Learning Behavior

Albert Bandura and B.F. Skinner are two developmental theorists who are highly regarded in the field of psychology. Bandura was influential in the shift between behaviorism and cognitive psychology and expanded the social learning theory. He investigated psychological phenomena through experimental testing and included mental phenomena such as representation and imagery. On the other hand, B.F. Skinner researched on radical behaviorism, a scientific philosophy that seeks to recognize behavior as the result of reinforcing consequences. Bandura was at first influenced by Robert Sears' work on cognitive learning and familial background of social behavior. Later, Bandura first concentrated with the foundations of human learning and the ability of people to imitate behavior, especially aggression. He identified the social learning theory models as significant ground for learning behavior and effecting behavioral change in institutions. Comparatively, Skinner was greatly influenced by Bertrand Russell and most of Skinners theories were based on self-observation, proving his support for behaviorism.


The similarities between Bandura and Skinner can be discussed within the context of the social learning theory. The theory posits that there are three regulatory systems that control behavior: antecedent inducements, response feedback and cognitive functionality. Antecedent inducements or stimulus must be appropriate in relationship to performers and the social context and usually occur before the behavioral response. Response feedback influences the occurrence of a certain behavior in the future. Cognitive functionality is the ability to perceive the relationships between factors or performers in order to make mental constructs about the factors unconsciously and act accordingly. Therefore, Bandura and Skinner recognized that the environment had the ability to influence behavior. People model behavior in line with the experiences within their environment.

Albert Bandura recognized that the presence or thought of an individual could make a social actor to become angry if the social actor remembered hostile actors with the individual. Such memory is usually acquired through a learning process. Bandura believed that many human behaviors were learned from other humans. The Bobo doll experiment was designed to illustrate that similar behaviors were learned by individuals influencing their own behavior after the actions of models. He invented the social cognitive theory which gave a more inclusive overview of human cognition compared to earlier theories, in the context of social learning. He conceptualized individuals as proactive, self-organizing, self-reflecting, and self-regulating. This was in contrast with the orthodox perception that humans were governed by external forces. Skinner founded the operating conditioning theory. He believed that human free will was an illusion, and that behavior was the result of the reinforcements of that same action. An action would be repeated if the consequences were not desirable and would be reinforced if the consequences were desirable.

Social cognitive theory posits that people learn by observing others. The environment, behavior and cognition are the main factors that influence the development in a reciprocal triadic relationship. Each behavior witnessed and the environment one is raised influences behaviors in the future, just as cognition will determine the environment in which his children are raised. The core concepts in social cognitive theory are observational modeling, outcome expectations, goal setting, self-efficacy and self-regulation.

Operant conditioning theory can be applied to the learning environment of an early childhood classroom. Children can be managed through the organized allocation of external rewards. Good behavior can be reinforced by congratulatory messages, event planning and presentation of gifts. Bad behavior and poor performance in schools can be discouraged through withdrawal of leisure and other forms of comfort. They can however be used in conjunction with individual attention in order to avoid labeling children as non-perfomers and irresponsible. This can prevent children from negative perception of themselves in the long-term.

Social cognitive theory can be applied to the learning environment of an early childhood classroom. Teachers and school administrators can set good examples of modest behavior and achievement-oriented learning. The models that can be developed in early childhood classroom are mostly those of interpersonal imitation and through popular media. Through effective modeling, children can learn general strategies for behaving in diverse situations. Early childhood modeling relies on outcome expectations. Teachers should play the role of model in a childrens learning acquisition. They can commit themselves to the building of self-efficacy in students. This can be done through recognizing their accomplishments. In addition, teachers can help establish a perceived sense of control of traumatic experiences of their students.

Teachers can help students learn self-regulatory mechanisms as well as activate them psychosocially to avoid lapses in moral judgment. This will lead to successful avoidance of moral justification of wrongs, sanitization of language, displacement of responsibility, dehumanization of victims of an act and exonerative social comparison. The initial task of a teacher is to establish the belief that effective study behaviors lead to high achievement. Qualitative studies have confirmed this. A study conducted by Ashton and Webb found teachers middle schools in contrast to junior high expected higher personal teaching efficacy and higher positive student outcomes (Briggs, 2013) and were more satisfied with teaching. Nevertheless, they had more difficulty with collegial relationships than teachers in junior high schools. The teaming concept in middle school settings emphasizes common planning time for teachers, team teaching and collective responsibility for student achievement. It has been found that effective relationship between efficacy and level of students cognitive engagement greatly influences the relationship between efficacy and student achievement (Melton, Freeth, & Freeth, 2012). Researchers Pintrich and DeGroot found significant correlations between the increased use of cognitive strategies and higher self-efficacy scores (Melton, Freeth, & Freeth, 2012). Therefore, it is highly likely that students who think that effective study behavior leads to higher achievement believe that the can improve the behavior and use cognitive strategies that in turn result in higher achievement outcomes.

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While Albert Bandura identified the social learning theory models as significant grounds for learning behavior and effecting behavioral change in institutions, most of Skinners works were based on self-observation and behaviorism. Social cognitive theory can be applied to the learning environment of an early childhood classroom where teachers set good examples of modest behavior and achievement-oriented learning. Operant conditioning theory can be used to manage students through the organized allocation of external rewards.

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