Thursday, October 6, 2011

Social Learning Theories

Voice Thread:

Have you ever sat through a lecture and walked out knowing nothing more than when you walked in? Often times our classrooms are a lot like this for students. Teachers fail to engage them in the learning process.  Due to the ever changing nature of students today it is crucial that teachers modify their instruction to accommodate the learning styles and preferences of the students currently in the class. This means incorporating various techniques to help students learn. There are many ways to accomplish this in the classroom.

Social learning theories believe students learn best when they are able to work with others to process new information and move it from their short term memory to their long term and be able to retrieve it when called upon (Laureate Education Inc., 2011). Students tend to be able to share information and experiences when they work together to enhance the learning that takes place. Students also become responsible for other members of their team and not just themselves. They must help each member comprehend the objective in order for the team to be successful. There are a ways teachers can include activities within the classroom that promote social learning.

One such method is the use of cooperative groups. Cooperative groups tend to improve student motivation and increase skill levels. Last week we discussed project-based and problem-based learning. Teachers can create projects that require students to work collectively to complete; this is termed social constructionism (Laureate Education Inc., 2011). When students work in groups to achieve a common goal, everyone becomes responsible for each other’s’ learning. Using peer teaching they must make sure each member understands the skills and objectives being discussed therefore improving on their own understanding.  Generally tasks that fit under cooperative grouping assignments are too difficult for a student to complete independently and requires students to work together to accomplish the goal (Orey, 2001). Before establishing groups students must understand the expectations of working as groups. Depending on the teacher’s style, students may all receive the same grade in the group; this makes them realize their effort will affect all members of the team. When choosing students for groups it is important to recognize the length and desired outcome of the task. Sometimes students should have the freedom to choose their partners but realize the expectations remain the same. Other times the teacher may choose the base groups according to their ability; though this should rarely be the case (Putler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007). Groups should be small in size so that students have the opportunity to participate in the process. Using cooperative groups allows students to build their knowledge together rather than independently through their social interactions.

There are many ways teachers can incorporate cooperative groups into their lessons. Web quest is one mentioned in this week’s readings. When using web quests, students are given tasks to complete. Usually the template also has the resources students can use to complete the task. Web quest lessons are usually too in depth to be assigned independently which makes them great for cooperative learning groups. Teachers can create their own web quest or there is a template found at that helps teachers save time when generating one. Another activity discussed this week is the use of blogs. Students are often familiar with Twitter and Facebook social network programs. Blogs are similar in nature because they allow students to respond to each other’s posts. They are different however because they usually have a specific topic to write about and discuss. I currently use blogs within my writing class. I attempt to include a new post weekly that relates to that week’s reading assignment. Students then are able to write their response to the topic. Students are engaged during both types of lessons because they incorporate the use of the computer and they know their work will be visible to show friends and family through the class web site.

Another new technology I am working to incorporate for the first time this year that promotes social constructionism is the use of a class wiki. We are beginning a study of explorers to our state. In order for students to demonstrate an understanding, I am going to use the jig saw method to have individual groups research countries that sent explorers to the New World. Each group will be responsible for certain aspects about exploration at that time. They will input their findings into a class wiki. After each group is finished gathering their information they will share their portion of the wiki with the class. The wiki will have a link on our class web site so that students will have a resource to use for future reference. This activity lends itself to cooperative learning groups because it is too much to ask for each student to individually research and learn about the many explorers to our state. If I were to do the research for them and create a Power Point presentation it might reach some of the students but creating a lesson where the students are responsible for the learning helps create the life-long learners every educator should strive for.

Teachers today need to be on the same page as the rapidly changing world around them. If teachers want their students to be successful as adults, they need the skills that will help them compete against students from around the world. These countries are moving ahead at a much faster rate than America.  For American schools to keep up, teachers need to learn how to integrate technology throughout the curriculum and use it frequently and effectively. This means teachers need to stay abreast of the many new programs and tools available to include within the lessons. Prior to using them in the classroom teachers must learn how to manipulate and work the program/tool enough to introduce it to the class. We do not have to be efficient in it because the use of technology itself acts as a stimulant to most students encouraging them to learn and they will generally teach the teacher new aspects about the program/tool as they are learning. Technology also supports the idea of creating a student centered class. Technology encourages students to research, practice using trial and error or create a product that is based on given objectives that makes them responsible for their learning. This leaves the educator to become the facilitator and not the lecturer.

As students evolve with the changes around them the classroom must also evolve. This means educators must learn to use more technology based activities and when appropriate create social learning experiences for the students. Humans are known to be social creatures and the school environment should be a place where proper socialization is taught.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program eight: Social learning theories
Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. 
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. I too think that blogs and wiki's have an incredible use in the classroom. Being a math teacher, students have typically used pencil and paper to solve problems. Incorporating technology as part of math content becomes increasingly difficult since students are already comfortable using this technique. My challenge is how to motivate students to learn a content area that is historically pencil and paper based.

    One idea to address this challenge and incorporate technology as part of the math curriculum involves blogging and then creating a wiki about unit and semester exam reviews. Students will not only be able to learn from one another about challenging content, but teachers would also be able to use it as a check for understanding and perhaps a formative assessment. Depending on the dialogue in the blog and wiki, teachers could simply adjust their classroom instruction to address learning gaps in content. The end products are useful unit and semester exam reviews developed by the students themselves.

    This experience has the potential to be one of the most powerful partnership experiences in a high school student’s academic career. The integration of technology that involves collaboration enables students to gain multiple perspectives while utilizing a variety of cross-content skills to express their understanding. Additionally, student efforts will foster communication skills to effectively collaborate, critical thinking skills to determine which problems are most beneficial to review for a test, problem solving skills to ensure accuracy of problems posted and issues that arise during the project, and inevitable leadership to carry out the directives of each team.

    Great job this week!

  2. When I taught 7th grade science, my students loved to work in cooperative groups. For every unit, I would try to have at least one activity or project where the students were able to collaborate on a problem and work together to solve that problem. We’re learning about these social theories now, but I believe any good teacher regularly implement these techniques in their classrooms.

    I would love to implement wikis in my schools, but currently my county will not allow it. We are just now able to use blogs, and the teachers and students love it. We cannot use wikis because the wiki servers are located off campus, so if a disgruntled teacher or student posts inappropriate content, we (technology department) have no way of removing the content. Until there is a way for us to house the servers’ on campus, giving the tech department total control, we won’t be able to use wikis. And this is a shame because I believe the students would benefit from this collaborative technology.

  3. Joe-

    I believe math is one of the more difficult content areas to incorporate technology. However, working with high school students you may have an advantage if your students have had experience in various types of technology. You could present the problem and give them an open ended project where they can explore and choose which form of technology to use to display their artifact. I teach third grade and unfortunately they have had limited experience in technology. I am working to expose them to as many different tools as possible so that when they get in upper grades they can have a variety of ways to choose to present information. I believe if you give your students the opportunity to use blogs or wikis to create group artifacts they will deepen their understanding of the target concept.

  4. Christopher-

    I agree most teachers use cooperative grouping regularly simply because it has proven to be effective. I try to use as much variety of technology in my third grade class as possible. They come to me with limited experience and I plan to expose them to as many as possible so they know what is available. However, I have run into some of the same issues; access to certain things are blocked. I cannot get into this particular blog site that we are using but our class page has a blog portion. It allows me the ability to use it in class. I have been able to create a wiki for the first time but we will not start working on it until next week. I am looking forward t incorporating it into the lesson.

    I believe educational leaders need to go through some of the training and read the articles we are for this program. If they would then they would see the importance of improving the use and source of technology in classrooms. It is the only way our students are going to have a chance to compete in today's world.