Question Lorna Education

How does reciprocal determinism affect learning?

How does reciprocal determinism affect learning?

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Answer Internal Staff

Reciprocal determinism (Bandura, 1986) is a concept which asserts that a person’s behaviour both influences and is influenced by their personal qualities and the environment they are in. It can be depicted as a triangle, with ‘personal factors’, ‘environmental factors’ and ‘behaviour’ at each corner. This can have an impact on how effectively someone learns.

Reciprocal determinism is closely interlinked with self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997), which refers to the strength of a person’s belief in their ability to achieve goals. A learner with strong self-efficacy is confident and enthusiastic about participating in learning; they will often achieve in school and have their view of themselves validated, making them more likely to continue this behaviour. A learner with weak self-efficacy may struggle with self-doubt and be less willing to actively participate, thus contributing to their view that learning is not something they are ‘good at’ and further discouraging them from attempting to engage. They are more likely to dwell on possible failures before acting, which results in less effective outcomes, thereby continuing the cycle of reciprocal determinism.

While a teacher cannot control learners’ ‘personal factors’, they can build a positive learning environment which is open and inclusive to satisfy the ‘environmental factors’ in the triangle. Supporting learners with weak self-efficacy will increase their willingness to participate and therefore help to modify their negative ‘behaviour’.


Bandura, A. (1986). Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.