70-20-10 model. Work-Based Learning Experiences (WBLEs) in education encompass activities like:

  • job shadowing
  • career mentorship
  • internships
  • service learning
  • student-led enterprises

All of these activities provide real-world job experience and connect classroom learning to actual work activities, fostering knowledge relevant to students’ future careers.

For instance, internships and job shadowing provide students with a hands-on experience of what it’s like to work in a particular field. Similarly, project-based learning allows students to apply their theoretical knowledge to practical tasks.

These job-related experiences represent the 70% of learning that comes from hands-on experiences, according to the 70-20-10 model.

(20%) Interactions with Others: Peer-to-Peer Learning

The second component of the 70-20-10 model is learning from social interactions or peer-to-peer learning. Peer-to-peer learning is a critical component of effective educational practices. It enables students to learn from each other, solidifying their knowledge and enhancing their retention.

Peer-to-peer learning also plays a significant role in online learning environments. In these settings, interactions between students contribute significantly to the development of a community of inquiry and to the co-construction of understanding.

In addition, engaging in debates enhances students’ communication and interpersonal skills, encourages research and analysis, and provides an opportunity for feedback and skill refinement.

(10%) Formal Education and Structured Learning

The final component of the 70-20-10 model is formal education or structured learning. Although social learning emphasizes the importance of learning from experiences and interactions, formal education still plays a crucial role. It provides the foundational knowledge necessary for students to engage effectively in social learning activities.

Educational settings can enhance social learning by offering opportunities for students to apply their skills in structured learning experiences such as practicum and simulations that mimic workplace environments.

By integrating the principles of the 70-20-10 model, educational programs can foster a combination of formal education and informal, spontaneous interactions among students, thereby enriching the learning experience.

Practical Strategies for Implementing Social Learning in the Classroom

Implementing social learning in the classroom may seem daunting, but with a few practical strategies, it can be a seamless process. One key strategy is to incorporate a blended learning approach that combines various methods, such as direct instruction, collaborative activities, and independent study. This approach ensures that all learners’ needs are met, regardless of their learning style.

Another strategy is to create a successful collaborative learning environment. This involves:

  • Having a clear plan with well-defined goals
  • Structured groups
  • Outcomes that necessitate group work
  • Addressing diverse learning styles

By striking the right balance between individual and group work, educators can maximize the impact of group activities and foster a collaborative learning environment while also promoting students’ own organizational skills.

Creating Collaborative Learning Opportunities

Creating collaborative learning opportunities is vital in implementing social learning in the classroom. Peer mentoring or teaching is one strategy that allows students to learn from each other through observation, modeling, and reinforcement.

Encouraging students to act as mentors or buddies to each other is one-way teachers can support social and emotional learning. This can foster empathy, support, and a sense of community within the classroom.

Moreover, collaborative learning involves:

  • students interacting with and teaching each other
  • promoting deeper engagement with the course material
  • fostering a sense of community and shared learning among students

This approach is as effective as expert involvement in enhancing student engagement. By creating collaborative learning among students, you should be able to do it with a platform that combines learning and community perfectly in one place.

Disco is the best AI-powered social learning platform that does this well, with a learning suite and a community builder in one platform. With Disco, you can easily foster collaboration using social feeds, channels, and courses powered by Artificial Intelligence.

First, create a learning product and make sure you have a Disco account. Here's a short tutorial on how to create one on Disco:

After creating a learning product, you can add a #channel or a social feed by clicking the '+' icon beside the title of your product. Select 'add app' and choose 'feed' as an example.

Set up your feed and click 'complete setup'.

Once you've got everything set up, Disco AI jumps into action, suggesting conversation starters for your feed with its smart prompt ideas. Browse through these prompts, pick one that catches your eye, and hit 'draft post' to get the ball rolling in your community. It's an easy and effective way to make sure your feed is always full of lively discussions.

Before posting, you may enhance and personalize your post by adding multimedia such as images, videos, or embedding tools, and you can even highlight products or services. For instance, if you want to embed a YouTube video, simply type in '/' and select the YouTube option to seamlessly integrate the video into your post.

Once your post is live, your learners can engage with it by expressing their reactions through emojis, sharing their thoughts in the comments, or bookmarking the post for later reference. It's akin to cultivating your own exclusive social network tailored for your learners, fostering a vibrant and interactive learning community.

In conclusion, social learning theory provides a comprehensive framework for understanding how people learn from one another, with practical implications for enhancing educational experiences and preparing students for collaborative work in the real world.

Leveraging Educational Technology and Artificial Intelligence Tools

With the advent of digital technology, educators have a wealth of tools at their disposal to support and enrich social learning in the classroom. Connectivism acknowledges the significance of technology and collaborative activities in the learning process, which are critical for today’s students and educators.

Digital tools such as artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality technologies, interactive videos, and webinars offer immersive and engaging learning experiences. Social media platforms and learner-generated content, such as student-created videos, are instrumental in applying social learning theory by building a community and facilitating shared knowledge through the use of social learning tools.

Unleash the potential of technology with Disco AI as your ally in navigating member inquiries, sparking creative activities, and simplifying the integration of social learning into your digital classrooms and educational platforms.

Disco AI can be an invaluable assistant, helping educators foster a dynamic learning environment where students not only consume knowledge but also actively engage with it, thereby enhancing the social learning experience.

Answer member queries with Disco AI

Disco AI significantly enhances the collaborative experience within course feeds and channels. For instance, when I established a channel in my course dedicated to peer feedback, I enabled the Q&A suggestion feature to ensure Disco AI would generate suggestion responses for my channel.

This feature empowers Disco AI to generate intelligent prompts that inspire students to post questions and partake in meaningful discussions. Such active participation and community building are pivotal in enriching the learning journey.

After configuring the channel settings, I saved the changes, and Disco AI immediately offered smart suggestions to encourage active participation. These AI-generated prompts are designed to stimulate discussion and ensure that the channel remains a dynamic space for learners to engage and support one another.

Feel free to choose the prompt and click on the 'draft message in channel'.

Once a post is live, Disco AI leaps into action, offering smart suggestions for replies. Users can choose to 'dismiss' or 'edit & use' these prompts. Disco AI remains active, so whenever there is a new comment or post from learners, it will continue to provide helpful suggestions.

This feature is not limited to Disco; it can also be integrated with Slack communities, ensuring a seamless interactive experience across different platforms.

Training Disco AI with Educators' Knowledge Bases and Learner Data

Educators can tailor the Disco AI experience by training it with their unique knowledge base and the data generated by learners. By inputting specific educational content, resources, and learner interactions into the AI, educators can create a more personalized and responsive learning environment.

To train Disco AI effectively, navigate to the 'Admin Area' and select 'Training Sources'. Here, you can enhance Disco AI's capabilities by adding your own training sources.

Start by clicking on the '+Add Training Source' button. This allows the system to access and learn from your curated content, making the AI more attuned to your educational context and the needs of your learners.

Type in the URL you want to scrape and select if you want to scrape the whole domain or just subpaths. Once submitted, it will take some to process depending on the size of the data.

Once the processing is complete, you can review the URLs and the data that have been successfully scraped and integrated into Disco AI.

This step is crucial as it ensures that the AI is equipped with relevant and accurate information, enhancing its ability to provide personalized and contextually appropriate responses and suggestions within the learning environment.

Encouraging Reflection and Feedback

Reflection and feedback are essential components of the social learning process. Reflective practices within collaborative projects can significantly enhance the learning experience by allowing students to internalize and evaluate their contributions and the dynamics within the group.

Feedback, on the other hand, provides learners with valuable insights into their performance, helping them identify areas of strength and areas needing improvement.

By incorporating reflection and feedback into the learning process, educators can ensure that students are actively engaged in their learning and continuously striving to improve.

Begin by creating a #channel or a feed for peer feedback. In my course, I created a channel called '#share-your-work' where my students can share and give feedback instantly on their work.

I gave them an assignment entitled 'Edtech Examples'. I can't think of a submission prompt so I ask Disco AI to generate it for me.

Sample prompt: Ask students to research at least 10 edtech examples and write at least 3 assignment prompts they need to submit.

Just in seconds, Disco AI generated the entire assignment! I edited the last part and asked my students to share their work in our channel and to give feedback on their peers' assignments as well.

After that, I created a post to announce the assignment using Disco AI's intuitive interface. If you're interested in doing the same, simply click the Disco AI button and start a conversation with it. As you type your prompt, it will generate suggestions for you.

Once you're satisfied with the suggestion, click 'draft post' to prepare your announcement for the feed. This interactive process not only simplifies content creation but also ensures that your posts are engaging and informative.

Here's what it looks like in my 'Announcement' feed. Don't forget to create your Disco account to easily test these steps in the Disco platform.

The Significance of Social Learning in Educational Settings

The importance of social learning in educational settings can’t be overstated. Social learning enhances engagement in a hybrid learning environment by fostering collaborative relationships and integrating community-focused motivators, which helps mitigate feelings of disconnection from peers.

It also naturally equips students with experiences that mirror real-world social structures and collaboration, offering hands-on preparation for future endeavors.

Moreover, educators can utilize social learning principles to:

  • Encourage students to learn from one another
  • Engage in discussions
  • Cultivate critical thinking
  • Refine their communication and teamwork skills

In essence, social learning plays a vital role in preparing students, as students learn and children learn, for the demands of the real world.

💡 Here are some social learning examples in general and educational settings.

Building Invaluable Soft Skills

One of the key benefits of social learning is its role in building invaluable soft skills. Through social interactions and collaborations, students can develop essential interpersonal skills like effective communication, teamwork, and empathy. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in schools not only helps students succeed academically but also equips them to tackle real-world challenges by promoting responsible decision-making and adherence to ethical conduct across diverse social settings.

Moreover, social learning experiences can lead to improved social skills and personal growth. As students interact with their peers, they experience positive interactions that foster a conducive environment for personal growth and improved social skills.

Preparing for Real-World Collaboration

Social learning also plays a crucial role in preparing students for real-world collaboration. The social learning environments in education mirror real-life social structures, fostering students’ preparation for future professional and social interaction.

Activities such as career-related competitions and informational interviews can foster interactions among students, promoting social learning through collaboration and discussion.

Moreover, the practice of social learning in educational settings can lead to enhanced personal development and continuous learning skills relevant to real-world scenarios. This underscores the importance of social learning in equipping students with the skills and knowledge they need to navigate the complexities of the real world.

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Embracing the principles of social learning theory, Disco seamlessly integrates the 70-20-10 model into its platform, ensuring that learners are not just absorbing information but actively participating in their educational journey.

As we've explored, the power of social learning lies in its ability to cultivate invaluable soft skills and prepare learners for real-world collaboration. By implementing strategies that encourage collaborative learning opportunities, leveraging educational technology, and fostering reflection and feedback, educators can create a more engaging and effective learning environment.

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Frequently Asked Questions on Social Learning Theory

What exactly is social learning theory, and who is credited with its development?

Social learning theory is a comprehensive framework credited to the renowned psychologist Albert Bandura. It posits that people learn from one another, through observation, imitation, and modeling within a social context. This theory has revolutionized our understanding of how learning occurs beyond traditional classroom settings.

Can you outline the core principles of social learning theory?

Certainly! The foundational pillars of social learning theory are fourfold: attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. These principles collectively explain how individuals observe behaviors, remember and internalize them, replicate them accurately, and are motivated to do so based on the outcomes they expect. Learn how to apply these with a Social learning LMS!

How does the 70-20-10 model integrate with social learning?

The 70-20-10 model is a learning and development framework that aligns closely with social learning theory. It proposes that a substantial portion of learning, 70%, arises from hands-on experiences, another 20% from interactive social learning, and a mere 10% from formal educational settings. This model underscores the value of experiential and social learning as key drivers of personal and professional growth.

What distinguishes social learning from asocial learning?

The key distinction lies in the presence of social interaction. The definition of social learning is it thrives on collaborative engagement, where knowledge is acquired through shared experiences and insights. Asocial learning, by contrast, involves acquiring skills or knowledge in a solitary environment, devoid of direct social influence or collaborative learning opportunities.

What are effective methods for applying social learning theory in educational environments?

To effectively harness social learning theory in education, educators can employ a blend of diverse teaching methodologies.

This includes integrating a blended learning approach that combines traditional instruction with digital platforms, fostering collaborative learning environments, utilizing cutting-edge educational technology to facilitate interactive learning experiences, and promoting reflective practices coupled with constructive feedback to solidify learning outcomes. These methods not only boost student engagement but also encourage meaningful peer-to-peer learning and interaction.

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