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Theories & Approaches

All Theories & Approaches

How Can I Use Social Learning Theory in my Setting?

Basically, you can use Social Learning Theory (SLT) in your work with youth by either:

  • adopting curricula that are based on SLT, or

  • adapting your current curriculum or program by adding key elements of SLT.

If you are interested in adopting a curriculum which is already based on SLT (among other learning theories), check out the following curricula:

If you are interested in incorporating SLT into the curriculum you currently use, the following checklist and corresponding tips have been designed to help you:

Checklist for Educators Tips for Incorporating SLT in your Curriculum
(applicable SLT concepts appear in parentheses)
1. Do you teach youth skills?
  • Review your program goals and learning objectives to determine what behavioral skills you can teach youth that are consistent with your program. Possible behavioral skills fall into four categories:

    1. Interpersonal: communication, negotiation, setting limits, etc.

    2. Intrapersonal: values clarification, analyzing situations, self-talk, etc.

    3. Resource-related: locating information from adults, agencies, internet

    4. Product-related: using condoms, contraceptives, and other protective products

(Behavioral Capability)

2. Do you model each of the skills you are teaching youth?
  • Model all skills being taught.

  • If it is not possible or permissible to model the skills yourself, show a current video or clip from a popular TV show that models the skills. If possible, work with a student who can model the skill correctly for other students.

  • Modeling is most effective when the person being observed is influential, respected, and/or considered to be like the observer.

(Observational Learning)

3. Do you provide youth with the information they need to implement each new skill?
  • Provide information that youth need to support their use of the skill. For example, if you are teaching them how to use a condom, share information about effectiveness rates, where to get condoms, how to choose them, etc.

  • Explain why the skill is beneficial, as well as each step needed to use the skill correctly.

(Behavioral Capability)

4. Do you have each youth practice the skill during the teaching session?
  • Provide opportunities for youth to practice the skill and receive feedback on their techniques. For example, you can invite them to practice communication skills through role play with you or other students.

    Or if youth are learning to use condoms, they can practice the steps for putting a condom on an artificial model in the classroom.

(Behavioral Capability)

5. Do you check in with youth to see if they believe that the new skill/behavior will work?
  • Youth must believe that a skill or behavior is useful and effective before they invest their attention. If they are not convinced the skill will work for them, they may lack interest or motivation to learn it.


6. Do you assess whether your students feel confident they can correctly use the new skill?
  • Educators should determine their students' level of confidence in using a skill by:

    • Observing their skill practice;

    • Promoting discussion with them about their practice experience, which may surface doubts or perceived barriers to confidently using the skill;

    • Conducting a brief anonymous survey after the skill-building session to elicit questions or concerns that remain.


7. Do you have your students apply what they are learning by having them interact with their school or community?
  • Encourage students to interact with their school or community to help them understand and recognize how environment affects behavior. Assist them in learning how they can make a positive change through their school or community environment. Examples of interaction may include activities such as planning an educational campaign for their school or community, conducting a survey, designing a poster display, writing multi-media public service announcements, etc.

(Reciprocal Determinism)

8. Do youth receive praise for correctly practicing the new skill?
  • Educators should praise students to build their confidence and reinforce their interest in trying out new skills.

    Practice scenarios can include verbal or non-verbal praise, like applause, for the practice 'performers.' Incentives like stickers, sweets, or ribbons can also serve as rewards for practicing and learning new skills in the classroom.



Next: Challenges and Considerations in Applying the Social Learning Theory Approach