Social Learning Theory



Social learning can help today’s organizations keep up with the pace at which their business moves. More and more, organizations are turning to social learning to deliver exciting e-learning experiences to their employees, customers and partners. The concept is more than just a buzzword, and is now increasingly used by forward-thinking organizations to foster collaborative learning and its application in the flow of work to drive organizational performance and the effectiveness of L&D activities.

Social learning is based on a theory developed by psychologist Albert Bandura that proposes learning is a cognitive process that takes place in a social context and occurs purely through observation or direct instruction, even in the absence of motor reproduction or direct reinforcement.

The 4 principles of social learning

  1. Attention: We cannot learn if we aren’t focused on the task at hand. Bandura suggests that social contexts help to focus the learner. The group is focused so the individual is more likely to be.
  2. Retention: We learn from the collection and recall of information. In order for the learner to perform the action themselves, they have to have a memory of it. Retention is crucial.
  3. Reproduction: As the old saying goes ‘practice makes perfect’. Reproducing an action and repeating it allows you to get a better cognitive hold on the subject matter.
  4. Motivation: When an action is completed, the reward or consequences that follow are observed. These help to motivate the observer to act in a certain manner. If a learner is rewarded and the observer sees this they’re more likely to follow in their footsteps.

Applying the theory to eLearning

In order to apply social learning to your training, first, take the four principles and evaluate if they’re present in your programs.

  • Is the collective attention of the group on a training exercise? This focuses them.
  • Is the training memorable, so that learners retain the information?
  • Can the learners try out the learning objectives themselves?
  • Are the actions of learners recognized publicly – so as to motivate others?





For Individuals

For Teams