Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory
Social cognitive theory states that social and cognitive factors, as well as behavior, play important roles in learning. Cognitive factors might involve the student's expectations for success; social factors might include students' observing their parents' achievement behavior.
Albert Bandura is one of the main architects of social cognitive theory. He says that when students learn, they can cognitively represent or transform their experiences. Recall that in operant conditioning, connections occur only between environmental experiences and behavior.
Bandura developed a reciprocal determinism model that consists of three main factors: behavior, person/cognitive, and environment. As shown in figure these factors can interact to influence learning: Environmental factors influence behavior, behavior affects the environment, person (cognitive) factors influence behavior, and so on. Bandura uses the term person, but I have modified it to person cognitive because so many of the person factors he describes are cognitive. The person factors Bandura describes that do not have a cognitive bent are mainly personality traits and temperament. "Individual Variations," that such factors might include being introverted or extraverled, active or inactive, calm or anxious, and friendly or hostile, Cognitive factors include expectations, beliefs, attitudes, strategies, thinking, and intelligence.
Consider how Bandura's model might work in the case of the achievement behavior of a high school student we will call Sondra:
• Cognition influences behavior. Sondra develops cognitive strategies to think more deeply and logically about how to solve problems. The cognitive strategics improve her achievement behavior.
• behavior influences cognition. Sondra's studying (behavior) has led her to achieve good grades, which in turn produce positive expectancies about her abilities and give her self-confidence (cognition).
• Environment influences behavior. The school Sondra attends recently developed a pilot study-skills program to help students learn how to take notes, manage their time, and take tests more effectively. The study-skills program improves Sondra's achievement behavior.
■ Behavior influences environment. The study-skills program is successful in improving the achievement behavior of many students in Sondra's class. The students' improved achievement behavior stimulates the school to expand the program so that all students in the high school participate in it
• Cognition influences environment. The expectations and planning of the school's principal and teachers made the study-skills program possible in the first place.
• Environment influences cognition. The school establishes a resource center where students and parents can go to check out books and materials on improving study skills. The resource center also makes study-skills tutoring services available to students. Sondra and her parents take advantage of the center's resources and tutoring. These resources and services improve Sondra's thinking skills.
In Bandura's learning model, person (cognitive) factors play important roles. The person (cognitive) factor that Bandura (1997, 2004) has emphasized the most in recent years is self-efficacy, the belief that one can master a situation and produce positive outcomes. Bandura says that self-efficacy has a powerful influence over behavior. For example, a student who has low self-efficacy might not even try to study for a test because he doesn't believe it will do him any good. We will have much more to say about self-efficacy in chapter 13, "Motivation, Teaching, and Learning."
Next, we discuss an important learning process, the exploration of which is another of Bandura's main contributions. As you read about observational learning, note how person (cognitive) factors are involved.