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Social Learning Theory and Collaborative Professional Development/Growth Plans

Social Learning Theory and Collaborative Professional Development/Growth Plans


In this lesson you will learn the 5 components of social learning theory, reciprocal determinism, and how social learning theory supports collaborative professional development/growth.

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Source: Glove, Clker,; Stick Figure, Clker,; Tennis, Pixabay,; Albert Bandura, Wikimedia Commons,

Video Transcription

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Hello there, and welcome.

As you go through this lesson, I have a feeling you'll be nodding in agreement a great deal, because a lot of this will sound familiar, and now you'll have a name for it. We will analyze how collaborative learning is connected to the five components of social learning, and how it all ties into professional development and growth. Let's get started.

I heard a comedian once say something to the effect of, that no matter how good you get at tennis, you'll never be better than a wall. That may be true, but I've used a wall a great deal to practice. However, there is no better way to improve my game than playing with others, especially those that are better than me. There's something about playing a real match that brings out the competitiveness and passion to push myself to the next level. Learning with others will do that to you.

Let's begin with the definition of social learning theory, which is attributed to Albert Bandura. Social learning theory states that people learn from one another through observation, imitation, and modeling. It's that reciprocal interaction that happens between individuals at cognitive and behavioral levels that is also influenced by the environment that you're in. Think back to the tennis example. You get better by playing with others.

Learning is not simply behavioral, however. But it's also a cognitive process that can certainly take place in the social context. For example, even before we are able to speak, we are learning language from interactions with our parents. Observation can also be a powerful learning tool. One can learn from observing a behavior and its consequences.

I was recently at a week-long professional development focused on responsive classroom, and the presenters modeled a morning meeting with us each time we met. I could actually feel the group dynamic changing as the week went on. We developed a bond that otherwise wouldn't have existed.

Learning includes observing, drawing information from what is observed, and then using that information to make decisions and draw conclusions. Maybe you've observed a colleague working with her students, and noticed that the words that she chooses and the way that she spoke to a child defused a potential situation. You walk away from that experience with a new perspective that you will likely act on the next time you're in a similar situation.

Reinforcement helps learning, but it's not solely responsible for it. It's not the smiley face you put on a paper that makes the child learn. As adults, our learning is reinforced when we experience success. For example, you learn how to use Twitter to connect and learn from other educators, but mostly you just read the posts. You then decide to tweet something out and are met with retweets and likes. You go on to continue to increase your learning through this format.

The fifth and final component of social learning theory is that the learner is an active participant, and not just a passive recipient of information. We learn by doing. And understanding, behavior, and environment all play a key role.

For example, I've seen many teacher assistants thrive when placed in certain situations with teachers that allow them to interact and engage as a secondary teacher in the room. In cases like this, the adult learner, the teacher assistant, is influenced by the environment and the classroom teacher.

Reciprocal determinism also plays a role in social learning theory. Reciprocal determinism means that people are both influenced by and have influence on their peers and their learning environment. Of course, we hope that the influence is a positive one. However, it could be negative as well. We often see this phenomenon manifest itself in co-taught classrooms. When teachers work together, they will influence one another's practice. An administrator's job is to monitor such cases and support positive growth for both individuals.

Collaborative professional development truly supports the components found in social learning theory. I've been involved in organizing many technology unconferences that really epitomize social learning theory. In fact, after one of the unconferences, I was moved to write about it in my blog. Here is a snippet from it.

"As you can see, the collaborative nature of this type of professional development is directly connected to social learning theory."

So let's go ahead and summarize what we covered in this lesson. We began by reviewing social learning theory, which was started by Albert Bandura. We introduced each of the five components of social learning, and gave some examples. We defined reciprocal determinism and talked about how collaborative professional development really epitomizes social learning theory.

And now, for today's food for thought. Look for a collaborative professional development opportunity that you can take advantage of. If you can't find one, create one yourself.

Now it's your turn to apply what you've learned in this video. The additional resources section will be extremely helpful. This session is designed to help you discover useful ways to apply what you've learned here. Each link includes a brief description, so you can easily target the specific resources that you want.

Thanks so much for watching. We'll see you next time.

Notes on "Social Learning Theory and Collaborative Professional Development/Growth Plans"

(00:00-00:20) Intro

(00:21-00:49) Tennis, Anyone?

(00:50-01:17) Social Learning Theory

(01:18-03:17) Components Of Social Learning Theory

(03:18-03:51) Reciprocal Determinism

(03:52-04:19) Collaborative PD

(04:20-05:16) Summary/Food For Thought

Additional Resources

Teaching the Teachers: Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability

This report from the Center for Public Education connects learning theories (such as Bandura's social learning theory) to best practices in teacher professional development. The report is broken down into strategies that can be easily translated into practice.

The Learning Classroom: Theory Into Practice

This page on the Annenberg Learner site brings theory into practice through useful videos and resources for teacher professional development and growth.