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Running Head: THEORIST PAPER 1

Theorist Paper
Bailey Ann Moody
Dakota State University

Theorist Paper

Social cognition theory, or previously known as the social learning theory, is the

theoretical perspective that focuses on how people learn by observing others and how they

eventually assume control over their own behavior (Ormrod, 2012). As educators, we are all

interested in what the best way to teach our students is. I believe that the social cognition theory

presents a valuable perspective on teaching students. As a future educator wanting to enhance

my students’ learning, I plan to incorporate the social cognition theory into my classroom, along

with other theorists’ ideas. Let us take a closer look into the social cognition theory, how it

could be beneficial within the classroom, and how we can incorporate other ideas within this


The social cognition theory is credited to Albert Bandura, Dale Schunk, and Barry

Zimmerman (Ormrod, 2012). These theorists believe that people often learn through modeling

(the act of demonstrating a behavior for another or observing and imitating another’s behavior),

self-efficacy (one’s belief in their own ability to complete a certain task or goal), and self-

regulation (the process of taking control of, monitoring, and evaluating one’s own learning and

behavior) (Ormrod, 2012). Bandura believed that individuals learned from personal and outside

influences. Ultimately, the social cognition theory revolves around the interaction of person,

environment, and behavior, or otherwise known as reciprocal determinism. (LaMorte, 2016).

One of the biggest concepts of the social cognition theory is modeling - specifically

modeling desired behaviors. In this case, teachers do not only teach through word of mouth but

through actions. There are four conditions that help students to learn from modeling: attention,

retention, motor reproduction, and motivation. “Attention is critical for getting information into

working memory” (Ormrod, 2012). We are often exposed to many behaviors, but to retain this

information to be reproduced, you must pay attention to the model’s actions.

Retention refers to how well the behavior has been remembered. “Students are more

likely to remember information if they encode it in more than one way, perhaps as both a visual

image and a verbal message” (Ormrod, 2012). As an educator modeling to your students, you will

want to provide a demonstration of the behavior, but also a verbal message with your

demonstration. Motor reproduction is the student’s performance of the behavior. For some

students, they cannot reproduce this behavior, as their physical ability will not allow them. For

example, some children may not have the strength nor the coordination (McLeod, 2011).

Lastly, the learners must be motivated to perform the modeled behavior. In this case, the

students may consider performing the behavior based on punishments and rewards. If the

students feel as if there is a reward to be sought from imitating this behavior, whether it be from

the teacher or from the general world, they will be motivated. If the students do not feel as

imitating this behavior will be worth their time or effort, they will not voluntarily participate

(McLeod, 2011). From a teacher’s perspective, when trying to persuade your students to behave a

certain way, you will want to provide a reward, which is part of B.F. Skinner’s theory. This

reward could be physical, or you could simply explain to them how this will benefit them in

society or elsewhere.

Modeling desired behaviors as a teacher is essential, but students should also be exposed

to other role models. These models can include firefighters, nurses, policemen, and other

respectable and prestigious individuals. An educator could also use a novel about a positive role

model. No matter the model, it is important the model’s behavior is relevant to the students’

situations. It is also important to remember that no change is going to happen overnight. Instead

you will want to shape the desired behavior through the actions of slowly reinforcing a response

that resembles the desired behavior. “Each response in the sequence is reinforced every time it

occurs until the student exhibits it regularly” (Ormrod, 2012).

As a student studying to become an Elementary Education/Special Education teacher, I

find the social cognition theory to be intriguing. When I picture my dream classroom, I imagine

a room filled with 15 little kindergarten students. They are all quietly sitting in their assigned

desk, intently listening to my instructions, raising their hands when a question arises, and

patiently waiting to be called on. I continue to imagine a classroom that is effective, engaging,

and fun! I imagine the students involved in classroom discussion, taking turns, and expressing

their ideas. Although I realize my students will not be precious little angels as I have described, I

do believe it is something, as educators, we should work for. As we expect our students to make

goals and achieve them, this is a goal I have set for myself as a future educator.

Now that I have set my goal, I need to work to achieve it. For me to achieve my goal, I

need to model the behaviors that I want my students to have. This could range from modeling

how to take turns, sit patiently, listening to others, engaging in an effective discussion, and other

learned behaviors. As I model these, I will also want to inform my students of my goals, and

give a verbal description of my modeling as I execute the preferred behaviors. As the students

make small improvements, I will want to reward them. As mentioned above, reward is an idea

connected to B.F. Skinner’s behaviorism theory. I will incorporate behaviorism into my

modeling, as this will continue to motivate the students. For example, a reward I could use in

my own classroom may consist of the students receiving a sticker to add to their chart when I see

them responding to my desired behavior. Perhaps after they have collected ten stickers, they can

turn them in for a prize. This process can be defined as “shaping,” in which I reward them for

their progress until they have reached the desired behavior.

Throughout the whole school year, my students and I could continue to strive to achieve

our classroom goals. For some students, achieving certain goals may be more challenging than

others. For example, a student with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may

struggle to sit attentively in his/her desk compared to other students. Although this may be

challenging, through the use of motivation and encouragement, I believe I will be able to model

to my students the ideal classroom, which can be achieved with time and consistency.

Bandura’s theory also allows educators to model their students’ goals. For example, a

student’s goal may be to solve an algebraic problem with two variables. As an educator, you can

model this with the use of Vygotsky’s idea of zone of proximal development. Through this idea,

you would start off with demonstrating a problem without any variables. The student easily

understands this, so you continue to model a problem with one variable on the board. The

student begins to struggle with these problems, so you continue to aid the student until he

comprehends how to solve these on his own. You would then begin to model an algebraic

problem with two variables on the whiteboard. Once again, the student struggles. You continue

to aid the student with more examples. Eventually, the student has reached his goal. You have

used Bandura’s theory of social cognition and Vygotsky’s idea of zone of proximal development

to teach a student how to solve algebraic problems.

Aside from Bandura’s theory of social cognition, I have included B.F. Skinner’s and

Vygotsky’s theories. B.F. Skinner is a credited founder of behaviorism. Within this theory is a

principle called operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is a method in which learning occurs

using rewards and punishments for behaviors. A reinforcement is used to increase the frequency

of a particular behavior, while a punishment is used to decrease the frequency of a particular

behavior. In my scenario, I was using a reward to increase the behavior of a child that imitated

my preferred behavior.

Vygotsky is a credited theorist of the sociocultural theory. Vygotsky believed that social

interactions and cultural environments play an essential role in cognitive development.

Vygotsky also developed a principle known as the zone of proximal development. The zone of

proximal development can be defined as the range of tasks children cannot complete on their

own, but can complete with the help of others. I have used Vygotsky’s idea of zone of proximal

development in my example of a student learning how to solve algebraic problems with two


I am very enthused to become an Elementary/Special Education teacher. In the

boundaries of my classroom, and even inside my own home and outside world, I plan to execute

modeling. Albert Bandura, along with other theorists, have generated theories in which I am

excited to implement. Although I understand that I am not the only model within my students’

lives, such as parents, television, etc., I hope that I can use this theory to not only help my

students, but also the world in which we live.


LaMorte, W. (2016). The Social Cognitive Theory. Retrieved 9 April

2017, from


McLeod, S. (2011). Albert Bandura | Social Learning Theory | Simply Psychology. Retrieved 9 April 2017, from

Ormrod, J. (2012). Essentials of educational psychology (3rd ed., p. 18). Boston: Pearson.

Ormrod, J. (2012). Essentials of educational psychology (3rd ed., pp. 86-87). Boston: Pearson.

Ormrod, J. (2012). Essentials of educational psychology (3rd ed., p. G-6). Boston: Pearson.

Self-efficacy. (2017, March 23). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21:30, April 9,

2017, from