Social Cognitive Theory

What is it?

The Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) was proposed by Albert Bandura. According to SCT, learning occurs through a three-way reciprocal model: personal factors, behavioral factors, and environmental factors. These three factors interact with and influence one another (Bandura, 1986).

Personal factors: expectations, motivations, attitudes; behavioural factors: self efficacy, practice; environmental factors: social media, peers

One of the important ways that knowledge is acquired is through observational learning, or vicarious learning. This learning is influenced by the 3 factors mentioned in SCT.

Why is it important?

The SCT is one reason for the implementation of social learning methods and online tools in education. Collaborative learning is a situation whereby two or more learners engage in the process of learning new knowledge (Dillenbourg et al., 1995). Collaborative learning is shown to be an effective teaching method (Cohen, 1994). It can promote self-efficacy, learning motivation and attitudes, and lead to improved learning outcomes (Huang & Wu, 2011).

Self-efficacy is the belief in one's ability to perform in an expected way, so people may behave in a particular way if they believe that they are able to successfully do so (Bandura, 1997).

According to Vygotsky’s (1978) concept of the zone of proximal development, collaborative learning is beneficial as more capable learners can help and scaffold, and less capable learners can accomplish tasks that they could not otherwise accomplish while working individually. Such scaffolding, coupled with observational learning, can improve self efficacy in students. Positive attitudes and self efficacy can, in turn, motivate students to engage and learn more actively (Prior et al., 2016). This could improve academic performance and learning outcomes (Micari & Drane, 2011).

How can we use it?

The SCT can be applied in various ways to enhance learning online.

  • Observation

Observational learning is learning that takes place by observing the behaviour of others, typically ‘social models’.  Various types of multimedia can be used to enable observational learning (ProProfs, 2020) . For example, upload videos demonstrating how to conduct science experiments.

  • Motivation

Motivation is one of the personal factors in SCT. Motivation refers to the will to perform a certain behaviour, and depends on the potential rewards or punishment from doing it. Teachers can implement different kinds of rewards to motivate students to accomplish certain things (ProProfs, 2020). Positive feedback can also serve as timely motivation for students.

  • Collaboration

Collaborative learning is where two or more students engage in the process of learning. Collaboration can improve students’ self efficacy. Teachers can implement group tasks for students to learn from and help one another, and collectively achieve more than what they could have done individually.

  • Emotional connection

Humans learn and remember better when they experience something or feel personally connected to something. By using online social learning, organic discussions and comments can take place. Students are likely to post and comment about things that interest them or are personal to them. This helps them to retain and remember information better (ProProfs, 2020).

  • Environment

Environmental factors is one of the pillars of SCT. It refers generally to the learning environment, be it a classroom context or an online social learning platform. It also refers to influence and support of peers of teachers. Teachers should ensure a conducive online learning environment. This can be done by making sure students remain positive, and moderating the platform to ensure there is meaningful discussion and collaboration amongst students.

Soqqle aims to reinforce positive environmental factors to improve students’ personal factors, in line with SCT. We provide a conducive online social platform with engagement, peer learning and instructor feedback. From that, we hope to instil positive attitudes and self efficacy in students. By enabling online collaborative learning, we believe Soqqle can help achieve better learning outcomes.


Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: Freeman and Company.

Bembenutty H., White M.C., DiBenedetto M.K. (2016) Applying Social Cognitive Theory in the Development of Self-Regulated Competencies Throughout K-12 Grades. In: Lipnevich A., Preckel F., Roberts R. (eds) Psychosocial Skills and School Systems in the 21st Century. The Springer Series on Human Exceptionality. Springer, Cham

Cohen, E. G. (1994). Restructuring the classroom: Conditions for productive small groups. Review of Educational Research, 64(1), 1–35.

Dillenbourg, P., Baker, M., Blaye, A., O’Malley, C., 1995. The evolution of research on collaborative learning. Learning in Humans and Machine: Towards an Interdisciplinary Learning Science, 189–211.

Huang, Y. M., & Wu, T. T. (2011). A systematic approach for learner group composition utilizing U-Le Madge learning portfolio. Educational Technology & Society, 14(3), 102–117.

Micari, M., & Drane, D. (2011). Intimidation in small learning groups: The roles of social comparison concern, comfort, and individual characteristics in student academic outcomes. Active Learning in Higher Education, 12(3), 175–187.

Prior, D. D., Mazanov, J., Meacheam, D., Heaslip, G., & Hanson, J. (2016). Attitude, digital literacy and self-efficacy: Flow-on effects for online learning behavior. The Internet and Higher Education, 29, 91–97.

ProProfs. (2020, April 28). Unravelling the Relevance of Social Cognitive Theory in Online Learning - ProProfs. Retrieved May 25, 2020, from

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society. The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Evelyn Eng

Evelyn Eng