Social Learning Theory

During this weeks discussions and videos I learned about various activities that we can incorporate in the classroom to provide cooperative learning experiences for our students. One method that was presented and that I already use in my class is having students break into two different groups to learn information. First students break into a small group and discuss how they will construct a certain project. Then each group member travels to a different group to become an expert about a certain topic. During this time the students must learn everything they can about the certain topic so that they are able to come back to their original group and teach what they have learned to their group members. This has worked especially well in my math class because students really like to think of themselves as an expert on a topic. It boosts their confidence and also allows them to learn together with peers. Once they are able to teach the topic it really provides a great learning experience as well as social.

Orey (2007) stays that students are actively engaged in constructing artifacts and conversing with others during social learning. He also discusses the zone of proximal development. This states that there is information that students know and then information that they are not ready to learn yet without assistance. This means that they need and outsider’s assistance to help them achieve that level of knowledge and understanding. A teacher or a peer can either offer this. I often try to group my students so that there is a higher achieving student who can provide that assistance to the students who may be having a difficult time grasping the concept. Often times my higher student is able to guide the students have difficulty through the right path which leads to success in the small collaborative groups.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2007). Social learning theories. [Motion picture]. In Walden University: Bridging Learning Theory, Instruction, and Technology. Baltimore: Author.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Janice Hutchinson
    Dec 03, 2010 @ 23:18:44

    Hi Jillian

    I really like the idea of mixed ability grouping. Of all the grouping typed, I feel this one is the most effective because it allows for at least one person to be able to recognize when the group is going in the wrong direction and can offer the academic support that the others need. I do recognize though that in this kind of grouping we have to ensure that the group’s burden is not left solely on the high achiever. What strategies do you use to ennsure that the other students in the group offer equal contribution and does not rely soley on the high achievers in the group to do most or all of the work?


    • missengelhardt
      Dec 05, 2010 @ 14:54:03

      I provide all my students with rubrics of what is expected and I often ask the group members how the feel everyone is performing. This has actually been very truthful this year (these kids are not afraid of throwing another class member under the bus). I also like to make individual assignments within the group so that each member has something to be graded on because I don’t always agree with a group grade for everyone.


  2. Krista Zade
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 23:10:27


    I also like to use the jigsaw method in my classroom. When the students feel like they are experts of a topic they are more engaged and more motivated to learn. That particular activity really seems to boost their self esteem.

    How do you think the high achieving students benefit when you place them in mixed-ability groups. I know that their knowledge can be solidified when they teach it to others, but what else are they gaining? Do you think that they are being properly challenged or that they feel bored and taken advantage of? I ask because I often have my highest readers pair with my low readers so that they can help them rather than the low readers struggling through or not being able to read assigned books at all. Sometimes I feel bad doing this because the lower students are so reliant on the higher students that it seems the higher ones do all the work. Maybe this is not the case in other grades and subjects, but with what I do, some students cannot read at all while others can read pretty much whatever is handed to them.

    What are your thoughts?



    • missengelhardt
      Dec 05, 2010 @ 14:57:40

      This year the students that I have are very mixed as far as ability goes. I have some students who are definitely borderline special education (are actively being recommending for the I&RS team) and then other students who are high achievers and I try to provide extra extension activities for them to keep them engaged. I have found that the high achievers actually like being the expert in the group and providing assistance to those in the group who are having a difficult time. They really like proving that they know it and can help others understand.


  3. Tabihta Kauffman
    Dec 05, 2010 @ 16:22:24

    Hi Jillian,

    I really like your method of including group work in your math class. However, I have a question. I teach 8th grade Communication Arts and I typically enjoy using group work when possible but, it is turning out to be rather difficult with the group I have this year. The group of students I have this year are very social and have a very hard time staying on task. It doesn’t seem to matter how intriuging the assignment is when I place them in groups the work is very poor quality because they are rushing through so they can socialize. It doesn’t even seem to bother them that they recieve low grades for their lack of effort. I am wondering if you have any suggestions for improving their effort and preventing the off task behavior?



    • missengelhardt
      Dec 05, 2010 @ 17:08:05

      Hi Tabitha,
      One method that I use that I guess can be a bit ‘unfair’ (?) is making the project a contest. I either offer money in their Bergen Bank Accounts or a tangible reward for the group that either finishes first or creates the best project. I also have younger kids who love competition though. I hope that would work for you.


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