Social learning theory is a theory of learning and social behavior which proposes that new behaviors can be obtained by observing and imitating others. It states that learning is a knowing process that takes place in a social context and can occur purely through observation or direct instruction, even in the absence of motor reproduction or direct support . In addition to the observation of behavior, learning also occurs through the observation of rewards and retribution, a process known as vicarious reinforcement. When a particular behavior is rewarded regularly, it will most likely continue; conversely, if a particular behavior is constantly punished, it will most likely stop. The theory expands on traditional behavioral theories, in which behavior is governed solely by reinforcements, by placing importance on the important roles of various internal processes in the learning individual.

Social learning is based on the behavior modeling theory where people learn new things by surveying others. The first step of this learning through surveying and the modeling process is that you have to pay attention, otherwise you aren’t observing anything. Isn’t that the whole reason that many college classes and now corporate training sessions have moved to the flipped classroom method? There’s no better way to get students to pay attention than to put them in control of the discussion and allow the learners to establish the agenda. So assign pre-work, often online e-learning modules that include information check questions that you can track or not, but that the facilitator uses to measure the level of knowledge. Then, the facilitator asks, “What content was most demanding? What questions do you have?” Let the learner’s questions guide the class. By gathering answers to questions from the class or even assigning questions to teams or pairs, you encourage peer affiliation and group problem solving. Learners today come to class for an experience – not a lecture or command.