Modeling: teaching positive attitudes towards learning

Long time no see! At last a Sunday off and some time for blogging!
Illustrator: rinapiccolo.com

You see, after 8 years teaching extracurricular English classes, last year I decided that it was time to get an actual teaching degree from an actual university, so I signed up for one! As a result, over the past few months I've had zero time to write anything… until today :)

The classes have definitely been interesting and quite useful, but my favorite subject, above all, was educational psychology, where I realized that over the last 8 years I've been applying the most modern educational theories without even knowing it. Somehow, through my personal experience as a student in addition to observing and analyzing my students to enhance their learning experience, I've been putting into practice theories I had been unfamiliar with until October.

It has been reassuring and encouraging at the same time to discover that others have scientifically proven things I have experienced almost daily. Actually, while I was in class I couldn't help sharing my classroom stories… though I'm not sure how much the teacher appreciated it!

Anyway, today I'd like to talk about one particular topic from those educational psychology classes: observational learning.

Do you remember that campaign with the slogan "Children see, children do"?
Well, between the phrase children see and the phrase children do, we could definitely add a third phrase: children learn.

Observational learning, or modeling, is part of the Social Learning Theory developed by Albert Bandura, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University. Bandura demonstrated that children learn and imitate behaviors they have observed in other people through his Bobo doll experiment, which shows how a child reproduces the same  aggressive behavior he has observed.

There are 4 important steps involved in the modeling process:

- Attention, which is connected to your interest in what you're seeing and the lack of possible distractions.
- Retention, which is the capacity to store information, usually facilitated by seeing and listening to how to do something.
- Reproduction is the phase that starts once you've retained the information and understood the process. It's the time when the child performs the observed behavior. Their performance will improve and lead to skill advancement through further practice.
- Motivation is essential for successful observational learning and it can be generated by using positive or negative reinforcement. This also includes punishment, but it's not a desiderable way of going about it.

It sounds a bit like my method, doesn't it?  ;) Not only that, but it also sounds like how a Montessori teacher does it when they explains to their students how to use the prepared material.

As adults, it's clear that we can choose to use this process to encourage more positive behaviour from the young people around us, and this is also why I always insist that parents and teachers must be an active part of the process. In fact, I even wrote a book about it!

If you want your kids to read, let them see that you like reading; open a book, talk to them about what you're reading, and take them to a library.

If you want your children to learn English, take part in the process with them. If they're shy don't force them to speak if you're not making the same effort, because then they will just ask you why they have to when you don't.

Do you want your students to care for environment? Start by caring for it yourself, showing them how to do it.

When I started my first internship at a school in January, I bought one of those notebooks with the big squares that first graders use to write in so that I could practice my primary school calligraphy.

Every day, I made sure to use it in front of them, showing them my improvement, and asking them how they wrote this or that letter. Judging by their amazed expressions every time I took the notebook out of my bag, I'm pretty sure that, many of them paid much more attention to how they were writing and tried to improve the legibility of their writing just because they felt that their own effort to produce legible calligraphy was being understood and appreciated,

In conclusion, the learning process is a team effort and if you have a tricky issue in your own classroom, this process can be modified to help you deal with it.

If you'd like to take a deeper look  at the subject, here's a link to a more exhaustive explanation and another video about the Bobo doll experiment.

Meanwhile, have fun!

P.S. I got a really good grade on the Educational Psychology exam ;)

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