Behavioral and Social Theories of Learning

Behavioral and social theories of learning have a provided a foundation for helping to understand how students learn and what could be the most effective ways to facilitate their learning. Behavioral theories focus on how consequences change learning over time. How thought affects action and how action affects thought is the focus of social learning theories. These theories provide insight on the reasons why some may learn more effectively than others.

I think that some teachers get too wrapped up in the management aspect of teaching rather than facilitating the learning of students. This could lead them to focus more on punishing bad behavior as opposed to reinforcing good behavior. This is evident in Ritz, Noltemeyer, Davis, and Green’s (2014) study. Teachers only reinforced positive behavior after the students initially were noncompliant. Students may continue to misbehave if they are not given reinforcement for correcting their behavior. It is also imperative for the teacher to figure out which strategies work for particular students. Some students may respond well to the prospect of punishment and other students may work best when they receive positive reinforcement for their behavior.

When it comes to social learning, I believe the model is a very important part of the process. The point was made that students in general respond to role models who are attractive, successful, interesting, and popular. I think another important aspect that was left out is how relatable the role model is. I think it is vital for students to see models who they can relate to. This is likely a small part of the differences in performance among different cultural groups. Students may not see themselves reflected in the classroom curriculum or in the person tasked with facilitating their learning. It is just as important for the role model to be relatable to the students as it is for that person to have the other characteristics.


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