Modeling, Somersaults, and Jabs

In this week’s installment (:-)), I am sharing with you a post I made this morning on Social Cognitive Theory.

Ormrod (2008) suggested that in social cognitive theory, people learn by observing other people (models), but that they had to have the confidence to believe they could produce similar behavior before they would choose to emulate the model.  I have two examples of this idea, one in which I chose not to emulate the model and one in which I did.

The first example is from when I was a fourth or fifth grader.  My gym teacher, Ms. B (none of us could pronounce her last name, so she was just Ms. B) was teaching us a unit on gymnastics.  We had to do somersaults and backward somersaults.  When it came time to do the backward somersaults, I insisted I could not do them.  I had low self-efficacy when it came to doing the move; I simply knew that I could not do it.  I was afraid that I was going to go backward and break my neck.  Sure enough, when she tried to help me get through the move once, thinking that if she supported me through the process it would work and I would experience success and try it on my own, somehow I landed in a position where I hurt my neck.  I started crying and just to make things worse, she called me a baby.  I refused to take part in gymnastics after that and, to this day, I cannot do any sort of gymnastics move.

Fast forward 28 years later and my son and I enrolled in mixed martial arts.  My first private lesson had been successful.  I knew that I had a lot of work to do; for instance, I could only do one push-up (sad, I know), but I also knew that I could learn.  In other words, my self-efficacy rating was a lot higher on this task than the previous task mentioned.  Sensei always had a session at the beginning of class in which he reviewed form.  As he modeled a jab for us, he did the following things:

“Remember, you will stay in your defensive stance.  Right leg back…or, as in Heather’s case, left leg back,” he said.  I put my left leg back.

“Hands up,” he said as he showed us the proper way to keep our fists in front of our face.

“Now, for a jab, you want to extend your arm, like this,” he said as he extended his arm straight out, “And make sure that your knuckles are pointed directly ahead.”  He took his other hand and pointed to his knuckles so we could all see.

“We’re going to take it slow the first three times and then go fast.  One!”  We all followed his speed, pushing our arms out and pointing our knuckles.



“Now, fast!”  His went out like a lightning bolt and came back.  I don’t even think I saw it.  Mine looked like it was a slow motion version of his.  Over time, however, as he reinforced my successive approximations toward the proper behavior, I became faster.  No, I’m never going to be as fast as he, but that’s all right.  I know my limitations, but I worked toward my personal best.  Even if I am slower, my jab is powerful.  Because I believe in myself, I was able to learn how to do the move.  Now, if only I had the same confidence in my ability to win a grappling match… oh, that’s another story.

Self-efficacy is, as Ormrod (2008) contended, a huge factor in one’s ability to learn.  Proper modeling of appropriate behavior is also important.  Positive reinforcement is a third.  Teachers have a great responsibility, to encourage and model proper behavior.  One of my teachers failed in that regard.  The other did not.  When you combine all the factors involved in learning, you see that there are so many different outcomes possible.  We, as students, must work with our teachers (and vice versa) to create positive outcomes.  We, as adults, usually experience more control over our learning and want more control over our learning.  I think the two examples above exemplify certain features of social cognitive theory and I hope you agree.


Ormrod, J. E. (2008). Educational psychology: Developing learners (Sixth ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s