The Neuroscience of Social Learning
The human brain has been evolving for millions of years, leading us to become the social beings are today. We create social connections wherever we go, which is why it is so important to also apply these to our learning. Our brains better process information and essential knowledge when it is exposed to a social aspect, rather than mundane individual learning.
What is a social learning LMS?
Social learning is the process of gaining new knowledge by observing, imitating and interacting with others. It is utilised by various learners and within different learning programs for an enhanced and memorable learning experience.
Social learning theory
Social learning theory is crafted to tailor learning to the individual needs and preferences of the modern learner. It is designed in a way that increases the motivation and desire for individuals to learn, contributing to personal and professional development.
Bandura’s social learning theory
Bandura’s theory of social learning states that people learn from each other, by observation, imitation, and modeling. It is often seen as a bridge between behavioral and cognitive learning theories because it encompasses attention, memory, and motivation.
In the first half of the 20th century, school psychology in behavior became the dominant force. Bionics have suggested that any learning is the result of direct experience with the environment through processes of association and reinforcement. Although Bandura’s theory is also rooted in many basic concepts of traditional learning theory, he believed that direct reinforcements could not explain all types of learning.
His theory added a social element, claiming that people can learn new information and behaviors by observing other people. Known as observational learning, this type of learning can be used to explain a wide range of behaviors, including those that often cannot be explained by other learning theories.
People learn by observing other people’s behavior, attitudes, and outcomes. Most human behaviors are learned observationally through modeling: through observations of others around them, people form an idea of how new behaviors are implemented, and later use that coded data as a guide to action.
Bandura’s findings from numerous experiments, including the famous Bobo dolls, prove that learning by observation can happen through direct/vicarious experience, in other words indirectly, and without any rewards or punishments to the observer.
As Bandura observed, life would be incredibly difficult and even dangerous if you had to learn everything you know from personal experience. So much of your life is rooted in your social experiences, so it’s no surprise that observing others plays such a vital role in how you acquire new knowledge and skills. If you better understand how social learning theory works, you can get more appreciation for the powerful role that observation can play in shaping the things we know and the things we do.
Vygotsky’s social learning theory
Vygotsky emphasizes the importance of social and cultural factors in a child’s development, that is, he advocates a socio-cultural theory of cognitive development. He believes that the socio-historical structure of communities affects all its members, and is passed down from generation to generation.
Besides, it affects the psychological structure of the individual community, and thus the formation and way of thinking. In doing so, it is thought that the child learns ways of thinking and activities that are considered important in their culture and community. The social environment of the child is the framework and source of development, and the origin of knowledge is the society in which the child is a participant.
According to Vygotsky, development moves “from the outside in”, i.e. from the social to that within the individual, and individualization is built based on socialization. Although the children at the beginning of their cognitive development think objectively, that is, their function of mental thinking is possessed by material objects, language and speech are considered to be the most important tools for creating opinions.
Thus, Vygotsky distinguishes two levels of child development; the first level is the unaided level of development, i.e. everything that the child can do independently, and the second level is the “zone of proximal development” or everything that the child can do with the help of the environment.
Namely, the idea is to transfer knowledge from the level of proximal development to the level of unaided development, i.e. that everything the child does with the help of the environment, to be able to do independently, which would build a bridge between already learned, known and what has yet to be learned, unknown.
Social emotional learning activities
Teaching and explaining new skills and modeling.
Training leaders and peers serve as social models, other techniques such as videos are possible. The skill needs to be “broken down” into steps and each step described further emphasize the importance of the skill for everyday life.
Practising and repeating learned behaviors. The behaviors of a particular social skill are practiced step by step the person immediately after the performance of the skill receives information on how to perform.
Feedback allows the learner immediately after the performance of the skill to receive information on how to perform given by leaders and other group members indicate where and how a person can still improve a skill.
Transferring what has been learned to the environment.
This extends through all other components (tends to generalize) to carefully assess which skills they specifically need. Emphasize the importance of the skill and use situations closely related to their life context while modeling and role-playing homework/experiments/assignments, etc.
Demonstrations and practice of skills.
This is done according to the principle of black and white method: a life situation is selected and it is shown in such a way that (white method) or not (black method) a certain skill is present. In this way, participants in social-emotional skills training have the opportunity to see, experience, and imitate the skill.
Aker’s social learning theory
Akers first published his theory under the name of the theory of differential amplification.
The main core of Akers’s social theory is the assumption that the transmission of behavior among adolescents who socialize a lot is the main mechanism for influencing adolescent delinquency.
According to this theory of social learning, parents are usually role models for non-deviance, presenting the child with undesirable aspects of deviant behavior and disciplining children. However, they may be inconsistent in this discipline, not always controlling equally, so their disciplinary practices may promote deviant behavior.
This means that how a criminal will act depends on whether they are positively or negatively stimulated – encouraged to conform or punished for deviance.
Akers identified several strategies for classifying theories of criminal and deviant behavior. “Macro“ theories address differences between societies or larger groups in society, while “micro” theorizing specifically focuses on a small group or individual differences. A similar dichotomy is represented by “epidemiology” and “individual differences.”
The theory that emphasizes social structure suggests that the proportion of crimes varies between groups, classes, communities, or societies due to differences in their social or cultural composition. It claims that an individual commits crimes because he has experienced a certain life history, had a certain set of individual characteristics, or encountered a certain situation.
The link between emotions and learning
The brain handles emotions via the prefrontal cortex, which is also responsible for our memories. Based on scientific research, we know that our working memory is impaired by situations that may trigger fear or anxiety in the brain. Building positive and caring relationships between teachers/managers and learners facilitates a positive learning environment in which learners are motivated and develop a desire to learn.
Adding an emotional dimension to the learning experience further immerses employees to completely support them whilst they learn new and relevant material for practical application.
What does social learning theory mean?
Learning socially offers a plethora of benefits to our life-long skillset, primarily increasing the neuroplasticity of our brains which is responsible for stimulating them. When we discuss our learnings or topics with others, we are able to consider the same material from various viewpoints and perspectives. This helps us gain a more insightful, holistic and agile understanding of information essential for corporate success.
In light of this information, it is essential to populate your Learning Management System with social aspects and elements. This facilitation of a social network will enable an open learning environment, within which learners are motivated to share and understand as much new information as they can.
Elements of social theory
Social theory encapsulates many concepts, each focusing on how humans communicate and understand. According to Barnes (1995), common elements of social theory are;
- Status groups
- Social movements
- Social classes
- Administrative hierarchies
Social Learning Theory Examples
1. Observing social behavior. A common example of observed social behavior can be found in grade schools. Particularly with tweens, less social individuals may observe how more assertive and popular kids might be behaving. This can be anything from body language to communication style, where the observee will copy what the more popular tween is doing in an attempt to become more well-liked by their peers.
2. Imitating social behavior. In any given social situation, someone might pick up on social behavior with a goal in mind. This could range from attention to positive reinforcement. For example, an individual might use the same phrase they saw their older sibling use to have more social time with their friends.
3. Observation of reward. If an individual sees a coworker being recognized for performing well with verbal recognition or even promotion from their boss, the observer will evaluate and attempt to emulate the same behavior in hopes of receiving the same reward (through verbal recognition or promotion in this example).
4. Observation of punishment. On the other side of the spectrum, if a form of punishment has been observed, the individual will attempt to stay away from the observed behavior to avoid the same punishment. If we’re using the same workplace example, this could be some negative feedback from a boss or even a demotion.
5. Emotional response. For an observed emotional response, a child might mimic their crying sibling they previously observed to get a toy or candy. The emotion can be anything in order to achieve a specific goal.
6. Learning a skill from a video clip. Whether it be a Ted Talk or YouTube tutorial, a popular social learning theory example is video. After watching a video (and following instructions) the learner can apply what they’ve learned into their own lives. This can easily be done in an EdApp microlesson by including a short video clip to help solidify the lesson at hand.
7. Social influencers or brand ambassadors. This example could mean a brand representative speaking highly or promoting a product or service. If you trust and/or admire the individual who’s vouching for the product, you’re more likely to consume the product or service.
8. Persuasive social learning through television commercials. Commercials often “sell” a lifestyle to promote a product. In this example, you are more likely to buy a certain shampoo brand over another because it was associated with winning the admiration of attractive people.
9. Celebrity or hero influence. Similar to social influencers, one might look up to a certain movie star or successful businessperson like Elon Musk. The social learning theory behind this suggests that we will choose to use the same pen as Elon Musk over a different pen with the hopes that using the same product or tool will bring us closer to the successful individual.
10. Observing fear. If a child witnesses their parent(s) fear of a snake or spider, the child will also adopt this action. They might jump back or scream, mimicking the same fear response that they
How do microlearning and spaced recall help with your social learning LMS?
Microlearning equips LMS’s with the right features to promote social learning within courses. This is achieved through the utilization of tools, such as gamification and spaced repetition (spaced recall), to intrinsically motivate learners to be their best learning selves. Gamification, for instance, is the integration of gaming elements in course content. This includes leader boards, point scores, star bars and real prizing, which instil a sense of motivation and desire for achievement in employees. This immediately boosts engagement and course completion rates.
Social learning is essential for the modern learner, providing them with motivation to learn, thus increasing engagement & understanding.
Social learning LMS features
- Social networking tools such as blogs and forums have the potential to enhance dialogue, discussion, and networking skills.
- Teamwork develops social and communication skills, and thus improves the constructive principles of learning.
- The use of interactive learning content and various media (with text, images, animation, simulation, video, etc.) for the presentation of content stimulate expressiveness and creativity.
- With the practical work with different technologies – not only information about what is being learned is acquired, but also additional knowledge and skills about the use of different technologies.
- Users are treated as individuals, so they become more active and responsible for their learning process.
- From the ability to reproduce learned facts and knowledge to the creation of knowledge, users must be active participants in the construction of knowledge through their learning process, working independently, and together with their peers.
- Experimentation and research are important aspects of the active construction of knowledge, which further encourages problem solving and curiosity.
- The virtual classroom creates a private setup and an environment of closeness, which translates into building long-term relationships and creating a culture of trust.
- Users are allowed to participate in planning their learning process and to truly become a subject in the educational process. In the planning itself, they develop personal and social competencies (self-awareness, assertiveness, knowing how to take care of oneself, taking responsibility…)
- Continuous monitoring and assessment provide users with feedback, which can serve as an indicator of whether their behavior is perceived as appropriate or needs to be corrected. People with developed social expressiveness are especially distinguished by their ability to communicate messages of different content and in different social situations in an appropriate way.
Social Learning LMS
EdApp harbours various social learning features, including gamification and peer learning. Gamification enables users to compete against each other for real prizes and the top spot on the leaderboard. Peer learning occurs through the course contribution feature, through which users can collaborate when progressing through tasks.
Learn how to configure social learning on EdApp here!
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