Educational Psychology: Developing Learners

The concept of developing young learners has always been of great interest among educational psychologists. It is against this reason that psychologists have developed myriad of theories that can assist teachers understand and nurture young learners. One of the common theories that have been applied in respect to child development is social cognitive theory. This theory was developed by Bandura in 1986 (Ormrod, 2011). It asserts that children mostly learn through imitation. It dwells on ideology that learning can be enhanced if children imitate right actions from experts or fellow learners who are performing exceptionally well in academic work (Ormrod, 2011). This may be exemplified especially if a role model worth emulating is complimented or rewarded in the presence of young learners. Ormrod (2011) expounds that the above process of modeling whereby learners are motivated to imitate how a particular task is performed since they hold a positive perception to rewards that are publicly given. It is through imitation that learners will develop the much-needed learning skills. In addition, for a learner to respond positively to modeling and instruction there should be continuous interaction between the role model, immediate learning environment and pre-learned behavioral patterns of individual and group learners (Ormrod, 2011).

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Social cognitive theory is an important tool that can be used by teachers within a classroom environment to promote self-regulated learning. This can be achieved by adopting certain personal characteristics and behavioral patterns. According to Ormrod (2011), learning should be viewed as a social event that can be shaped by circumstances with the aim of generating different outcomes based on inputs. Teachers should often endeavor to promote desired social setting to ensure the appropriate outcomes of quality learning are achieved. In order to attain success, teachers can tap into positive elements of social setting and gear them towards achieving quality learning among learners. Moreover, this theory empowers teachers to manipulate any given classroom setting to their advantage and by extension to the benefit of learners (Ormrod, 2011).

The social cognitive theory is based on several concepts and assumptions that attempt to offer an explanation on how learning takes place. The first important concept under this theory is observational learning (Ormrod, 2011). It implies that students learn by observing models. The theory also assumes that learning as an internal process may or may not change behavioral pattern of a leaner. The above notion can be connected to the fact that learning creates awareness may not necessarily influence behavior. As part of building on this assumption, behavior can also be perceived to be goal oriented since learners have a tendency to modify their behavior to attain certain goals.

The behavior, which is developed through modeling, will eventually become self-regulated. According to Ormrod (2011), self-regulated behavior is that which an individual initiates, monitors and evaluates so as to accomplish certain set goals. On the same note, social cognitive theorists view an individual as capable of setting personal goals and standards and can similarly control learning process and behavioral patterns. Finally, the theory is based on the assumption that learners’ beliefs can influence effects of those pushing for certain ideal behaviors as far as the learner is concerned. This implies that reinforcing or punishing a learner may lead to both direct and indirect effects on learning outcomes (Ormrod, 2011).

Social cognitive theory has been embraced by teachers in real learning environment because of its perceived and real strengths. However, the theory does not lack some limitations. Firstly, the greatest strength of the theory is its integration concept. Several models of learning are brought together to create an environment where learners are motivated to imitate desired behavior and especially if that behavior can be linked to praises and other form of rewards. Learning through imitation will soon develop and outgrow to self regulation point where learners will have mastered the desired learning behavior. The theory is also based on optimism approach that exemplifies the fact that teaching children is an easy task (Ormrod, 2011).The main role of a teacher is to provide motivation to learn through praises and reward benefits. In addition, the teacher should create the right setting for the social learning process to take place so that learners can gain useful skill.

The theory if correctly applied produces accurate results similar to the one demonstrated by the master. Learners as mimickers will only learn what is provided by their models. On the other hand, the theory has some weaknesses, and the main one is it ignores a child’s cognitive development. Though the theory has some elements of cognitive insights, it fails to account how the child absorbs observed behavior. In addition, explanation of a child’s contribution to the processing, and output portrayal to the observed behavior is also absent. The theory is limited for it does not capture the element of innovation. It only asserts on the modeling process, and how leaning is achieved through imitation via observation. It does not account what happens when mastery of imitated behavior is attained. Despite the highlighted limitations of the social cognitive theory, it can be effectively used to create conducive classroom environment to achieve success with learners. This paper will critically analyze fourth grade reading lesson based on social cognitive behavior theory and propose how to re-design some aspects of the lesson using different models elements of the theory.

Video analysis: Application of social cognitive theory

Elements of the above theory can be effectively applied in a classroom setting as demonstrated in 4th Grade, Canoga Park video case (n.d). Mr. Hogan modifies classroom environment to promote socialization. He directs students to share what they have learnt from the comprehension with each other. The idea behind his strategy is to promote collaborative learning activity so as to ensure participation of every learner (Ormrod, 2011). By directing students to retell their personal interpretation and experience from reading, the teacher is promoting self efficacy as highlighted in the theory. Needless to say, one of the strengths of the theory is interaction, whereby a teacher uses different social elements to ensure quality learning. In addition, the teacher tries to incorporate model element to encourage participation (Ormrod, 2011).

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In the video setting, Diana is seen as the model by her fellow peers. All their contributions revolve around Diana’s answer. In the first instance, the teacher rewarded Diana’s initiative to answer questions voluntarily by showering her with praises. After she provides the first answer, other students follow suit even the ones who did not raise their hands before do so (4th Grade, Canoga Park, n.d). The observed change of behavior could be equated to social cognitive theory element of imitation. The theory asserts that students do imitate actions of their fellow students if they perform a certain task excellently (Ormrod, 2011). By praising Diana’s answer, the teacher has promoted her role in class to that of a model, and the rest of the students use her answer to gauge their comments. According to the theory a leaner will imitate a person whose actions are praised or rewarded in their presence (Ormrod, 2011). The teacher uses words like “good” and “correct” to show appreciation for the answers given. The words motivate other students to participate, and as a result, they learn the needed skills in reading comprehension (4th Grade, Canoga Park, n.d).

Lesson redesign

The purpose of the reading lesson as portrayed in the video is to teach students how to read and understand comprehensions (4th Grade, Canoga Park, n.d). The teacher effectively uses observational learning method. However, there are some elements of observational learning that he needs to incorporate to make the learning successful. Since he already got the attention of the learners and motivated them enough to respond to questions, he should aim at testing retention of the learned skills. At the end of the discussion, he should tell the students to summarize what they have learnt in the lesson. From the responses he will get he can gauge whether his lesson was a success or he needs to restructure. From the video it is noted that some students shy off from raising their hands for an opportunity to answer the questions. The teacher should focus on developing self-efficacy among the shy students (Ormrod, 2011). He can call out their names and see whether they have any idea of what is being discussed. The teacher can use verbal persuasion to make the shy students believe in themselves. In addition, he should always remember to give praise for whatever effort such students make.


The 4th Grade, Canoga Park (nd) video utilizes social cognitive theory to teach reading and comprehension strategies among 4th graders. The techniques by Mr. Hogan align well with social cognitive theory assertion that learning should take the form of social interaction. He makes use of compliments in promoting Diana to a model level. Consequently, other learners follow suit and imitate her answering techniques.


4th Grade, Canoga Park (nd). Web.

Ormrod, J. E. (2011). Educational Psychology: Developing Learners (7th edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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