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[SOCIAL
COGNITIVE
THEORY
APPLIED
TO
HIGH
SCHOOL
SCIENCE
EDUCATION
MEDIATED
 BY
WEB‐BASED
LEARNING
ENVIRONMENTS]
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Social Cognitive Theory Applied to High School Science Education Mediated by Web-Based Learning Environments

Karen V. Kelly Boise State University




 
 



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 Abstract This paper will examine the social cognitive theory (SCT), applying the major framework of the three interrelated factors (personal, environmental, and behavioral) to science education. In this learning process, students learn through observation, modeling, or vicarious learning; together with high self-efficacy, applied self-reflection, and self-regulation, students can be taught important factors, many of which have been missing in science education. These factors include learning via an explicit approach, the nature of sustainable science and scientific inquiry within the learner’s context, and culture and community. The paper will then recommend several methods of facilitation through the use of Web-based learning environments, such as videos, science projects, internship programs, simulations, remote instruments, social communication tools, and intelligent tutoring systems.


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 Social Cognitive Theory Applied to High School Science Education Mediated by Web-Based Learning Environments Many people desire to improve classroom learning; accordingly, this paper will explain how the social cognitive theory (SCT) can be applied in practical science education through the use of Web–based learning environments. Social Cognitive Theory The SCT provides a framework for understanding, predicting, and intervening in human behavior (Ancuta, 2007). According to this theory, “People are viewed as self-organizing, proactive, self-reflecting and self-regulating” (Pajares, 2010, p. 1). A model for the process of SCT consists of three reciprocal interactive factors, and it is coined “reciprocal determinism” (Boeree, 2006). These three factors personal, behavioral, and environmental influences constantly affect each other (Pajares, 2010). The interactions that occur between the personal and environmental influences involve the learning that occurs during interaction with and observation of one’s environment (Pajares, 2010). The interactions that occur between personal and behavioral influences involve the person’s thoughts and actions (Pajares, 2010). Individuals imitate or copy modeled behaviors learned by personally observing others, the environment or the media. Finally, the interactions that occur between behavioral and environmental influences involve both a person’s behavioral reaction to his or her environment, and the person’s ability to change that environment (Pajares, 2010). The “… environment causes behavior, true; but behavior causes environment as well,” as Boeree (2006) notes (p. 1). Several other factors such as educational and family structures, economic situations, and socioeconomic status (Warschauer, 2007), are also considered to affect human behavior through influencing aspirations, self-efficacy beliefs, personal standards, emotional states, and other self-regulatory forces (Pajares, 2010). Another critical component of SCT is the concept that learning can occur without a corresponding change in behavior (Pajares, 2010). Self-efficacy is considered one of the largest determinants of human behavior; it has the greatest impact on a person’s belief of individual mastery (Smith, 2002). Self-efficacy beliefs also provide the foundation for motivation, wellbeing, and personal accomplishment (Pajares, 2010). Further, self-beliefs enable individuals to exercise a measure of control over their thoughts, feelings, and actions (Pajares, 2010). Self-efficacy beliefs extend from an individual to


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 a collective as people work together and share their beliefs (Pajeres, 2010). Humans have the cognitive means to influence their own destinies through symbolizing, forethought, vicarious learning experiences, self-regulation, and self-reflection (Pajares, 2010). Self- regulation is only possible in contexts that provide choice and control (Schunk, 2001). SCT offers “a view of human functioning that accords a central role to cognitive, vicarious, selfregulatory, and self-reflective processes in human adaptation and change” (Pajares, 2010, p. 1). Several of these characteristics will be further discussed in the section on SCT’s application to science education. Science Education In the past, many modern science courses have failed to reach their goals successfully (Sandoval, 2004). Even with years of formal science education, Carter (2008) reports students commonly form misconceptions of scientific issues. Students across the developed world are largely disengaged from science education; they feel unmotivated and alienated (Carter, 2008). The lack of success in science courses is attributed to students’ inadequate science education philosophy, their lack of experience in conducting scientific investigations, and an implicit approach to teaching science (Schwartz, Lederman & Crawford, 2004). After 1996, educators endeavored to improve the success of science education, through the adoption of a philosophically valid science curriculum (Schwartz et al., 2004). The method of learning of only knowledge about science concepts was replaced by a more comprehensive ideology. “Students should develop an understanding of what science is, what science is not, what science can and cannot do, and how science contributes to culture” (NRC, 1996, p. 21). The core of scientific literacy focuses on two important features: the contemporary views of the nature of science (NOS) and the contemporary views of scientific inquiry (SI: Schwartz et al., 2004). The NOS is characterized by the systematic gathering of information through various forms of direct and indirect observations and the testing of this information by methods including, but not limited to, experimentation. The principal product of science is knowledge in the form of naturalistic concepts and the laws and theories related to those concepts. (NSTA, 2010, p. 1)


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 SI, on the other hand, refers to the diverse ways in which scientists study the natural world and propose explanations based on the evidence derived from their work. Scientific inquiry also refers to the activities through which students develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, as well as an understanding of how scientists study the natural world. (NSTA, 2010, p. 1) Inquiry approaches stem from the idea that science teaching and learning should reflect how scientific knowledge is constructed (Lee & Butler, 2003). Schwartz et al. (2004) and Sandoval (2005) report that “doing science” alone is not sufficient for learners to learn about the NOS; conversely, however, a student does not need to understand NOS in order “to do science” (Schwartz et al., 2004). According to Schwartz et al. (2004), “doing science” in an authentic environment for example, by participating in a science research internship is an effective way to learn about the NOS. Carter (2008) and Sandoval (2005) support the need for more authentic school science experiences. However, in the creation of authentic environments for learning, Petraglia (1998) warns that educators must regard the following issues: 1) “For whom are these tasks authentic?” (Petraglia, 1998, p. 59) 2) Does the designer have enough expertise to create authentic material? 3) Have pre-authentic environments been created? 4) Does the environment focus on persuasive arguments? Similarly, Lee & Butler (2003), acknowledge that one needs to determine the “characteristics of authentic situations [that] contribute to the development of knowledge-rich inquiry” (Lee & Butler, 2003, p. 7). The factors of a science research internship that influence the learning, note Schwartz et al. (2004), must include explicit, active reflection. This reflection could be accomplished through journals, questioning, and/or discussions. The framing of the reflection, within an authentic context, is also a necessary factor (Schwartz et al., 2004). Schwartz et al. (2004), encourage the process of reflecting from a different perspective (e.g., from the outside). Schwartz et al. (2004) also warn that the success of these factors is limited by each instructor’s content knowledge of the NOS. The approaches call for an explicit use of inquiry in teaching, rather than an implicit approach. The explicit use of inquiry in teaching could include creating learning opportunities, modeling performance, providing opportunities for practice, assessing student understanding, offering feedback, and re-teaching when necessary (Schwartz et al., 2004). Schwartz et al. (2004), also report on the teacher requirements for teaching SI and


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 NOS; the teacher must have general and pedagogical knowledge of both SI and NOS. Sandoval (2005) supports this idea, as strongly advocating for the need to study the practical epistemological ideas that students bring to bear in their own endeavors to make sense of science. Sandoval offers two essential questions: “How do we know what we know? And why do we believe it?” (Sandoval, 2004, p. 5) Much of the literature presented above reflects the work conducted in the United States. However, science education in Canada generally followed American paradigms—though with some local variations (Rothenberg, 2001). The methods and controversies in the field of contemporary science curriculum are common to both Canada and the United States (Rothenberg, 2001). Applying SCT in Science Education The SCT model can be applied to individuals or groups in order to modify or change human behavior in science education. Using the methods of observation, modeling, vicarious learning, self-efficacy, self-reflection, and self-regulation, science education should focus on learning students’ beliefs, teaching both NOS and SI together, and teaching science through an explicit approach. The changes in these approaches will effectively increase overall experiences and improve students’ knowledge of scientific concepts. Observation/Modeling/Vicarious Learning Even though educators have not reached a consensus about what constitutes authentic science tasks and how they should be created, authentic activities are considered “ordinary practices of the culture” (i.e., what students face in the real world; NRC, 1996). According to Lee & Butler (2003), there are several way to add authenticity to science tasks: 1) Using realworld problems, 2) Allowing students’ to solve problems within their own contexts, 3) Linking students and scientists, and 4) Researching methods of reaching common understandings. When students have the chance to imitate or model observed authentic science behaviors, they have a greater chance to learn. Self-Efficacy/Self-Reflection/Self-Regulation When considering the factors of self-efficacy, self-reflection, and/or self-regulation, educators should consider planning programs to increase student confidence, to improve emotional states, to correct students’ faulty beliefs and habits of thinking (Pajeres, 2010), to


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 enhance students’ self-beliefs and self-regulation (Burney, 2008), and to provide interventions (Ancuta, 2007; Meltzof, Kuhl, Movellan, & Sejnowski, 2009). School and classroom structures that may undermine student success should also be altered (Pajeres, 2010). Self-efficacy beliefs directly affect achievement (Pajeres, 2010). If a student has faulty or naive beliefs, then the first recommendation is determining what the student believes (Hill, Song, & West, 2009; Sandoval, 2005). Next, those beliefs should be corrected by engaging the student in activities that the student believes are authentic, which will improve the student’s concept of science (Burney, 2008; Sandoval, 2005). (According to Sandoval, 2005, simply engaging in SI is not sufficient to change a student’s ideas about the NOS.) If a student has low confidence, then providing support and regular positive feedback can help improve his or her self-efficacy (Burney, 2008). Regularly sending positive, encouraging messages can also help to increase student motivation (Hill et al., 2009). Further, instructors need to attribute student accomplishments to the students’ ability to master the task rather than to simple “hard work” (Kimberlin, 2010). Instructors also need to model the performance they require. Additionally, if the instructor demonstrates high expectations, then the student will typically perform to high standards. It is not wise to punish students; rather, the instructor should encourage the students and should model the desired behavior (Kimberlin, 2010). When a student succeeds, the experience increases his or her confidence and fosters self-efficacy (Ancuta, 2007). Kimberlin (2010) recommends several additional methods of encouraging students. First, giving the student opportunities to succeed through repeated practice and through taking small, incremental steps in a logical and sequential order is a recipe for success. A second recommendation is charting progress over time; this helps students see how much they have accomplished and feel the selfsatisfaction of reaching goals. Third, the creation of a comfortable working environment is also necessary for ensuring that the student has high self-efficacy. Using self-reflection by internalizing one’s own successes and failures is an effective way for a learner to identify his or her ability to perform (Ancuta, 2007). Encourage this selfreflection in the form of writing in a journal or responding to appropriate questions; this demonstrates that learning is taking place. Additionally, educators should provide many opportunities for student discussion among peers. Through positive social interaction, students’ drive for social communication will be fed (Meltzoft et al, 2009). The use of symbols should also be encouraged to help students engage in self-direction; by symbolizing their experiences,


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 students can find structure, meaning, and continuity in their lives (Pajeres, 2010). Teachers should also promote the application of forethought to planning courses of action, setting goals and challenges, motivating, and guiding and regulating activities (Pajeres, 2010). Forethought should also be recommended so that students can anticipate the consequences of their actions. Self-reflection is an excellent way for a student to make sense of an experience and to explore his or her own cognition. According to Burney, (2008), “Others in the environment would also be influential through observation of their behavior, interactions with them, and the reflection about these experiences” (p.3). Another powerful tool is self-regulation, which is directly linked to self-efficacy. Students should be encouraged to apply self-regulation to monitor their own actions and behaviors (Burney, 2008). In this way, teachers can offer choices and control to their students (Hill et al., 2009). If students are allowed to make choices about interactions, then their social anxiety will be minimized (Hill et al., 2009). Teachers should ensure that the students’ work is completed within the students’ contexts and cultures but should also ask the students to take a step back and to regulate their learning from an outside perspective. The student is then apt to feel more in control and less alienated. If providing choices lessens social anxiety, the student may be willing to take more risks and to try new behaviors. The student also may feel more motivated and engaged. Recommended Web–Based Learning Environments Several Web–based learning environments can be effective for applying the SCT to an improved method of learning about science. It is important to consider the purposes and uses of the recommended technologies; technology is not necessarily put to good use because some people simply employ technology to do unwise things more effectively (De Castell, Bryson, & Jenson, 2002). Student’s views of educational technology should also be considered; in general, students want fast and easy access to up-to-date, well-designed educational technologies (Hill et al., 2009). In addition, students also want to be given clear, guided directions for using the technologies (Hill et al., 2009). The amount of time students spend in school and out of school is also important to consider; 80% of students’ waking hours are spent outside the classroom (Meltzof et al., 2009). Still another consideration is each student’s access to technology, which depends on his or her own socio-economic standing; familial cultural, and social capital; and the social structure of his or her school (Warschauer, 2007).


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 The actual use of the technology can be constrained by curriculum requirements (Ertmer, 2005). Additionally, in order to apply the technology effectively, the educator must receive professional training (Ertmer, 2005). The future is digital; educational reformers surmise that the increasing growth of technology will radically transform what, how, and where people learn. This transformation needs to involve autonomous learning, although the teacher must serve as a “guide on the side”, this method will not work effectively if the learning is truly unguided. Apart from the teacher, much of the learning’s success depends on the learner’s level of confidence or self-efficacy, autonomy, and discipline (Warschauer, 2007). Warschauer (2007) also stresses the need for students to become competent in traditional, foundational literacies before they can succeed in the newer digital ones. “Authentic learning necessitates the use of tools and resources to enable students to form questions, plan and perform investigations, and communicate results” (Lee & Butler, 2003, p.8). Authentic learning also requires that students know how to collect data, how to experiment, and that they are not provided with pre-planned, perfectly flowing experiences (Carter, 2008). For a technology to offer passive text would be counterintuitive; the material must be interactive (Warschauer, 2007). Despite these cautions, however, technology may never create a definitely authentic environment (Petraglia, 1998). The Scientists in Action Series is a set of videos that utilize real-world problems to illustrate scientific concepts. This series displays students participating in many activities and using relevant questioning tactics. If students learn without trial and error (i.e., vicarious learning through watching videos), then they avoid taking unnecessary risks (Pajeres, 2010). However, the students must be engaged in the problems; hence, the series offers relatable examples such as cleaning up an oil spill and rescuing a bald eagle (Lee & Butler, 2003). Another example is a Global Scientists project, which was established to let students contact scientists directly, thereby interacting with researchers and their scientific data (Lee & Butler, 2003). In this type of program, a social context is enhanced to facilitate positive student engagement and development (Burney, 2008). The series also presents an example of students conducting scientific research through internship programs. Using the modeling/observing approach will enable students to take active roles in their education and will facilitate quicker and more efficient mastery of behaviors (Ancuta, 2007). Environment Canada maintains a Science Horizons Youth Internship Program that allows students to work under the mentorship and coaching of experienced scientists and


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 program managers. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) also provides many internship opportunities. All such programs are particularly effective if the student shares experiences in a supportive environment that has a familiar social and cultural background, which allows the experiences to resonate with the student’s unique personal history (Ancuta, 2007). Simulations or video clips of people modeling a desired behavior can also be used to illustrate goals (Ancuta, 2007). Simulation-based learning environments use simulation and roleplaying to expose students to a wide range of scientific conflicts that are both globally important and multinational in scope. Solving these complex problems requires students to collaborate with others; hence students develop skills such as leadership, communication and teamwork (Lombardi, 2007). Simulations or video clips can also be used to reinforce or increase appropriate behaviors, to decrease undesirable behaviors and to offer students the ability practice creativity, which provides a vehicle for self-expression. Students around the world can conduct experiments by working with remote instruments, online, through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Students gain access to specialized equipment that is specific to their study areas (Lombardi, 2007). “Recently, explain Lee & Butler (2003), “telecommunication technologies have been used increasingly to offer students rich and up-to-date resources needed for open-ended investigations. These tools help students model, visualize data collect and analyse data, communicate ideas and evaluate relevant information” (p. 8). The use of text messaging, Facebook, and Twitter is also encouraged; these social communication tools allow students to share and collaborate. Intelligent tutoring services can offer students one-on-one guidance from instructors (Melttzof et al., 2009), which can ensure that students do not connect only with other like-minded students. Students should be forced out of their comfort zones and into somewhat challenging situations, where they can learn to respect alternative points of view. Conclusion From an SCT perspective, consciously implementing the technology of Web–based learning environments (such as videos, science projects, internship programs, simulations, remote instruments, social communication tools, and intelligent tutoring services) into the


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 learning experience can improve many areas of science education. Overall, the results of this implementation can lead to deeper, more meaningful learning for science students.


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 References Ancuta, O. (2007). Social cognitive theory (SCT). Journal of Interation Recipes, Idea, 1(1), 110. Boeree, G. (2006). Personality theories: Albert bandura. Shippensburg university. Retrieved from http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/perscontents.html Burney, V. (2008). Applications of social cognitive theory to gifted education. Roeper Review, 30(2), 130. doi:10.1080/02783190801955335 Carter, L. (2008). Sociocultural influences on science education: Innovation for contemporary times. Science Education, 92(1), 181, 165. doi:10.1002 De Castell, S., Bryson, M., & Jenson, J. (2002). Object lessons: Towards an educational theory of technology. First Monday, 7(1). Ertmer, P. A. (2005). Teacher pedagogical beliefs: The final frontier in our quest for technology integration? Educational Technology Research and Development, 53(4), 25 - 39. Hill, J., Song, L., & West, R. (2009). Social learning theory and web-based learning environments: A Review of Research and Discussion of Implications. American Journal of Distance Education, 23(2), 103, 88. doi:10.1080/08923640902857713 Kimberlin, C. (2010). Using social cognitive theory in teaching pharmacy students. PDFCAST. Retrieved from http://pdfcast.org/pdf/using-social-cognitive-theory-in-teaching-pharmacystudents Lee, H., & Butler, N. (2003). Making authentic science accessible to students. International Journal of Science Education, 25(8), 923-948, doi:10.1080/09500690305023 Lombardi, M. (2007). Authentic learning for the 21st century: An overview. Educause Learning Initiative. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3009.pdf Meltzof, A., Kuhl, P., Movellan, J., & Sejnowski, T. (2009). Foundations for a New Science of Learning. Science, 325(5938), 288, 284. doi:10.1126/science.1175626 National Research Council [NRC]. (1996). National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academic Press.


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 National Science Teachers Association [NSTA], (2010). National Science Teachers Association. Pajares, F. (2010). Overview of social cognitive theory and of self-efficacy. Division of Educational Studies. Retrieved from http://www.des.emory.edu/mfp/eff.html Petraglia, J. (1998). The real world on a short leash: The (mis) application of constructivism to the design of educational technology. Educational Technology Research and Development, 46(3), 53-65. doi: 10.1007/BF02299761. Rothenberg, M. (2001). Canada - relations to science in the united states. In The History of Science in the United States: An Encyclopedia (p. 616). New York: Garland. Sandoval, W. (2005). Understanding students' practical epistemologies and their influence on learning through inquiry. Science Education, 89(4), 656. doi:10.1002/sce.20065 Schunk, D. (2001). Social cognitive theory and self-regulated learning. In Self-regulated learning and academic achievement: Theoretical perspectives (Second Edition.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Smith, S. (2002). Using the social cognitive model to explain vocational interest in information technology. Information Technology, Learning, and Performance Journal, 20(1). Schwartz, R., Lederman, N., & Crawford, B. (2004). Developing views of nature of science in an authentic context: An explicit approach to bridging the gap between nature of science and scientific inquiry. Science Education, 88(4), 645. Warschauer, M. (2007). The paradoxical future of digital learning. Learning Inquiry, 1(1), 41-49. doi: 10.1007/s11519-007-0001-5.


Social Cognitive Theory Applied to High School Science Education  

Social Cognitive Theory Applied to High School Science Education Mediated by Web-Based Learning Environments

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