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Home They say personal experience is the best teacher. But is it possible for me to just learn from other people? What is social learning and how can I make use of it?

They say personal experience is the best teacher. But is it possible for me to just learn from other people? What is social learning and how can I make use of it?

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Whether we know it or not, we learn day by day, moment by moment. Learning happens as we experience a variety of things, and as we watch others around us live their lives. 


We use a combination of past experiences, different learning tools and the guidance of people who have influence over us to make daily decisions. Regardless whether we deliberately set life goals or not, we are walking towards a certain direction, and it is through learning that we behave the way we do and improve. 


What is the social learning theory? 


Albert Bandura, considered the father of social learning theory, introduced the theory in 1977 with these 4 elements. 


  • Attention. Learning will happen if the person is paying attention. If the environment is free from distractions, allowing the person to focus, they are able to take in the information. 
  • Retention. Learning occurs as the information is stored in their memory. 
  • Reproduction. When a situation requires for the information to be retrieved and applied, we produce the needed behavior. Our ability to reproduce the behavior is limited by and can be influenced by certain factors. 
  • Motivation. There should be a motivation or reason to perform the behavior. People can either be reward-motivated or punishment-averse. (2)

How can we use the Social Learning Theory in the practical sense? 


Use it to get more insight. 

Rather than learning through the traditional classroom setting, you can watch instructional videos or reading materials. Then look for opportunities to apply in real life the things you learn from them. Your teachers or instructor can be a guide or a coach to encourage you to learn. Learning happens as you observe the instructions, behaviors or actions in the video or learning material, get insights and apply observations. 


Use simulations and games to stimulate learning. 

You can make use of games and interactive activities to make learning more effective. Have you ever wondered how you learn more as an adult if material is in the form of games, with some elements of competition? Games present information or behavior that you can model and give rewards when you perform the expected behavior. 


Use it to learn best practices at work. 

As a newbie to a workplace, you know that there are so many things to learn. Aside from the basic responsibilities at work, the workplace and your workmates also follow unwritten rules and culture. In addition, there are best practices that make work more efficient. 


Observe the actions and behaviors of your co-workers and your boss. You can learn so much from observing their actions. They may not be written in the company handbook, but you are expected to learn them. Do you want to have an easier time at work, building professional and friendly relationships with your co-workers? Put the social learning theory to use. 


Use it to learn new physical skills. 

Are you learning new physical skills as an adult? Maybe you are trying out a sport, or going to the gym. Aside from learning through playing, learn by observing others on how they do different physical skills. For example, exercises in the gym if done incorrectly puts you at risk for injuries, so learn first how to do the techniques step by step through observation and then practice them. 


Use social media to learn. 

Learning through social media aligns itself to social learning theory. How has social media content evolved to grab worldwide attention, and became a medium of young people’s learning? Social media has improved learning by making it video-based, by using effective hooks to get the viewer’s attention, and by increasing its power to motivate. 



Use the Social Learning Theory to continue to learn as an adult. Make use of different modes of learning to observe, imitate and practice healthy behaviors. As you continue doing so, you build your capacity to learn, and confidence. 


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They say personal experience is the best teacher. But is it possible for me to just learn from other people? What is social learning and how can I make use of it?
Brandon Resasco

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