Vicarious learning

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Vicarious Learning, although originally coined by Bandura (1962) to refer to learning of behavior (e.g., aggression) form watching videos of that behavior, it is used here to refer to a instructional method that occurs when learners see and/or hear a learning situation (i.e., a observed learner in an instructional situation) for which they are not the addressees and do not interact with the observed learner nor the observed learner's instruction(Gholson & Craig, 2006; Rosenthal & Zimmerman, 1978). Although the learning situation is often presented as video recordings of human interactions or as cartoon-like recreations of learning situations (Bandura, 1986), the definition encompasses live vicarious learning, e.g., students watching another student at the front of the class interacting with the teacher.

When manipulated, this variable often involves a contrast with

  • different kinds of learning situation being observed, e.g., a problem being solved by an instruction (e.g., Chi, Roy & Hausmann, in press; Craig et al. 2000; Craig, et al. 2006; Driscoll et al. 2003; PSLC project example) , or
  • different kinds of dyadic instruction, e.g., being a tutee. (Chi, Roy & Hausmann, in press; Craig et al., 2004; PSLC project example )

"Learning by observing" is a somewhat broader term.


  • Bandura, A. (1962). Social learning through imitation. In M. R. Jones (Ed.), Nebraska symposium of motivation (pp. 211-269). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
  • Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Chi, M. T. H., Roy, M., & Hausmann, R. G. M. (in press). Learning from observing tutoring collaboratively: Insights about tutoring effectiveness from vicarious learning. Cognitive Science.
  • Craig, S. D., Driscoll, D., & Gholson, B. (2004). Constructing knowledge from dialog in an intelligent tutoring system: Interactive learning, vicarious learning, and pedagogical agents. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 13, 163-183. [1]
  • Craig, S. D., Sullins, J., Witherspoon, A. & Gholson, B. (2006). Deep-Level Reasoning Questions effect: The Role of Dialog and Deep-Level Reasoning Questions during Vicarious Learning. Cognition and Instruction, 24(4), 565-591.
  • Craig, S., D., Gholson B., Ventura, M., Graesser, A. C., & the Tutoring Research Group. (2000). Overhearing dialogues and monologues in virtual tutoring sessions: effects on questioning and vicarious learning. International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education (Special Issue: Analyzing Educational Dialogue Interaction), 11, 242-253.
  • Gholson, B. & Craig, S. D. (2006). Promoting constructive activities that support vicarious learning during computer-based instruction. Educational Psychology Review, 18, 119-139. [2]
  • Rosenthal, R. L., & Zimmerman, B. J. (1978). Social learning and cognition. New York: Academic Press.