Edtech 504

The Technological Role of the Social Cognitive Theory in Education

By Dean Kowalski



This paper will examine the use of the social cognitive theory in the world of educational technology. The use of educational technology exists in two classrooms, the classic classroom and the virtual classroom. The learning views of the social cognitive theory can be applied to these classrooms to ensure full student involvement in the learning process. Technology is evolving and quickly becoming a primary tool in the education process. Shaping the beliefs of the social cognitive theory with the advancements of technology in the classroom will provide the ideal situation for a student in the modern classroom.


Throughout the history of education, experts have been creating learning theories describing the ideal situations for a student to fulfill their learning capacity. A wide range of learning theories is used today, as well as a mixture of those theories. In the educational classroom, the use of technology is frequently being used to provide an appropriate learning experience for students. This paper will examine the role of the social cognitive learning theory in the advancing technological world of education. Albert Bandura’s social cognitive learning theory will be explored throughout this paper. Bandura’s views on modeling and self-efficacy can work with educational technology.  Through social cognitive learning, students can view the positive uses of technology in the classroom and model the uses in their class work. Beyond the traditional classroom setting, the social cognitive learning theory can have a positive affect on the increasingly popular online learning. Online learning, also known as distance learning and e-learning, is an evolving tool for instruction. Technology can now provide a virtual classroom for instruction. Originally believed by many to be a fad or experiment, online learning is growing in size and popularity. Students in a fully interactive multimedia based e-learning environment achieved better performance and higher levels of satisfaction than those in a traditional classroom and those in less interactive e-learning environments (Killdar, 2008). With the recent success of online learning, the demand for online programs will increase over time. Therefore, there is a need to implement positive learning theories within online instruction to ensure success. Social cognitive learning theories will provide proper instruction needed to implement technological use in the classical and virtual classrooms.

Albert Bandura

            Albert Bandura is a social-cognitive learning theorist who is well known for developing a theory based on modeling and individual self-efficacy. Of his many ideas on learning, Bandura grew in popularity with the social cognitive learning theory. Through a powerful process called modeling, a student could account for diverse forms of learning (Pajares, 2004).  Bandura believe that through social modeling, a student could make significant gains in self motivation, thought and action. Until that time, psychologists had focused almost exclusively on learning through the consequences of one's actions. Bandura showed that the tedious and hazardous process of trial and error learning can be shortcut through social modeling of knowledge and competencies exhibited by the rich variety of models (Pajares, 2004). Albert Bandura’s beliefs that individuals learn through experiences of watching others can lead to self motivation or self-efficacy. Albert Bandura is credited for creating the social cognitive learning theory.

Social Cognitive Learning Theory

Many learning theories provide information that can assist the ability for students to learn in a classroom. Albert Bandura’s social cognitive learning theory was developed to understand how students learn. Bandura felt that the initial beliefs of behaviorism and rewards could not explain the full process of human understanding. Bandura felt that individuals would learn from observing others actions in certain situations. This belief affects the modern classroom. The modern classroom is filled with technology as well as many factors that affect a students learning. Albert Bandura’s social cognitive learning theory states that an individual’s personality is molded by behavior, thought, and the environment. Taking into account the amount of technology placed in the classroom, a student can observe a teacher modeling the technology and be greatly affected by the experience. Students who are trained to use the Internet will work towards increasing their Internet knowledge when they become motivated. Internet knowledge has been defined as a set of individual characteristics or qualities that develop over time and that generalize from one set of tasks or uses involving the Internet to another. As a central concept of social learning theory, knowledge has a great potential to supplement technology (Wei, 2009).  Bandura believed that students learn from direct experience and observations of others. This leads to a student’s self-efficacy, or motivation to learn. Bandura felt that motivation to learn for a student was the key to success. To obtain this success, the student needs the technological tools available for success. Bandura felt that the most popular innovations in technology would lead to motivation for the student to become successful. Social and technological changes alter, often considerably, the kinds of life events that become customary in the society. Indeed, many of the major changes in social and economic life are ushered in by innovations of technology (Bandura, 1989).


            The center of Bandura’s social cognitive learning theory is self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations. Self-efficacy is associated with one’s performance accomplishments. The feeling of success of any task improves the self-efficacy of a person related to that particular task (Isman, 2009). Within social cognitive learning, self-efficacy brings confidence to learn with technology. Students will hardly feel enjoyment if they think an assignment is too difficult for them. However, if a teacher uses the Internet for an activity, the student will be motivated to complete the assignment. As self-efficacy and perceived ease of use are closely related, Internet knowledge may also influence perceived ease of use as well (Wei, 2009). During the learning process, when a student begins to work on a difficult assignment with a positive attitude, then the chances of a positive result will increase. The use of technology in the classroom will help the student become comfortable and willing to attempt a difficult assignment. Students feel that there is a great need of technology in the classroom. Majority of their technology use is in their social life. They use social networking to communicate with one another. Students currently feel that they would be more success if teachers could incorporate technology into the classroom more efficiently. Their expectations of how the Internet might be used in the classroom are increasingly at odds with the way it is currently deployed. They tend to be critical of how teachers have under-utilized technology in the classroom (Geyer, 2009).

Social Networking and Self-Efficacy

            Students will be more successful in school when they are comfortable with their peers. If a student feels isolated or fearful of school, then they will perform poorly. A student can attempt to avoid school, which will obviously impact their success. A student will perform better if they are motivated on the assignment. Internet assignments will provide self-efficacy for the student to predict they will be successful. However, self-efficacy is an important mindset for a student to have as it pertains towards their attitudes about school. A technological area where educators can use the social cognitive learning theory to provide a positive classroom is social networking.  Social networking is the technological linkage between computers around the world. Messages can be posted that individuals can have others all over the Internet read and comment on. In addition, pictures, images, blogs, etc. can be posted for an individual to share with the world. Students who do not feel comfortable sharing their thoughts in class can access a social network, such as Facebook, to discuss topics in class with staff and students. Facebook, a widely-used social networking technology, may be helpful in improving low self-efficacy and self-regulated learning by increasing connection with the instructor, increasing social contact with classmates, and providing an opportunity to guide students in their responsible use of Facebook technology (Bowers-Campbell, 2008). There has been the argument that social networking is inappropriate for staff and students to be conducting during non-school hours. Studies have suggested that student and faculty interaction has a notable impact on student’s outcome, both in the intellectual and the social realm (Endo, 1982). Therefore, if closely monitored, students would be able to have a positive interaction outside of school with peers and staff. The social cognitive belief of self-efficacy, along with the use of technology would increase a student’s success in the classroom.


            The other component of Bandura’s social cognitive theory is modeling. Modeling is the learning theory that students will display what they witness. Modeling takes place when one person, the model, performs a behavior and this performance cues another person, the observer, to imitate that behavior (Nikopoulos, 2008).  The hope is that over the course of time in school, the student will model the proper assets of a successful student. Bandura’s theory of modeling combined with the use of technology can help produce success in the classroom. A teacher in the center of a classroom modeling technology and its uses will motivate the student to do the same. The student will be inclined to complete assignments using technology after seeing the teacher use the same technology throughout the class. Another example of combining modeling and technology can be seen in the special education field. Special education teachers have difficulty instructing students with Autism. They struggle teaching students with Autism appropriate social behavior. Although there has been a corresponding explosion of literature regarding the treatment of the social deficits in Autism, the establishment of more complex social behaviors still remains a challenge. Using the social cognitive theory of modeling and technology, teachers can gain success.  Video modeling appears as one approach to have the potential to successfully address this challenge (Nikopoulos, 2008). Students with Autism view a video with students completing a social task appropriately. The teacher will explain what is happening, and the goal is for the student to identify the socially appropriate action. After viewing the videos, the goal is for the student with Autism to identify with the video and adjust their own social actions.  Modeling is a social cognitive theory that is vital to learning. When modeling is combined with technology, the productivity in the classroom will increase.

Online Learning

            The social cognitive learning theory has many attributes that can be combined with technology to ensure a successful online learning experience. Online classes, also known as distance learning and e-learning, have become increasingly popular in the recent years. Many students are deciding to complete their coursework for an on line degree. The advancement of communications technology continues to spawn new applications and opportunities for interpersonal interaction within online education, which forces designers and instructors to revisit the construct of interaction and select activities purposefully that will foster the most beneficial learning experience (Rhode, 2009). Teachers can use online instruction to create a social cognitive learning experience. A student can access online content which uses videos posted by an instructor. This is an example of modeling and the student can increase their self-efficacy as they become successful using the technology based online learning model.


            In the modern classroom, emerging technology has become the focus of curriculum. It is the teacher’s job to install technology properly to provide the finest learning experience. Technology now allows students to learn globally, rather then locally. To ensure that students are gaining the proper training, teacher’s need to incorporate learning theories into their teaching. Albert Bandura’s socially cognitive learning theory allows students to succeed in the classroom. The learning theory affects technology in both the modern and the virtual classroom. The learning theory is built on two main principals, self-efficacy and modeling. Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations. Students can become comfortable in the classroom and strive towards their goals when they achieve self-efficacy. Modeling is the learning theory that students will display what they witness. Both modeling and self-efficacy, when combined with technology, allow students to become successful in the classroom. Albert Bandura’s social cognitive learning theory combined with the advancements of technology will provide essential learning for students in the modern classroom.



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