Exploring Social Learning Theory in Career Counseling


This paper introduces one of the many theoretical orientations, “Social Learning Theory. ” This theory is known as the most influential learning theories and was formulated by Albert Bandura. This paper discusses cognitive learning and various theories on career counseling. In addition, how social learning theory is applied in career guidance; describing how individuals are influenced by many factors contextual, learning, and genetic endowments. Concentrating on how learning experiences can expand on the range of individual’s occupations choices.

Based on these concepts, this paper considers the basic principle that underlies observational learning and how faulty beliefs can alter career goals and objectives.

The paper will explore the role of career counselors and how career counselors addresses dysfunctional thinking. Furthermore, the challenges career counselors face in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of an individual’s life-span experience. This will help determine the appropriate technique used to guide clients to the possibility of change.

Theoretical Orientation of “Social Learning Theory”

Social Learning Theory is observational learning which explains how individuals could learn by way of watching others.

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Moreover, expounds on the nature that people’s performances are developed and learned through watching others; human behaviors are attained by whom or what surrounds them. However, social learning is known as the social element. In reality, folks could learn by imitating others to the point that they lose their own identity. As a result, career counseling was developed as a technique to help individuals form their work identity.

Career counselor is strongly related to human development since the goal is for individuals to gain awareness about their interests and relate it to occupations.

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This is achieved through interventions such as guidance provided by career counselors. In fact, an assumption could be that “Social Learning Theory” is concerned about the observational learning process among individuals whom seek career counseling (Zunker, 2011, p. 36). At the same time, observation on how individuals could develop new behaviors through the guidance of career counselor.

Concept of the “Bobo Doll”

This given theory has been constructive in terms of describing how individuals can learn new things. On the other hand, this theory highly implies sorts of learning exist in which a direct reinforcement is not a causal mechanism. For example, Albert Bandura concept of the “Bobo Doll” introduces the experiments with the participation of adults acting aggressively toward a Bobo Doll, as children observes. On this concept, after the display Bandura allows the children to play inside a room with the Bobo Doll to monitor their behavior.

Based on what was observed, the affirmation of the theorist was that the children imitated aggressive behavior towards the doll due to what they had seen. After which, this experiment of Bandura found to be producing the three basic models of observational learning. Those models include the following:

  • A live model – this pertains to the actual individual who is performing a given behavior.
  • A verbal instruction model – in which describes as involving the provision of the details as well as the descriptions of a behavior.
  • A symbolic model – this typically includes either a demonstration the behavior of a so-called real or fictional character through movies, television, radio, books, online media, and other media sources (Bandura, 2007, P. 55).

Hence, this has to be understood that the state of mind is vital to learning. In other words, when referring to the concept of Bandura, not just the external reinforcement or internal factors could affect the learning process and behavior. The existence of intrinsic reinforcement could be demonstrated in a form of internal reward or motivation.

Since, having a better feeling subsequent to performance of better behaviors it is an important factor to consider when a career counselor’s main goal is to assist the client in achieving a sense of confidence, satisfaction, and accomplishment. This theory further demonstrates in the concept of social learning that Bandura contributes is that learners could obtain behaviors from their environments (Miller, 2011, p 236). Although there could be many factor involved in the process of social learner it is more probable that children as well as adults reproduce behavior from their contextual.

Career counseling objective goal is to assessment the client’s strengths and interests and apply it to an occupation. The more information the customer provide the more it increases the awareness of employment opportunities related to the client’s skills, strengths and interests. Moreover, it allows clients to explore desired vocations that are suitable with their personality. For instance, these intervention strategies help patrons make accurate decisions to support their career goals. Simply put it acts as a guiding framework enabling clients to set and achieve career goals and take action towards achieving their chosen career paths.

Studies indicate that career counseling has had a positive impact on clients becoming successful in their particular professions. It contributes to higher levels of employee performance, efficiency and satisfaction as clients feel they have a strong sense of control over their careers. In keeping with, the client’s desired career making them a part of the decision will contribute significantly to career satisfaction (Zunker, 2011 p. 10). Yet at some point during the course of an individual’s life-span career desire should be a considered goal.

Social Cognitive Theory

According, to Zunker (2011), this notion can be introduced to a child as early as elementary school. Which implicates the Modeling Process; this particular aspect of Bandura’s theory of social learning contributes to understanding that not all observed behaviors could be learned in an effective manner. Thus this theory could essentially result to behavioral transformations. This modeling process covers certain steps for the purpose of allowing learners to determine whether social learning is successful or not. For example, attention, retention, reproduction and motivation which are described below (McLeod, 2011, p. ). This given implication of Social Cognitive Theory is that an individual would have to pay attention, in order to learn. This concept pertains to learning from the behavior of a model – which could be illustrated by the person who demonstrates the given behavior – in so doing anyone that pays attention can learn. Much more, one good thing to consider in this particular concept is that, the more likely one pays full attention the more they are likely to learn. Such as, in a case of newly learned behavior, retention is important. Without it the effect of learned behavior would not be further established.

Consequently, if the behavior is not retained; the possibility of going back to observing the model again might become an option if the observer or the learner was unable to store information concerning the behavior. For this purpose, paying attention to repeated demonstrations is relevant and imperative when modeling learned behavior. As a result, this repeated step is needed in order to show the reproduction and motivated behavior. The purpose is for the model to keep performing it. In this manner, it is where the reinforcement as well as the punishment comes in.

An individual could be reward in a way of demonstrating the behavior in a more proper manner. At the same time, an individual could be punished in a manner of displaying it inappropriately (McLeod, 2011, p. 2). "Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.  is flexible enough to incorporate different personality types especially types that cross for example, Enterprising and Artistic. In this way, the theory supports career development by taking a cognitive approach wherein the skills, interests and personality types are matched to particular employment opportunities. It enables counselors and clients to conduct problem solving in which they can directed towards careers they have the strongest connection to their personality. This is achieved through assessment tools such as Self-Directed Search, Vocational Preference Inventory and the Strong Interest Inventory.

The significance of “Social Learning Theory”

Therefore, the significance of “Social Learning Theory” has become one of the most influential theories of learning and development. Since, “Social Learning Theory” was originated through a number of basic concepts of traditional learning theories; theorist further believed that direct reinforcement could not relate all kinds of learning. This offers an argument that individuals could learn new information as well as acquire new behaviors through the process of watching, as explained above. Basically, as demonstrated above that such sort of learning could be utilized to expound a wide variety of behaviors.

Its importance emphasizes the observation of modeling behaviors, attitudes, and even the emotional reactions of others. Thus, this concentrates on learning by way of observing and modeling (Hensley and Singer, 2004, pp. 461–476). “Social Learning Theory” is a specific theory that is initially evolved from behaviorism. However, this includes a number of the ideas that cognitivists also considered. Social learning theory concerns on how the two significant elements such as the environmental and that cognitive aspects are able to interact. This interaction would mean to influence human learning and behavior.

Consequently, this concentrates on the learning that happens within a given social context. According to Abbot (Mineka and Zinbarg, 2006, p. 15) says that this concept considers how individuals learn from one another. Typically, the author emphasizes that people could learn on the concepts of observational learning, imitation, and modeling. The concept of this model which Bandura introduces is useful in terms of determining behavior. Based on the idea of the theorist, behavior could as well be influential to both environment and the individuals.

The theorist explains that self-efficacy pertains to, learners have self-confidence towards learning. In this aspect, it shows that individuals are more probably to get involved in certain behaviors. That may occur by the time, they (individuals) believe of their capability of implementing those behaviors successfully. In other words, this could mean that these individuals possess high self-efficacy. Self-efficacy, on the other hand, illustrates the concept that by the time a person has his ideas concerning what is suitable or not suitable behavior and selects actions accordingly.

A number of components to take into account

The self-regulation aspect contains a number of components to take into account (Bandura, 2006, p. 25). The following components are: modeling, imitation, vicarious reinforcement, and vicarious punishment. The other components are already explained above. Vicarious reinforcement, as the theorist explains that this pertains to the behavior, which is acceptable. While the vicarious punishment means a behavior that is considered not acceptable (Bandura, 2006, p. 30). Behavior as explained by the theorist is learned from the environment by which a certain process of observational learning is applied.

On the basis of this theory, it demonstrates that individuals observe the people around them. These individuals are considered as models. Furthermore, career counseling is a profession to assist individuals in choosing a vocation. In order to evaluate how learned behavior was obtained a counselors’ job is to integrate personalities and career desires to steer a customer towards job satisfaction. For example, counselors recognize the relationship between life’s role and career issues and assist the individual creating systems to discover healthier ways of living.

Although, “both the career counseling role and components of career services but is primarily devoted to developing counseling skills for integrating career and personal concerns” (Zunker, p 3). Career counseling is a method used to assist people with their challenges in this culturally diverted society. In addition, career counseling focuses on effort of building an understanding of the individual traits, aspirations, motives, preferred life style, learned behaviors, and personal concerns.

This emphasis that all clients are viewed as a product of his or her heritage and is shaped by their experiences surrounding their environment. Some career choices could be for lack of family resources rather than desires. Career counselors view many aspects of an individual’s life such as, values, interests, skills, and work experiences, all of which are variables in choosing a profession for someone. The point of this discussion is that people are more likely to choose a career base on their models in their environment. In effect, they would be more likely to imitate behavior being modeled through the people they admire.

Identification, however, happens with another individual (who serves as the model) and involves in adopting on the observed values, behaviors, beliefs, and even the attitudes of others with whom children are identifying (Kumpulainen and Wray, 2002, p. 5). These influences could be of high-quality or dreadful qualities that are introduced to a child or an adult. In the same way, models (people) around the person would respond to the behavior that is being imitated with either reinforcement or punishment. The purpose of the career counselor is to pick apart their thoughts and restructure their though process.

This technique is based on communication with the individual to determine their strengths or weaknesses. The learning by observation through models allows students to simply learn from others. Modeling in this regard, provides an option to forming for teaching new behaviors (Burton and Bartlett, 2005, pp. 8-9). The use of shaping which is the operant condition, this modeling aspect could offer a faster (Bandura, 2007, pp. 641-758), more efficient source for teaching new behavior. In order to foster effective modeling (Cohen, et al. , 2003, p. ), a teacher should ensure that the four vital conditions are considered such as the following: Attention, motor reproduction, retention, and motivation. In any event, the most important part of career counseling is to determine the individual’s self-concept. Self–concept focuses on how a person feels about self and reveals their occupational aspirations. Most times through role model individuals determine their occupation by their sex. If so once, a career counselor helps the client to dismiss any gender occupations roles preferences, the counselor can then reshuffle the client’s thinking to desire.

On the other hand, once the human being reject old learned behaviors to new learned behavior the individual can become content with new self. The individual gains self-awareness and can change their vocational goal that was once based on learned behaviors. Social learned behavior can be changed by way of practice and the therapist can reinforce behavioral change. Additionally, the concept of reinforcement as discussed above could be external and even more, this could be either positive or negative. This illustrates that individuals, in the first place, wanted for approval from their peers.

This said approval is known as the external reinforcement, however, it offers them the emotional reaction of being happy about being approved. This further means that an adult or children could behave in a particular way for the approval of the counselor. This is called transference. The Implications of this is a counselor need to recognize the behavior and address it immediately. Seeking approval of the counselor is also a learned behavior. However, self-awareness is a key factor in applying change behavior learned in counseling. A counselor’s job is very important in assisting clients in producing life changes.


Social learning theory is an approach to career counseling suggesting that a learned behavior can change and induce a healthier living individual. Therefore, the Social Learning theory of Albert Bandura offers a vital implication especially in the field of education and career counseling. In this contemporary time, the presence and expertise of the teachers, parents and the counselors should significantly recognize the essence of modeling appropriate behaviors. Hence, the existence of this theory contributes to acquiring in-depth concept of learning new a new way of life.

Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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Exploring Social Learning Theory in Career Counseling. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/theoretical-orientation-new-essay

Exploring Social Learning Theory in Career Counseling essay
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