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Social learning theory and teacher learning in an age of online teaching and learning

2 min read

Claudette Bailey-Morrissey, Careers Development Institute, UK

What’s the idea?

Teaching and learning is a social activity. According to Bandura (1971), social learning theory explains human behaviour in terms of continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioural and environmental influences. Moreover, Bandura (1977, p. 22) states that ‘learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform what to do.’ This guide offers insights into how teachers in my school adapted to online teaching and learning during the school closures between 2020 and 2021. These insights may be useful in helping teachers and school staff to learn from others and put such practices into action to support young people should further school closures occur in the future.

What does it mean?

Bandura’s (1977) social learning theory is useful in understanding teacher learning as it is characterised by key components that underlie
observational learning, including: (1) attention, where events and behaviours are modelled; (2) retention, where symbolic coding, cognitive organisation and behaviours are rehearsed; (3) reproduction, where behaviours and actions are reproduced or copied and then displayed, and feedback is sought and received; and (4) motivation, where the individual has impetus through external and self-reinforcement.

How does it work in practice?

To understand how teachers have adapted to online teaching and learning, three teachers in my school were invited to share their experiences of teaching online using the Microsoft Teams platform during the school closures between 2020 and 2021. All demonstrated high levels of self-efficacy and sought to work closely with others in their departments or faculties to ensure that they had the necessary skills to deliver online teaching and learning. Despite the information technology (IT) and software challenges, the teachers saw the value of learning from and with others as a means of developing their practice and bringing them up to speed in ensuring that their students benefited from the change. They all valued learning from their colleagues through modelling. They shared the range of approaches
they used, including learning from members of staff who were more experienced in using MS Teams.

Strategies included sharing videos; using the internet to find others whom they deemed experts; and, using trial and error, making mistakes as they went along and learning from those mistakes. Teachers had to adapt and learn quickly, enabling them to deliver online lessons to their students during a very challenging time. Teachers embraced new technology for the benefit of their students, and demonstrated an absolute commitment to ensuring their students received the best lessons despite IT issues. Teachers sought to find ways to engage their students, notably valuing the importance of learning from others and using the expert teaching model to improve their practice.

Want to know more?

• Bandura A (1971) Social Learning Theory. New York: General Learning Press.
• Bandura A (1977) Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioural change. Psychological
Review 84(2): 191.
• Mark MM, Donaldson SI and Campbell B (2011) Social Psychology and Evaluation. The Guildford

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