Thursday, March 29, 2012

Using Social Learning Theories in the Classroom

           According to Dr. Orey, the purpose of social learning theories is to “get kids engaged in doing something, very active and student centered. Social constructionism is not only student centered but peered reviewed (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009g). Therefore, to use social learning in your classroom you must use collaboration and cooperative learning techniques. I have mentioned before that I use multiple learning theories in my classroom, as I am sure many of my cohorts do also, I believe in the old adage “whatever works”. However, I do use and believe in the positive outcomes of social learning techniques in my classes, both senior and junior level classes.

            My students work in cooperative groups to complete their study guides at both levels. For this type of work, I set the class up into groups, dividing the study guides among the students. I follow the “jigsaw” strategy (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009g) described in our resources. I have found that the students are under peer pressure to do the work correctly and on time by their group members. I have also discovered that by giving the students class time to begin their study guides they are more likely to finish the homework and perform better on unit assessments. Other projects vary by level and grade.

The seniors in the AP European history class have a performance assessment due in June as their final exam, rather than a written exam. I call the assignment “Regency and Victorian Classics”. Each student gets to choose a novel from the regency or Victorian eras. Each student must describe the story line, the characters, define “what is a classic” and why this novel is a classic, explain how the book depicts the period, and compare the novel to a movie made about that novel. Each student does their research and presents their findings to the class in any manner they wish. I have students who have made movies for their report, students who created power points with photos and movie clips to show the important scenes that are depicted and other creative ways of presenting the novel to the class. One of my favorite presentations, presented last year, was on Pride and Prejudice. The student created a power point with photographs from the three movies made about Pride and Prejudice, including some from the BBC series, and introduced her characters, period and place of the novel. She then went through the different films and explained to the class the differences between the movie endings and the novel ending. She retrieved certain scenes and then played them for her class asking her fellow students what they noticed that was different about the scenes. It was very interactive even though she worked on her project alone constructing the presentation; she included her classmates as part of the total presentation and had them work cooperatively to describe differences between the novel and the movies.

I use cooperative learning with the junior classes as well; they create a video term paper. They are required to research, gather materials, and create a finished 25-minute video on a decade that the group chose. These projects include a lot of collaboration. The students have to edit their segments, record their research, edit in photos and historical footage into a video that covers their decade. Many students film at their parents homes, on the school fields and in the classrooms. Upon project completion, the finished videos are played for the entire class; through the videos, the history of the decade is taught to the entire class.

Through these cooperative and collaborative activities, I have been able to see the excitement students share about completing the projects. They learn more, they enjoy the work as they are learning, and they have clear-cut objectives to meet in each project. With the onset of the Internet and multiple technological advances, students have abundant information readily available along with programs they can use to complete these projects like a professional. After using myself this week, I am adding a lesson on how to use for my senior classes. They should be able to complete their final performance assessment on VoiceThread with ease. The Voice Thread just has to have enough memory to hold video clips from YouTube or other sources about their books. As George Siemens discussed, the major learning theories each have their role in the classroom (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009h). Using cooperative and collaborative lessons is just one part of the learning experience in the classroom today.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2009g). Program 7, Social Learning Theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from       av=0&bhcp=1

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2009h). Program 8, Connectivism as a Learning Theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from       av=0&bhcp=1


  1. I too like the jigsaw cooperative learning strategy. It has proven to be very effective in dispensing a great deal of information in a shorter period of time. I like your inclusion of technology into the mix. It inherently provides motivation as well as teaching skills that students will use throughout their lifetime.

  2. Debbie-

    I love the idea of your group video term paper. Not only does it require a great deal of learning with technology, it also supports the idea of social learning and cooperative learning. I think you have some wonderful ideas about how to keep your students learning actively as well as keeping students involved in cooperative and group work activities. Nice job!


  3. Debbie,

    You have shared some great ideas and resources. It is obvious to me that you are way ahead of me with the implementation of technological resources and I am impressed. You have the classroom that I hope to have soon. I currently teach ninth grade math.
    I like that you pointed out the idea of peer review becuase it is extremely important to the learning experience. I have recently had students to begin study guides in class as well and the results were positive.
    Furthermore, I love the ideas of the final project/exam and the vidoe term paper. I welcome any resources, plans, lessons, or rubrics that you have for these assignments (if you do not mind sharing). My goal is to have my honors classes complete podcasts of the concepts and standards taught this year as their final project. Thanks for sharing!