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Chapter 4 - 1 CHAPTER 4 SOCIAL COGNITIVE THEORY Principle...

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1 CHAPTER 4 SOCIAL COGNITIVE THEORY Principle 4.1: Learners acquire important knowledge, behaviors and dispositions through their exposure to models. Principle 4.2: Learners’ self-belief systems guide their learning and their behavior. Principle 4.3: Learners have the potential to self-regulate their own learning processes. Social Cognitive View of Learning From a social cognitive perspective, learning is the process of converting information from the environment into mental representations that guide behavior (Bandura, 1986). This definition of learning should sound familiar, because it is very similar to the cognitive definition of learning provided in Chapter 3. Current social cognitive theory can be thought of as an example of a cognitive learning theory that focuses primarily on how people come to understand their world by observing others in their environments, and how they learn to achieve personally meaningful goals. Social Cognitive Beliefs About Learners Bandura and his colleagues make some key assumptions about the nature of learners that provide a conceptual framework for their discussions of learning
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2 and teaching. These assumptions can be organized around two key questions. First, what is the nature of the relationship between learners and their environments? Second, what personal and social factors affect the nature of the learning process? Learners and Their Environments Bandura’s concept of reciprocal determinism describe the social cognitive perspective on the relationship between learners and their environments. Reciprocal determinism is the idea that learners’ behaviors are determined by the reciprocal or mutual influence of these three key factors: the learners’ internal mental representations (e. g. thoughts, expectations, and beliefs); the learners’ behavior and its outcomes; and the learners’ environmental influences (Bandura, 1986, 1999; Zimmerman, 1999). A mutual or reciprocal influence means that each factor both influences the other factors and is also influenced by the other factors. In general, reciprocal determinism means that people are affected by their environments, and that they also exert influence on their environments. Reciprocal determinism is represented visually in Figure 4.1. The double-headed arrows represent the idea of a mutual influence. (Insert Figure 4.1 About Here.) As an example of reciprocal determinism, consider your role as a decision- maker in the classroom, and how your decision-making both affects the teaching environment and is affected by the teaching environment. When you begin
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3 teaching, you will come equipped with knowledge and beliefs about teaching and the nature of people that you have acquired over your lifetime. Your choices of goals for your students, instructional strategies, and classroom management approaches will all be influenced by your beliefs. Your students and potentially your overall school environment can be affected by these beliefs and accompanying decisions. However, you won’t teach in a vacuum. The beliefs and
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