Social Learning Theory: Mini Case Study (TPE 4.2)


Annie, a fifth-grade student in Mr. Baer’s class, is being quiet and sullen for the fifth day in a row. She has been getting more quiet and sullen during Language Arts since school started. “I just can’t do this writing stuff,” she finally says in an appeal to Mr. Baer. “I’m not a good student. Give me P.E. or art over this stuff any day!”

In order to help Annie, it is important to understand what learning means in practice. Learning is the process that changes a person’s knowledge and behavior due to experience. According to Slavin (2018), learning takes many forms, and it could be intentional and unintentional. Social learning theory, developed by Albert Bandura, “emphasizes the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others” (Culatta, 2019).

Albert Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory

Albert Bandura is a Canadian-American psychologist who is best-known for his social learning theory, the self-efficacy, and his famous Bobo doll experiments (Cherry, 2019). A critical component of Social Cognitive Theory is learning by observing others (Social Cognitive View, Slide 5). Bandura believes that human learning is shaped and learned directly from a model (Slavin, 2018). His analysis of observational learning involves four phases, such as the attentional, retention, reproduction, and motivational phases (Slavin, 2018).

Attentional phase is the first stage in the observational learning process. During this phase a person pays attention to a role model who is attractive, successful, interesting, and/or popular (Slavin, 2018). Retention phase is about modeling actions. Once person’s attention is captured, it is time to demonstrate behavior that the model wants the person to imitate and then give the person a chance to practice this behavior (Slavin, 2018). During reproduction, the person tries to match his/her behavior with model’s (Slavin, 2018). Motivational phase is the finale stage when the person imitates behavior of the model because he/she believes that doing so will increase his/her own chances to be reinforced (Slavin, 2018). Bandura believes that even though “most observational learning is motivated by an expectation that correctly imitating the model will lead to reinforcement, it is also important to note that people learn by seeing others reinforced or punished for engaging in certain behaviors” (Slavin, 2018, p.113).

Another important concept in social learning theory is self-regulation. According to Bandura, self-regulation consists of three principles (Slavin, 2018). First, people observe their own behavior. Second, they judge it against their own standards. Third, they reinforce or punish themselves (Slavin, 2018).

Explaining Annie’s Comment “I just can’t do this writing stuff”

According to Bandura’s social learning theory, the greatest phenomena of modeling is the imitation of others’ behavior; he believes that people are learning from others’ success or failures (Slavin, 2018). I think that Annie uses this comment because she has heard this phrase many times at home or via communication with her peers. For example, her family members or friends might give up any time when they encounter any difficulties. As a result, Annie started to imitate this type of behavior when she struggles with a subject. Also, Annie might have low self-efficacy, which affects her thinking about her abilities. Nabavi (2012) wrote that people with high self-efficacy “are more likely to view difficult tasks as something to be mastered rather than something to be avoided while people with weak efficacy more likely to avoid challenging tasks and finally they focus on personal failing and negative outcomes” (p.16). Apparently, Annie does not believe in her abilities to be a good writer.


Sources of Low Self-Efficacy Beliefs

There are might be at least five sources of Annie’s low self-efficacy beliefs related to her writing. First, Annie might have external locus of control rather internal one. People with external locus of control tend to “believe that factors, such as luck, task difficulty, or other people’s actions, cause success or failure” (Slavin, 2018, p. 262). Studies have shown that locus of control is “the second most important predictor (after ability) of a student’s academic achievement” (Slavin, 2018, p. 252).

Second, Annie’s previous teachers might be the source of her low self-efficacy in writing. Maybe during previous years, Annie’s teachers skipped some phases of Bandura’s social learning theory. For example, they might skip the attentional phase, which means they did not motivate her to enjoy writing. Or, maybe they did not spend enough time for modeling writing and/or giving Annie time for practicing it.

Third, teachers might never reinforce Annie for doing a good job in her writing while she might be reinforced for being good at Art or P.E. As a result, she might not be motivated to do “writing stuff” but willing to perform drawings or doing physical activities.

Fourth, Annie might have family members or friends who are not good at writing and are modeling their negative attitude toward this subject. Since imitation of others’ behavior plays a huge role in people’s lives, Annie might start copying this type of behavior.

Fifth, Annie might have a Specific Learning Disability such as Dysgraphia.

Applying Social-Cognitive Theory to Improve Confidence and Success

To help Annie, Mr. Baer could use four phases of Bandura’s social learning theory. He can catch her attention, model the behavior he wants Annie to imitate, let her practice this behavior several times, and motivate her by recognizing her achievements and using reinforcement. Also, he could provide some scaffolding and use small group activities, which might help Annie to accomplish some tasks with the assistance of more competent peers (Slavin, 2018).  Last, Mr. Baer could help Annie to use self-regulation strategies that would help her monitor and regulate her own behavior (Slavin, 2018).

 Self-Regulation and A Plan to Improve Annie’s Self-Regulation

In order to influence Annie’s self-regulation, I would teach her how to use self-regulating strategies in a variety of context so that it becomes a habit (Slavin, 2018). I would set learning goals for her writing and teach her how to grade her “own essay in terms of content, mechanics, and organization” (Slavin, 2018, p. 114). I would provide Annie with self-monitoring checklist that would help her monitor her own progress and regulate her own behavior (Slavin, 2018). I would use reinforcement and encourage her to think about her own thinking.

Addressing Typical vs. A-typical Behavior/Development

In my opinion, there is not enough information to identify what type of behavior Annie is displaying – typical or atypical. On one hand, her behavior is typical for a fifth grader because students are different; while some students may have high-self efficacy and enjoy learning, others might struggle from low-self efficacy during their school age. Also, it is common for some students prefer some subjects such as P. E. or Art over the writing or math.

On the other hand, Annie’s behavior is atypical if she does not like writing because she has difficulty to put her thoughts on paper, has poor spelling and illegible hand-writing, and has troubles with pre-visualizing letter formation (Types of Learning Disabilities, 2019).

Parental Contact

It is appropriate for Mr. Baer to contact Annie’s parents. He could start talking about Annie’s strengths. Then, he needs to share his concerns about Annie’s comments and sullen and quiet behavior. He might ask Annie’s parents about her behavior at home and ask them if there anything that he should be aware of. For example, he could ask if there any family members or friends who tell Annie that she is bad at writing. Also, he might ask if Annie had any difficulties in writing while she was in other grades (K – 4th). In addition, he could let the parents know about his high-expectation that he has for Annie and that he needs their help. For example, he could ask them to support her at home with homework and celebrate her achievements.

Consideration for Additional Services

Since there is not enough information about Annie’s difficulties with writing, it is hard to say what type of help Annie needs. In order to identify whether she needs additional services or not, Mr. Baer should conduct different forms of assessments that would help him to figure out Annie’s level of writing. Based on collecting data, Mr. Baer could decide whether his support would be enough for Annie, or she would benefit more from additional help of specialists (therapists/counselor) and special services.


Using Albert Bandura’s social learning theory, teachers can help students to acquire new skills through modeling, observation, and imitation. Teachers can use four phases of social learning theory while teaching students, thereby providing them with a positive learning experience. In addition, teachers play a crucial role in students’ lives if they teach them self-regulation and help them to develop high self-efficacy. Indeed, teachers should be models that inspire students to want to learn.





Cherry, K. (2019). Albert Bandura biography. Verywell Mind. Retrieved from

Culatta, R. (2019). Social learning theory (Albert Bandura). Instructional Design. Retrieved from

Nabavi, R. T. (2012). Bandura’s social learning theory & social cognitive learning theory. Retrieved from’s_ Social_Learning_Theory_Social_Cognitive_Learning_Theory

Slavin, R. (2018). Education psychology: Theory and practice. Boston MA: Pearson

Social cognitive view of learning and motivation. (n.d.). Power Point Presentation. Retrieved from .jsp?course_id=_98761_1&content_id=_7373455_1

Types of learning disabilities. (n.d.). Learning Disabilities Association of America. Retrieved from