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  • Writer's pictureIan Gibbs

Key Learning Techniques #5: Social Learning

Updated: Feb 22, 2023


One of the 4 cornerstones of Learning Clubs is Social Learning - the way we acquire new behaviours, attitudes, and values by 'using' the people around us intentionally or unintentionally.


The name was first coined by psychologist Albert Bandura in the 1960s and according to his work, people are more likely to pick up a new behaviour if they see that it's rewarded or praised, rather than punished or ignored.


He also says that people are more likely to copy the behaviour of someone who they respect or think knows what they're doing.


Social learning theory has been used in education, psychology, and criminology. It's helped people understand how we learn language, how phobias develop, and why people do bad things.


Because most of us are in contact with other people every day, it's a good idea to apply Social Learning in a way which makes the most of our daily interactions. Here are a few ways that you can take advantage of social learning:


1: Observe others: Pay attention to those around you - what they do and how they do it. Try to notice when they are rewarded or punished for their actions. This can help you understand what is considered desirable or undesirable in different contexts.


2: Find a role model: Identify someone who you admire and try to copy their behaviour. It can be a formal agreement such as with a mentor or informally by simply paying more attention to a friend or colleague. This can be particularly helpful when you are trying to learn a new skill or improve in a certain area.


3: Seek feedback: Ask for feedback from others on your own behaviours and actions. I know it's easier said than done, but it can be with the effort. Feedback can help you understand what you are doing well and what areas you may need to work on.


4: Join a community of learners: Join a group of people who are interested in the same topic or skill as you. This can provide a supportive environment for learning and can offer opportunities to observe and learn from others. In a Learning Club, although each person is focussed on something different, the fact that they are all making an effort to improve themselves still has a powerful influence.


A common mistake many of us make is to try to do it alone. This is inherited from our school days where getting help from classmates was considered 'cheating' and individual study was considered the purest form of education.


It's not.


We now know that collabating with others is a naturally positive way to acquire new knowledge, behaviours and skills.


If you're struggling to make progress, stop trying to do it all by yourself. Seek out help.


It's not cheating. It's Social Learning.





Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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