PsycholARTSical: Psyched about the arts/Sociocultural Views of Learning

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Sociocultural Views of Learning[edit]

Social Learning and Social Cognitive Theories (pp. 317-324)[edit]

The studies of Canadian behaviourist Albert Bandura (1977, 1986, 1999) present his theory of social cognition using observational learning as a means for students to develop behaviours and understand their consequences. Bandura proclaims that students act a certain way when incentives are provided, thus explaining why some students don't perform "bad behaviours" such as swearing or smoking due to their understanding of the personal consequences. However, this can work against students as well.


In a high school, the brand new student is constantly engorged with vicarious learning strategies as they attempt to understanding their place in the social atmosphere. The student is trying to learn how to adapt by observing the world around them. As Bandura mentioned previously, "incentives affect performance" and therefore, a student's perception of 'the cool kids' or 'the jocks' may cause them to act differently.


While attending parent-teacher nights during high schools, have you ever noticed that parents are shocked when they learn of the behavioural habits of students at school? This is due to the social incentives that fill the air throughout the social environment. Teenagers develop a certain attitude of their own, whether it be positive or negative, away from the household caused by vicarious learning desires.


This can become dangerous when vicarious reinforcement takes place. When students realize that a certain group is reinforced for a particular behaviour, and cause them to increase their production of this behaviour. An example of this is when a student swears in class and the other students find it humourous. While the positive incentive isn't present from the teacher (as Bandura described in his smoking example), the incentive is their to entertain the student masses. This would cause an increase in this behaviour in the individual, and in other students as they see that other students praise this action.


How can teachers prevent a negative vicarious reinforcement cycle in the classroom? --Mr. Magoo (talk) 00:50, 8 February 2008 (UTC)

  • It is very difficult to prevent negative vicarious reinforcement. At first it seems simple, if students act a certain way when incentives are provided, then provide incentives for them to behave appropriately (317). However, it comes down to what the student values. A teenager who is interested in impressing his peers with his bad behavior isn’t likely going to respond well to positive or negative reinforcement from his teacher. Negative reinforcement will only make him think he is winning and looking even more “cool”, and positive reinforcement might cause him to feel the need to over compensate with the “bad” behavior. I think the only answer is to take the student out of the social environment and talk to him one-on-one about having respect for himself and behaving maturely. Find ways to appeal to his sense of self-worth and let him know that you think he is capable of doing well. Also, talk to the student about those things that are influencing his behavior and why they are not really worth it. The student will appreciate that you did not embarrass him in front of his peers and that you do believe in him.
--Malexander (talk) 19:39, 7 April 2008 (UTC)


Learning By Observing Others

Observational learning: learning how to perform an activity or behaviour through imitation.

Bandura proposed four important elements to be considered in observational learning:

  • Attention – To learn through observation, students have to pay attention.
  • Retention - To imitate behaviour, you have to remember it.
  • Production – You may need a great deal of coaching and feedback before you can reproduce observed behaviour.
  • Motivation and Reinforcement – if we anticipate being reinforced for copying a task, we are more likely to pay attention and retain information. Furthermore, a person who tries a new behaviour is unlikely to persist without reinforcement.

Bandura recognized three types of reinforcement:

  • Direct reinforcement: The tutor compliments the student for his or her effort.
  • Vicarious Reinforcement: an observer sees someone being reinforced for a particular behaviour, and so decides to increase production of that behaviour. (Punishment can also be vicarious.)
  • Self-Reinforcement: providing yourself with positive consequences, contingent on accomplishing a particular behaviour (543)

Factors That Influence Observational Learning:

  • Developmental Status – including increases in attention span, ability to process information, and memory
  • Model prestige and competence
  • Vicarious Consequences – valued consequences motivate observers
  • Goal setting
  • Self-efficacy – a person’s sense of being able to deal effectively with a particular task (543)
  • Albert Bandura’s theories that people can learn “by observing others’ actions and consequences resulting from their actions”, social learning theory, are very interesting and very important to the classroom environment. As teachers, it is important to remember that students learn in a variety of ways and many learn through visuals. By demonstrating the actions or task you wish the students to complete, it allows that students to gain a clearer understanding of the process and goal they are expected to accomplish. This approach can be particularly useful in classes where students are introduced to a new technique, equipment or approach to accomplishing a task. If students are required to use a new computer program, for example, and need to create a project with this program, it is in the best interest of the teacher to take the students through the steps and functions they need to use by using a projector and an example. This way, students can follow along and gauge their level of success. Social cognitive theory is also influenced by a number of other factors. Three main examples are: developmental level of the learner, the status of the model and how similar the model is to the learner. This can be utilized in the classroom by noting which members of the classroom have the most social influence and engaging those students so that they are more willing to participate and “be on your side” when it comes to classroom management decisions. This will, by association, attribute some of that social power to you. If the other students hold this person in high regard and see that they are actively engaged in what you are teaching, and in turn, you are giving this person praise and positive reinforcement, it will likely encouraging them to emulate the same behaviour. The same can be said for disciplining students. It is important to know where your allies and enemies lie in class and use ways of manipulating the social culture of the classroom to your favour.

--Ajlaflamme (talk) 13:17, 1 April 2008 (UTC)

Very eeeeenteresting. I think that this theory is totally applicable to any classroom that we enter. As the teacher, we enter a classroom as the default figure of authority; their attention is ours to lose, in most cases. In this role, it's up to us to demonstrate what we expect, behaviour-wise at the very least - of the students. I think we as teachers have a stronger ability to influence the class dynamic simply through our behaviour than we think.
If we show ourselves to be genuinely interested in the material, and show that we are putting a genuine effort forth to teach the material, I think that students react to that. If we're excited to be there, they will be, too. Of course, you can't reach EVERY student like this, but, like AJ said above, some students need to be shown it's ok to enjoy what you're doing, and instead of tryng to hook the alpha-teens in the class, I think the easier, and more effective thing to do is to at the very least, take steps to bring some positive energy into the classroom. Students are a cowardly and superstitious lot (10 points for whoever gets this reference), and a teacher who's genuinely engaged in the material and clearly WANTS to communicate their love of the material to the class will at LEAST be respected. Probably. Hopefully. Well, they at LEAST stand a better chance of not having their Acura egged on Devil's Night.
But the question that gets raised from this is, I think, how do we teach "authentically"? Most kids are like bears (or is it dogs? I know it's not mongoose ... mongeese?) and fear - they can smell "fake" coming from a mile away. So I think the imporant thing is to take steps to bring yourself into the class. Bring in aspects that you're passionate about. If you're teaching English, and you love comic boo - I mean graphic novels - bring 'em in. If you have a particular faviourite composer or art style, bring 'em in to the class! I think that most of the time, you'll find your energy is infectious.

--Chareth Cutestory (talk) 10:00, 17 April 2008 (UTC)

  • In Antecedent Strategies to Promote Appropriate Classroom Behavior, authors L. Kern and N.H. Clemens list praise as one of many class-wide strategies that may be used to promote good behavior. “Research has demonstrated that behavior-specific praise, or that which specifically identifies the particular desirable behavior the student is performing, is most effective in promoting appropriate behavior”(Kern, 68). Praise also has a vicarious effect, and students who observe others being praised for a particular behavior are more likely to adopt that behavior. However, as suggested above, the benefits of praise can be short lived if others are not reinforced as well (Kern 68).
Praise and reinforcement are but two ways to encourage positive behavior. There are other structures available for students with challenging behavior, from class aids to intensive individual student supports.
R.C. Pianta discusses alternative supports in his book Enhancing Relationships Between Children and Teachers.
Pianta suggests that teachers, counselors and psychologists rely on verbal processes to mediate social and emotional situations (Pianta, 129). “However, for many children… language is not the medium through which social conflict and difficult emotional experiences can be negotiated.” (Pianta, 130) Fortunately, there are other ways to build teacher and student relationships, such as through “group consultation, individual consultation, and even through forms of self-evaluation” (Pianta, 135). Regardless of the format, interactions must be flexible and differentiated, contextualized, allowing for student interpretation, positive, and without blame. “Together, these features would characterize a representational model that is more open to new information, more responsive to the child, and more integrative and balanced” (Pianta, 135). Pianta also advocates an intensive individual support method called “banking time”, whereby a teacher dedicates a regular time to one-on-one interaction with a student. During “banking time”, the student directs the teacher’s involvement, which is neutral, attentive, and supportive. This helps to show the student that the teacher is there to help. Banking time is neither a reward nor a punishment, but a consistent demonstration of support, interest and accessibility.

--Mjcaskenette (talk) 20:09, 21 April 2008 (UTC)

Constructivism and Situated Learning (pp.324-329)[edit]

Constructivism-2 different types

Constructivism was defined by Bruning, Schraw, and Ronning in 1999 is "the learner's contribution to meaning and learning through both individual and social activity." The Woolfolk text indicates that the term has been used by many people in the psychological and social sciences to imply different things which all have to do with the way we construct our own cognative structures to interpret experiences and information. Although precise definitions of the term vary, there are two essential varieties of constructivism:

  • first wave, or solo constructivism - Essentially concerned with how individuals construct knowledge, beliefs, self-concepts, or identities by processing information through their internal psychological mechanism. This definition of constructivism, as put forth by Piaget, focuses on meaning as the individual constructs it, and not on correct representations. Piaget believed that we construct universal knowledge that cannot be learned directly from the environment.
  • second wave, or social, constructivism - An individual's development and learning is shaped by social interaction, cultural factors and activities, as expressed by Lev Vygotsky. He believed that students appropriate learning by working together in social groupings.

--Jameso'reilly (talk) 22:58, 12 February 2008 (UTC)


  • I am interested in the commonalities and differences between individual and social/sociological constructivist theories. As stated above, the similarities revolve around a focus on the learner's role in constructing knowledge. The differences lie in the way in which this process is attributed. Individual theories view internal psychological factors as the primary determinants of knowledge construction, whereas social and sociological theories emphasize the role of external, cultural and sociological factors. Taken to its extreme, the individualist perspective results in radical constructivism, a highly post-modern position wherein no knowledge or truth is absolute and all positions are relative. This may be viable in theory, but is problematic in reality (most particularly, for our purposes in relation to teaching practice, see text example re: bigotry p320.) In contrast, Sociological constructivism sees all knowledge as a social construct, and looks at the social power relations at work in the meaning-making process. This is particularly valuable to keep in mind when developing pedagogical strategies; we need to be aware of how we are reinforcing or contesting these power relations as we participate in the educational institution. As well, as a part of our teaching process we need to facilitate our students' ability to examine the ways in which knowledge and power interact in our society. However, I don't think that we can see knowledge as a totally social entity. Individuals filter and interpret in different ways, and these need to be seen as existing both within and beyond social/cultural influence. Otherwise, we deny individual agency and the possibility of creating positive change. As an educator I am particularly drawn to the notion within Vygotsky's social constructivism that "cognition creates culture." Seen this way, education is a collaborative process in which teacher and learner work together to create new knowledge. While this framework is invariably influenced by its social/cultural context, within pedagogical interaction there lies an exciting transformational potential.

--Tearney (talk) 17:52, 13 February 2008 (UTC)


According to Piaget, and his focus on logic and knowledge, "he saw the social environment as an important factor in development but did not believe that social interaction was the main mechanism for changing thinking" (Moshman, 1997). This being said, why is it that teenagers today (and before) follow trends? What better way to describe how a teenager acts than to say that they 'follow in each other's footsteps' depending on the modern trends and what is currently considered to be 'cool'. Take fashion for example. Within the past few years, an Australian company who makes boots meant to be worn after surfing has become a popular trend for teenage girls and even young adults. Uggs can be seen throughout the year on girls' feet from the winter months (when boots are required), right up to summer, when they are seen to look 'cool' with a particular outfit. The ironic part is that not only were they never meant for winter (especially Canadian winter's!), but also they are a very flat boot which is definitely the worst type of footwear to be worn for long periods of time as it can cause many foot problems throughout one's life. Furthermore, Uggs are one of the most expensive 'brand' boots on the market today, and yet they are sold by the millions.


If it were not for teenagers to get 'hooked' on fashion because they see it on another girl, when out shopping, and its commercialized everywhere. A friend of mine, who has been a dancer for most of her life and therefore suffers from the common foot problem of fallen arches, recently bought a pair of Uggs as her winter boots, after taking such great care of her feet with customized orthodics and proper running shoes. When I asked it why she bought these particular boots she said, "they're just so comfortable looking and I kept admiring them". Fashion before care just like trends before practicality.


If social interactions between friends is not the main reason why teenagers give up their true identity to 'fit in', then what is?
--Winchell (talk) 02:10, 11 February 2008 (UTC)


  • Social interactions between teenagers may not be the main reason why teenagers give up their true identity to 'fit in', but it seems extreme to pin any one factor as being the main reason as to why teenagers change their identity. Teenagers today live complicated lives where their time is divided between many commitments like family, school, social clubs, part-time employment, religious circles, etc. Any or all of these influences can contribute to a teens' identity choices, not to mention the constant bombardment from media outlets like magazines, television programs, the internet, and music that can be associated with these influences.

--Ali.dormady (talk) 17:41, 16 April 2008 (UTC)

Applications of Constructivist and Situated Perspectives on Learning (pp.329-349)[edit]

In our time at OISE we are encouraged to develop student centred learning strategies. Wolfolk et. al suggest 5 teaching approaches listed below:

1) Inquiry Learning

In this strategy, the teacher presents a puzzle, question or problem and students formulate a hypothesis, collect data to test this hypothesis, draw conclusions and reflect on the original problem and process needed to solve it. This method is the basis for scientific research, but could it work well in an arts classroom?

2) Problem Based Learning

In problem based learning students are given a real problem, with meaning to their lives and they collaborate to find a solution. In this style the problem is real and the students actions actually matter. The Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt University uses a term called "anchored instruction" (page 332), where a complex, interesting situation is used to anchor the learning and develop useful, flexible knowledge.

Thinking back from my own educational experience, I can remember numerous times becoming disinterested, disengaged and dissatisfied with a project or a course. However, whenever I had a teacher who challenged the class with authentic problems and provided clear objectives, I became engaged with my studies and excited to learn more. I enjoyed seeing how my actions made a difference. I was motivated to branch out and try new solutions. My learning experience was enhanced as I worked along with my group members to understand the problem, synthesize and apply our information. Without a doubt, by incorporating problems based on realistic situations, students are better able to direct their focus on a goal and gain personal satisfaction when they see the impact of their actions. They become personally invested in the problem and are accountable for their actions. As a result, they are more engaged in the learning process. Hopefully, new information may be retained longer. In addition, students will have gained valuable self-directed learning skills and practiced group problem solving skills which will benefit them in future projects (academically and professionally).--Belshawm (talk) 16:53, 12 March 2008 (UTC)

3) Cooperative learning

In this classic strategy, students work in groups of mixed ability and are rewarded on the basis of their work as a group. Research has shown this strategy to have positive effects on students' tolerance for others, feelings of acceptance, self-confidence and attendence. However, this approach can also be ineffective without careful planning and monitoring by the teacher.

4) Dialogue and Instructional Conversations

In this strategy students learn through interacting with teachers and/or their peers. This strategy provides scaffolding for student learning through a conversation, rather than a lecture or traditional discussion.

5) Cognitive Apprenticeships

Less experienced learners acquire knowledge from an expert or more experienced learner. This approach is most commonly seen in high-school co-op programs, where students are paired with community experts to learn about a trade or career. Students are guided while participating in real tasks and both parties often benefit from the partnership.

Does anyone have experience with any of these methods or good examples of these? Is there one method or combination of methods that is best?

Although I didn't realize why it was working so effectively at the time, I got to both observe and participate in my English AT's use of instructional conversation as a method of discussing the novel her Grade 12 classes were studying. I found the textbook's transcription of the Grade 3 conversation a little funny because, with a different vocabulary and subject matter, this was very similar to the conversations that occurred during our "round-table" discussions of Timothy Findley's The Wars. Having everyone re-arrange their desks to form one big circle brought the focus to the class as a whole, not just focused on Ms. W. or myself. Also, it broke the "geographical" setup of the classroom into something communal and not connected to any sort of evaluation. The students had received the questions that were going to be used as starting points during the previous class, which meant they had time to start thinking about their opinions. At first, these discussions were dominated by the three or four alpha-achievers in each class, but I watched Ms. W. draw the quieter or weaker members of the class into the conversation gradually. By the third round of these discussions (and luckily for me, the point at which I took over running them), barriers were coming down for most of the students. In fact, one of the most engaging discussions occurred primarily between myself and a boy I'll call A. A. made a comment wondering if it modern young men would experience the same sorts of things if military service was viewed the same way now and there was a surge of people wanting to serve in Afghanistan. I cajoled him to go further and give an answer to his own question. He responded on a very personal level, from the point of view of the individual soldier. Someone else lept in with the perspective of the government sending young men to war. A. responded to that opinion and the three of us briefly explored the tangent before I guided them back to the novel and asked others to join the conversation again. I was very impressed with A.'s ability to express his thoughts clearly and mentioned this to Ms. W. She told me how surprised she had been during that interaction because A. was academically one of the weakest students in the class who practically never volunteered to speak. He had conditioned himself to stay quiet to avoid criticism, assuming his answers to questions would be wrong. But in this instructional conversation framework, he was able to let his guard down. On a side note, after that class, A. started saying hi to me whenever we passed each other in the hall. This is a boy heavily into the materialistic aspects of commercial hip-hop culture who always hung out and navigated the school with the same group of five male friends, a loud, boisterous, slightly intimidating group; the kind of group that walks six abreast down the hallway and expects others to make way for them. But after having a positive experience through instructional conversation, A. wanted to say hi to the white male representative of the Establishment who tucked in his shirt and had no knowledge of Soulja Boy whatsoever. And what does that tell you about academic experiences informing social experiences?

--SwordPhilip (talk) 14:59, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

I believe that cooperative learning can be one of the most effective tools for learning if it is used properly. Listed below are important factors to take into account when using cooperative learning:

Key Elements for Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning must be distinguished from traditional “group work.” According to Woolfolk et. al group work just refers to students working together; this does not necessarily indicate that they are cooperating. Cooperative learning requires all students to participate in the task. Cooperative learning should also encourage critical thinking and reasoning so that a deeper understanding of a topic or problem is developed.

Woolfolk et. al provide five elements that define true cooperative learning groups:

1. Face to face interaction
2. Positive interdependence
  • Feeling among group members that they have to work together toward a common goal
3. Individual accountability
  • Individuals must be aware that they will be accountable for the learning (ex. Individual evaluation of the task)
4. Collaborative skills
  • Ex. Giving feedback, reaching consensus, involving all members
5. Group processing
  • Group members make sure that the group is working effectively


In the article “Cooperative Learning: An Inadequate Introduction,” OISE instructor John Myers identifies three key elements that need to be in place for cooperative learning to be successful.

1. Goal Interdependence
  • All members of the group recognize that they must work together to achieve a common learning goal
2. Role Interdependence
  • Group members are given interconnected roles to perform
  • Helps to ensure full participation
3. Resource Interdependence
  • Members have a portion of the resources required to complete the task

A common argument against cooperative learning is that students are able to “hide” within the group and not participate in the work. A simple way to use cooperative learning but ensure individual accountability is to have students work in pairs. The classic “Think-Pair-Share,” always works. -JollyJamie (talk) 18:04, 13 February 2008 (UTC)

  • Cognitive Apprenticeship – practicality and application
Woolfolk et al. identify six features that most cognitive apprenticeships share – modelling, coaching, scaffolding, articulation, reflection and exploration.
During my undergraduate work in music education, these educational strategies were discussed frequently as they are an important component of the praxial method of music education developed by David Elliott. Elliott’s primary goal was to ensure students’ constant engagement in the music making environment and each of the previously identified approaches were to be implemented by the teacher in a classroom setting.


As such, I find it interesting that the text book frames cognitive apprenticeship as something that is primarily used outside of the classroom – in a cooperative education setting, for example. While they are undoubtedly useful in any educational environment, I think these strategies are most important in the classroom environment itself – with the teacher serving as ‘mentor’ or ‘master’.
This is not to say that other types of constructivist learning cannot be used as well – they both can and should be a part of any classroom. Rather, the previously identified features of cognitive apprenticeship, are a crucial part of the regular actions of the teacher and his/her students. It has been my experience, particularly in an arts based setting, that this is in fact the case. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which a teacher would not use modelling, coaching or scaffolding. I have found that the other features – articulation, reflection and exploration are used less frequently. However, I think arts-based classrooms or programs provide a great opportunity for the implementation of these teaching/learning strategies. Articulation, reflection and exploration tie in very well with the idea of metacognition, explored in the previous chapter. With support from the teacher, students should develop these abilities in terms of the learning challenges they face in the classroom (ie. Problem solving) as well as with regard to their learning process – considering how and why they learn (and learn most successfully.)

--Ayanda (talk) 04:09, 14 February 2008 (UTC)

Looking Back at Learning (pp.349-351)[edit]

Responding to a question like “what is your conception of learning” (Woolfolk et al, p.349) would have to synthesise and take pieces out of different theories and perspectives from the behavioural, cognitive, social cognitive and constructive camps.

There is a lot of value in what Skinner contributes in terms of the “cause-effect” relationship between behaviours and their reinforcements, and Anderson’s viewpoint builds upon Skinners in that he acknowledges the “consequentiality” of behaviour, but also points out that one’s background can influence how behaviour is interpreted and reinforced.

The constructivist viewpoints are clearly responses to the previous two, behavioural and cognitive, but in this respect the importance of the social environment plays a pivotal role in learning and understanding. Piaget would likely see the impact the social environment has on learning, but the main variable and agent of learning lied within individual logic and one’s ability to “make sense” of stimuli or information on their own. As the text states, Piaget was especially curious about “how people construct universal knowledge that cannot be learned directly from the environment—such as conservation or reversibility.” (Miller, 1993; Woolfolk, p. 325) Students are therefore part of the learning and teaching process as knowledge is in flux and there can be a reinterpretation of previously accepted theories and formulas. This type of situation could easily work in a Mathematics class, as all the new theories; formulas come from students and professors alike. In an art class, the possibility for this to occur is even more likely, because the majority of the time students are encouraged to be critical thinkers in terms of art history and theory.

When it comes to actual projects, however, the contributory element of this type of knowledge acquisition gets tricky simply because it is the teacher who has to attach a mark to the student’s learning. Constructivist approaches to learning in this case would not support the marks system as it functions right now in most school boards, simply because it breaks apart individual-driven learning and emphasizes standards and norms. Students can be, and are encouraged to think for themselves and develop their own understanding and interpretation of different bodies of knowledge, but with the system as it functions right now, they would prefer the teacher just tell them what is right and wrong so they can get the appropriate mark.

Vygotsky’s approach seems, from the artist perspective, the most radical and appealing, since he allows the individual student agency in the construction and acquisition of knowledge. The “socially situated” approach still is built upon individual variables, but cognition is “steered” through cultural “tools and practices” (Woolfolk, p. 325). Very often students and teachers alike forget the fact that culture is a constantly changing and morphing entity that they are contributing to every day. From the arts perspective, students should be given the opportunity to reflect upon their own culture and see how they are actively forming it through their own understanding, behaviour, and actions; this acknowledgment, even if implied in the classroom, will likely engage them more in learning.

Culture in general seems like the kind of subject that is often looked at retrospectively or from far away (as in the case of "other" cultures), but students seem to respond pretty well to subjects or areas of interest where they feel they are a part of and can contribute to. Looking at the university campus life for just a moment shows how students, once they’ve understood their ability to create change with their knowledge, become activists, protesters, artists, entrepreneurs, etc.

This Terry Goodkind quote seems to fit this idea pretty nicely, or if anything as a promotional slogan for learning: “Knowledge is a weapon. I intend to be formidably armed.”


--Irenedongas (talk) 05:45, 20 February 2008 (UTC)