Sense of Social Learning Theory

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Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968) multi-store model illustrates the three components involved in memory; where sensory information enters memory (sensory register), where information is processed (short-term memory), and where rehearsed information is held indefinitely (long-term store). As there is an immense amount of sensory information at a given time, only attended to information goes to the short-term memory. The rest is rapidly forgotten. However, with Jonathan disrupting the class, he is taking majority of the attention away from the teacher. This makes it impossible or difficult for him, and the other students, to pay attention to the lesson. Thus, the information presented isn’t being processed to the short-term memory and is not stored, making it impossible to retrieve later.

Similarly, you need rehearsal for information to be processed from the short-term memory to the long-term store. Information in the short-term memory lasts 15-30 seconds and if it is not rehearsed, the memory quickly fades. The longer the delay, the less information is recalled. Jonathan’s disruptions prevent himself, and other students, from being able to rehearse the information they have just learnt. This delay lasts longer as the teacher deals with the disruption. Thus, these encoding errors prevents Jonathan and his fellow students to learn and recall information.

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However, rehearsal may be a too simple explanation on how memory goes from the short-term to the long-term memory. It does not consider motivations, effects and strategies. An interesting topic would influence enthusiastic students to be more motivated to learn it, therefore may carry on throughout the interruptions.

Jonathan is displaying aggression (throwing objects), hyperactivity, inattentiveness (walking around the room), and lacking prosocial behaviour (interrupting the teacher). Continuation of Jonathan’s behaviour patterns could negatively impact him long-term, including aggression and attention problems in adolescences, poor school achievement, dropping out of school. While, additionally encouraging their peers to follow the same behaviour. This leads to more extreme scenarios in adulthood of an unstable working career, substance abuse, and mental health problems.

Bandura’s (1986) Social learning theory implies children may imitate observed behaviour. Children are surrounded by influential people (a model), this could be a teacher, a parent, authority figure, or their peers etc. They provide examples of behaviour that could be observed and imitated. How likely the child imitates these behaviours depends on if they perceive the model to be similar to themselves, if the behaviour is reinforced or punished, and the consequences of the behaviour. This is furthered upon in Social cognition theory, which suggests knowledge is acquired by observing others through social interactions, experiences, and outside media influences.

This provides a mechanism to allow appropriate cultural and social behaviours. One appropriation of culture is the gender norms of masculinity; a social construct in western society. Masculinity traits include strength, courage, independence, leadership, and assertiveness. Although, these are desirable traits, engaging with stereotypically masculine behaviours/beliefs to achieve these traits and hegemonic masculinity - men's justification to be dominant in society - can lead to mental and physical health problems.

Masculine traits are encouraged in boys from an early age. They are taught to suppress vulnerable emotions, for example saying like “big boys don’t cry”. Socially pressured to attend sport events and have athletes as role models. Athlete role models participate in male high-intensive sports where violence is perceived as natural. Popular culture such as television and computer games both encourage male violence. Which usually demonstrates the leading man (role model) to be empowering over women and weaker men to establish they are the “alpha male”, using violence to “fix things”, whereas feminine characteristics are perceived as a vulnerability. These ideals encourage boys to support aggression, to choose physical tasks over intellectual ones, and to achieve high status. In the classroom, their social groups encourage these gender norms as boys participate in “roughhousing” with their friends and “having a laugh” over academic achievements. With society disregarding this as normal; “boys will be boys”. However, this causes boys to have anxiety about their grades and hinders their ability to function normal emotional health.

Although, just because we observe different behaviours, does not always mean we will imitate it. We have individual thoughts, feelings and control over our own behaviour . For example, aggression is not always imitated from video games. A meta-analysis indicated that the effect size for violence and aggression is small, less than violence and television. The abundant studies on aggression and video games leaning to a positive correlation has suggested to have a publication bias and using less standardising and reliable measures on aggression.

Social learning theory also does not explain how we learn behaviour we have not witnessed. For example, Bishop, Hobson, and Lee (2005) study found that blind children could not observe others, however, were able to perform symbolic and pretend play.

Attribution theory focus on how people explain their own and other behaviours, seeking for the cause/motivations of the behaviour. We may look at internal (dispositional) or external (situational) factors to help explain these theories, although we may bias these assumptions on previously learnt information.

Attribution theory defines three major elements of cause: the location of cause (locus), if the cause is constant or changes over time (stability), and if the cause can be actively controlled (controllability). Academic success may be attributed to four factors: ability, effort, task difficulty, and luck. How we perceive these factors in the causal dimensions of locus, stability and controllability in attribution theory can then influence our self-perception, motives for learning, and future learning behaviours.

A child’s reasoning for prior outcomes and performances in achieving a task influences their expectation for future success or failure. How we attribute events to the casual dimensions can produce strong emotional reactions. For instance, a child who attributes their performance to bad luck may see it as external, unstable, and uncontrollable, thus predicts these dimensions are likely to change in the future and be more confident about having better performances in future tasks. Whereas, if attributed failure to low ability which is seen as internal, stable, and uncontrollable may experience shame and feel hopeless. Thus, heavily impacting self-esteem

The social environment also plays an important part of motivations for learning. Situational cues from social context can form attributions. For instance, how easy and simple a task is compare to their peers can influence children’s attributions.

Self-perception could also affect motivations. For instance, if low achievements are attributed to low ability, rather than low effort, it may create “learned helplessness” as attributing failure to internal locus and stable, thus the child may accept it is out of their control and are powerless to change it. Having difficulty with a hard task could make it less likely to engage with an easier one later. Even when giving the answer would be missed as attributed expectations of failures as stable (unable to change), thus, becomes a learned response.

However, you have to consider the cultural aspects to this theory as we attributing to culture norms. For instances, Americans are more likely to perceive ability and effort as a frequent cause for academic outcomes.

This theory is based on that everyone are rational, logical, and systematic thinkers. However, young children may not be at this milestone of thinking. For instance, it is evident that younger children believe ability and effort are positively related concepts; smart students are seen as hard workers, and not-so-smart students do poorly because they do not work hard enough. Nicholls (1978) states that 7-9 years old children attribute outcome purely to effort, and not low ability. Younger children have also shown to have self-serving bias about personal performances.

Erikson's stages of psychosocial developmen illustrates that development involves passing through a series of eight stages from infancy to late adulthood, enabling a person to become a healthy individual. Each stage has goals, concerns, achievements, and dangers that arises and critical issues to be resolved. How the individual deals with these stages will affect their future selves’ self-image and view of society. Jonathan fits into the ‘Industry vs. Inferiority’ where the child is becoming aware of themselves as individuals. Thus, is a critical period for self-confidence. In school, children have opportunities to create pictures, solve mathematical problems, and writing sentences for the approval of their parents, teachers, and peers. However, if the child is instead incapable of meeting their teachers and parents’ expectations, they may develop feelings of inferiority about their capabilities. Additionally, not meeting social norms for their cultures, for instance being athletic in America. This develops a sense of lack of motivation, low self-esteem, and laziness.

Children start to recognise and choose activities to their interests and abilities. If unable to pursue their own talent, in their own time, could lead to lack of motivation and low self-esteem. However, some failure may be necessary so that the child can develop some modesty.

Erikson’s stages capture many of life’s central issues that are relatable and emphasises many person dilemmas and social conflicts that most of us all experience. Advancing the knowledge of understanding social development. However, you could argue this makes his stages vague and rounds off complexities. Erikson does not dwell in what causes these developments and how the outcome may later influence personality (Schafer, 1999).

However, the theory is more a descriptive overview of human social and emotional development. Erikson (1964) recognised that it did not adequately explain how or why these developments occur. However, emphasized that his work was to be used as a ‘tool’ rather than a factual analysis, as in more of a framework.

Thus, was furthers upon by Marcia (1991) four identity statuses; foreclosure, identity diffusion, moratorium, and identity achievement. Transition to these different stages are often inspired by instability in identity which can come in the adult life stages and various life events. Thus, expanding the opportunity to change pass adolescents. However, this limited identity to a specific age group and does not consider childhood.Therefore, Jonathan needs strategies to help him develop a growth mindset, introduce new strategies to improve learning, and help to understand his emotions.

Our belief in our self and abilities can dictate our skills in learning. Having a positive belief would lead to a ‘growth mindset’ which allows us to believe we can develop our abilities through hard work, good strategies, and instructions. However, having a negative belief would lead to a ‘fixed mindset’ which limits our capabilities and not having the possibility to change. Having a growth mindset predicts better academic achievements and can be taught. To enable this, Jonathan needs to know this his teacher expects things to go wrong, that their teacher believes in him and that they model a growth mindset. However, Devos, Van-den, & Vanderheyden, (2000) argues some participants may show a higher level of natural motivations for learning than other, making it harder to know if the growth mindset teaching itself is effective or not.

Attribution Retaining could also be used to replace students’ unhelpful explanations for their academic performances. Students look upon causation for their successes and failures, thus shaping views on their own academic competence. Jonathan could be attributing poor performance to lack of ability resulting in feelings of hopelessness and shame leading to decreased motivation. Whereas encouraging Jonathan to use ‘controllable’ explanations for poor performance such as lack of effort or poor study can help develop more of a growth mindset.

Self-regulated learning describes a process of controlling and evaluating your own learning and behaviour. Zimmerman (1989) suggests the interaction of self-observation (monitoring your activities), self-judgement (evaluating your performance), and self-reaction (reaction to your performance) can reflect an individual’s progress of obtaining a learning goal and appropriately adjusting their actions for future academic success. Mastering these skills, the individual can become a self-regulated learner.

This is shown in Gourley (2000) study which emphasized on self-monitoring as allowing children to be aware of their own automatic thoughts. By teaching children to set their own targets for change, recording the times they are on target, and rewarding themselves for this allowed them to develop self-control in the classroom. Failure at organizing tasks can lead to their grades to suffer and feelings of disappointment. Jonathan would need help to break down his goals in realistic parts and set manageable dates for it to be completed by. Helping with keeping notebooks, binders and folder would lead to better study skills and organisation. Having these management skills will improve Jonathan’s grades and feeling successful.

The Industry vs. Inferiority stage is key for creating a healthy sense of self. To achieve this obtainable goals and praise are needed. A sense of accomplishment could be achieved by allocating out jobs. This could be stacking the chairs away, feeding the class pet, or handing out papers. Having the involvement in class allows praise from the teacher and Jonathan feeling like a valid member of the class.

Constant praise is needed for students not to be discouraged. All members of the classroom would need to be considered, and not just high achievers. Jonathan’s effort should be noted and praised, even when not achieving the best grades, validating his efforts. This could be from ‘student of the week’ or sticker charts.

Jonathan throwing the objects around the room is a sign of aggression. By looking at the information processing model help illustrates Jonathan could have difficulties in:

encoding social cues by attending to fewer relevant cues as inclined to hostile ones; constructing social events from biased recall cues; Demonstrating a lack of quality and quantity in his produced solutions, thus leads to more physically aggressive solutions; deciding which solution to enact as believing aggressive behaviours would lead to rewards and positive outcomes; enacting the chosen aggressive strategy as deeming they would be more successful than employing one with prosocial behaviours.

Thus, these factors suggest that early prevention would lower the risk of aggressive behaviours. By helping a child rationalise healthier ways of thinking through the five steps of processing information. This is evident in FAST Track intervention model which attempts to support the child to build positive relations among their family, school and peers (system), by building appropriate attitudes, skills, and expectancies in each system. However, majority of these studies are correlational studies, thus, does not show cause and effect.

Jonathan could also blame external factors for his failures. Having an ‘excuse’ for the previous poor academic performances. This blame can manifest hostility towards external entities that they feel is responsible. This could be towards the teacher, or towards his peers who they believe got them in to problem as not seeing themselves (locus) as the problem.

This is shown in the case study of a teacher demonstrated negative reinforcement by sending the boy out of the room for disruptive behaviours. He blamed his peers for getting him into trouble which later lead him to fight them in the playground. Additionally, he was angry at the teacher as felt untrusted and neglected compare to his peers. The teacher may have failed to consider the Jonathan’s emotions which leads to anger and attributing his failures to the teacher and peers.

Jonathans showed behaviours of aggression (throwing objects), inattentiveness (walking around the room), and lacking prosocial behaviour (interrupting the teacher). These behaviours could lead to poor school achievement, and could impact later adult-life negatively.

Psychological theories suggest Jonathan could be modelling masculinity tendencies to prioritize “laddish” behaviours over academic achievements, to accomplish a high status. Although, may cause him to have anxiety about his grades, and create unhealthy emotional health. Jonathan could be attributing his performance to low ability as seen as internal, stable, and uncontrollable, thus has a low expectation for future academic success. Lastly, Jonathan failing to meet his parents and teacher expectations develops low motivation and low self-esteem. Jonathan may be reflecting his frustration from feeling inadequacies by throwing objects and avoiding tasks by walking around the room

Strategies suggested to enable Jonathan to get over this crisis is encouraging him to develop a growth mindset, attribution retention to reattribute his failures to controllable explanations, encouraging self-regulated learning, and helping him deal with his emotions.

Although these strategies have been suggested, there are numerous factors to be causing Jonathans behaviours that have not been focused upon. This could be mental health, teacher’s ability, and social class etc.

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Sense of Social Learning Theory. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 22, 2024, from
“Sense of Social Learning Theory.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
Sense of Social Learning Theory. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Jul. 2024].
Sense of Social Learning Theory [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2024 Jul 22]. Available from:

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