The principle of observation can be defined as the art of passing knowledge or ideas by viewing the actions of a model from which one imitates (Bandura, 1962).
This method of learning is also referred to as the social learning theory. Observational learning is very effective to all humans regardless of their age. Children for instance, are socialized into their personality through imitating their parents’ or other siblings’ actions. They learn the basics in life to the very complex of actions. In work places on the other hand, the same technique is often utilized during trainings.
For instance, new members of staff learn a lot more through observation than is the case with learning through reading or other learning methods. A recruit could be assigned a workmate who has more experience in that particular field, and is expected to acquire skills. The first proponent of this principle of observation learning was Albert Bandura, who was a Canadian by nationality. Bandura (1977) has it that “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.” (p22). Observation learning engages four main ideas for it to be most effective.
These ideas include; attention, retention, reproduction and motivation. A learner ought to engage all of his/her undivided attention to the process of observation. This ensures every detail of the actions is well captured for imitation to be successful. Once the action is done, the learner should retain a clear mental image of the details in the act. This mental image should aid the learner to reproduce the action along with all its complexity. All in all, it would be difficult for a learner to appreciate a certain action which he/she has no interest in. Therefore, there should be some source of motivation to build up his/her interest level.
For example, a promotion would work well at the work place (1962). The following is a description of the structure to put in place for employees to appreciate putting away or leaving work materials/ equipment in the best condition for another person to use. First and fore most, call an early morning meeting to bring to the employees’ attention the tendency to leave equipments in bad states has been noted. Show them evidences of what you are talking about, for example dirty tools, broken down equipments etc. Let them know the problem associated with the condition of the equipments, like wastage of time in trying to clear previous day’s messes. Secondly, provide solutions to the problem.
This can be done by providing ideas on the easiest and most effective ways of cleaning the equipment in the case of dirty tools. Incase of equipments, show easy ways of maintenance or way to prevent damage while using the equipment. Ensure that you demonstrate each detail by action to show them that what they might have perceived as impossible is actually possible. Also, ensure that they do it themselves so as to retain the concept in their minds. Appoint some of the employees to ensure that this becomes a daily routine along with normal practices of the organization. This ensures that this becomes the responsibility of each worker to see to it that he/she returns equipment in a better condition than he/she found it. Moreover, ensure that once in a while equipments are inspected by those in authority. This should see to it that employees avoid misusing equipment as there are charges incase of a damage associated to maliciousness.
Last but not least, it is important to motivate the workers towards good equipment maintenance practices. Motivation could come through promoting those that adhere to the new rules of engagement, or just by complementing the workers efforts. Alternatively, workers could be charged for any losses to the organization as a result of misuse or mismanagement of equipment. Observation learning has quite a number of strengths, especially due to the fact that it is responsible for socializing children to have a personality. This method covers quite a number of explanations which would otherwise take a lot of effort to put across by text. The method uses more than one mode of learning. It addresses the issue at hand from a wide range of perceptions since it involves all the five senses.
Thus, it is easier for a learner to capture an idea hence less effort for the teacher (Akers, 1977). Further, observation learning is effective because making the learner motivated simply comes by complementing his/ her efforts to imitate the master model. Sooner rather than later, the learner develops a high degree of expertise that he/she no longer requires to observe his/her master. He/she becomes a force to recon.
Besides text, other resources on observational learning include images on power point presentations. This could be used to explain details besides what is written. Also, the teacher could use models, which could be experts in particular fields. Their time and effort are resources.
(1977). Deviant Behavior: A Social Learning Approach. Belmont Mass, Wadsworth: NY. Bandura, A. (1962).
Social Learning through Imitation. University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln, NE.