Early Childhood Education

Bandura, Albert (1925—)


Albert Bandura was born December 4, 1925, in Mundare, northern Canada, of Polish and Ukrainian immigrants. As a teenager, Bandura attended the only high school in town, where he learned the value of self-direction. He obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, in 1949, and his Masters and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Iowa, in 1951 and 1952, respectively. His major advisor was Arthur Benton and he was also highly influenced by the writing of Kenneth Spence. In 1953, he became an assistant professor at Stanford University, where he now is the David Starr Jordan Professor of Social Science in Psychology. Over the course of his long career, Bandura has received over a dozen scientific honors and awards, including awards for lifetime achievements from the American Psychological Association and the American Association of Behavioral Therapy. He has also received honorary degrees from 14 universities worldwide. Bandura married Virginia Varns, a nursing instructor, and has two daughters and several grandchildren.

His major contribution to education, psychology, and other fields was to propose and develop the social cognitive theory (previously named the social learning theory). The major premise of this is that people are proactive agents in their own learning and change. They are self-organizing, self-reflecting, and self-regulating (Bandura, 1986), and not merely reactors to external environmental forces. Several major components of this theory are the triadic reciprocal causation model: observational learning and modeling, self-efficacy, and self-regulation (see Social Cognitive Theory for more details). Through his social cognitive theory he has influenced education in many ways. His interpretation of children’s social development was a specific contribution to the field of early childhood education. Bandura’s Bobo doll experiments revealed the power of violence as portrayed by media on children’s aggression, and showed methods to diminish aggression, promote prosocial functioning and foster the adoption of moral standards of conduct (Zimmerman and Schunk, 2003). In the area of children’s cognitive development, Bandura’s studies contradicted the prevalent stage theories, such as Piaget's, by emphasizing that children’s learning was influenced by their social learning experiences, goals, and development of knowledge and skill. Regarding children’s observational learning, Bandura contended that teachers’ explanations linked to demonstrations significantly enhance students’ conceptual learning. Bandura’s work shows that self-efficacy beliefs involve people’s self-judgments of performance capabilities in particular domains of functioning. These beliefs not only enhance achievement, they also promote intrinsic motivation and reduce anxiety (Zimmerman and Schunk, 2003). Bandura also explained self-regulation as the degree to which people are able to exert self-regulatory control over their level of functioning and the events in their lives. His theory explains a cyclical process of self-regulation through goal-setting, self-observation, self-judgment, and self-reaction.

Further Readings: Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall; Pajares, F. (2004). Albert Bandura: Biographical sketch. Retrieved 9/06/05, from http://www.emory.edu/ EDUCATION/mfp/bandurabio.html; Zimmerman, B. J. and D. H. Schunk (2003). Albert Bandura: The scholar and his contributions to educational psychology. In B. J. Zimmerman and D. H. Schunk, eds. Educational psychology: A century of contributions. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Srilata Bhattacharyya and Sherri L. Horner