Learning Theories



Watch overview videoSocial Learning Theory

The Social Learning Theory, also known as the Social Cognitive Theory was theorized and developed by Albert Bandurais in 1963. This theory is described as a bridge between the behaviourism and cognitive learning theory as it involves attention, memory, and motivation. It is centralized around the view that individuals learn and grow through observation, imitation, and modelling and that learning occurs using a 4 step modeling process; attention, retention, reproduction, motivation.

Guidelines for Use

Guideline 1 – Attention

This phase of the instruction involves the observation and modelling process

where the student is required to pay attention to who (the model) or what (skill/behavior) that needs to be observed. Learners have a greater chance of focusing on a model if they are engaged and interested in what is being modeled. Educators must ensure that they have the attention of the learner through the use of unique contexts, discussions, exciting “hooks” or “innovative introductions”, ensuring the learner is engaged thus capturing the learners’ attention.

Guideline 2 – Retention

Internalizing the information into our memories is a crucial part of this process. This phase of instruction is where the learner is required to retain what they have observed through the mirroring or mimicking process. The educator or their peers model the behaviour and/or skill allowing the learner to see and practice the skill in order to “retain” or “recall” the observed behaviour and/or skill.

Guideline 3 – Production

This phase of instruction is the process where the learner is reproducing the learned behaviour, skill or knowledge. The learner practices then replicates the behaviour or skill that has been observed on their own without anyone “showing/modelling” for them. By practicing the skill, the learner is able to improve their responses.

Guideline 4 – Motivation

This phase is where the learner becomes motivated or has a reason to continue to produce the skill or behaviour because they see and recall the rewards/outcomes of someone else’s behavior. This then motivates the learner to continue to or avoid the behaviour due to recalling the outcome thus supporting the idea that if learners see positive outcomes of a particular behaviour, they are more likely to repeat that skill or behaviour independently. If the reward is not seen as ‘important’ to the learner, they will most likely not repeat or imitate the behaviour and/or skill.

Good Examples of Use

Example 1 – YouTube Cake Baking Tutorial

This tool helps teach the learner through the video, the skill of baking a cake. When using YouTube, the video captures the learner’s attention, then the learner is observing the model to attain the skill that is being taught. Once the learner has completed watching the video, they then try to replicate or imitate what the model has taught them. Lastly, once the learner has observed the outcome, they become motivated to continue to pursue that skill as they have recalled the model’s outcomes, in this case the results of their cake baking.

Example 2 – Khan Academy www.khanacademy.org

This resource tool was created to help students with their homework, giving students and parents access to educational activities, lessons, quizzes and videos in various strands. These videos outline the process of various skills allowing the learner to mimic and practice the skills online.

Helpful Resources

Resource 1 – Bandura – Social Learning Theory by Saul McLeod

This page on the Simply Psychology website was written by Saul McLeod defining and elaborating on various aspects of the social learning theory.

Resource 2 – Social Learning Theory By Albert Bandura

This is a text written by Albert Bandura outlining the theory and implications for its use.

Resource 3 – Video on The Social Learning Theory by Edutopia

This video speaks to the importance of the social learning theory and how it is a human’s first mode of learning from birth.

Resource 4 – Youtube Video (What Is Social Learning?) by Fuse 

This video (by Fusion Universal for Social Learning) is a snippet of a series of videos explaining the social learning theory and how this type of learning best suits the society we live in today.


Bandura, A., & Walters, R. H. (1977). Social learning theory (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs,  NJ: Prentice-hall.

Grusec, J. E. (1994). Social learning theory and developmental psychology: The legacies of Robert R. Sears and Albert Bandura.

McLeod, S. (2016) Bandura – Social Learning Theory. Retrieved from: https://www.simplypsychology.org/bandura.html


Submitted By: Alana Craigg

Email: alana.craigg@ontariotechu.net

Bio: Primary Educator with a focus in Music, Physical Education STEM and Global Competencies



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

E-Learning Essentials 2020 Copyright © 2020 by Power Learning Solutions is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book