Albert Bandura developed the Observational Learning Theory, also known as Social Learning Theory, based on the idea that people can learn through observation rather than direct experience only. Educators find the concept to be particularly valuable in a classroom setting because they must reach a number of students to convey a central message.
Teachers, who must reach a large audience of varied abilities and interests, can apply observational learning techniques to improve student learning outcomes, produce desired behaviors and enhance student motivation and self-perception.
Eliminate distractions. Environmental factors can affect the outcome of modeling techniques. Minimize the effects of competing sensory stimuli that are under your control. You may want to close classroom doors to lessen auditory interference, for example.
Present effective models. In order for modeling to be effective, students must first pay close attention to the model. Models who are attractive, seem competent and prestigious will receive greater attention than those who do not exhibit these qualities. In addition, students pay more attention to models who exhibit their own personal characteristics. Because of this tendency, you may want to provide a variety of models (teachers, students, males, females, etc.) to ensure students can identify with one or more of the models.
Describe the behaviors and consequences modeled. By explaining the behaviors and the consequences, you reinforce the ideas presented by the model. Telling your students what has happened and why will help them to retain the lesson. Through verbal explanation, you aid their ability to code the information and increase the likelihood that they will be able to reproduce the targeted behavior.
Set realistic goals. Your students probably will not be able to reproduce a symphony after watching a master musician. However, observational learning should help them perform better while learning the basics. Once your students have a solid basic skill set, they can master more complex skills in the same manner.
Motivate your students. Reward your students for reaching the goals you have established. Through positive reinforcement of the behaviors you want them to develop, you increase the likelihood that students will perform those actions again. Reward good behavior and achieving goals with praise or recognition. When you have created a cycle of success for students, they will likely repeat the behaviors on their own without prompting.
Enhance self-efficacy. Once you have allowed your students to reach attainable goals and receive genuine praise for them, they see themselves as more competent. This confidence leads them to more successful behavior in the future. As a result of this positive cycle, your students learn to self-regulate their behavior.
Sherri Jens has been writing since 1995, with articles published in “Visitor Behavior” and “Interpedge.” She has taught writing since 1998 and college-level writing since 2005. Jens holds both a Master of Education in English language arts and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Jacksonville State University.