Dialogue Education vs Vicarious Learning: Which is more effective?

For many, learning in a self-directed model seems to work well. For others, they thrive on social interactions that come from in-person classroom education. The debate over which is more effective, online self-directed vs. in-person classroom learning will rage on for many years to come. In this article, I will review a series of studies that compare the effects of dialogue education (Vella, 20008) vs vicarious learning (Bandura, 1986). Both methodologies are effective when targeting a particular outcome. In this article, I argue that a blend of both methods may be the most effective when you want to change hearts and minds (attitudes and behaviors), rather than simply dispense new knowledge into the minds of your students.  

Learning Mind is a research and consulting company. We conduct and review research in the learning and cognitive sciences and the application of technologies on learning.  


What is Entertainment-Education and why consider it as a mechanism for teaching business ethics and corporate compliance?

Introduced in the 1970s, Entertainment-Education (EE) is a model for developing stories or narratives with the intent to raise awareness of an issue, influence attitudes, or change behavioral intentions (Singhal, Cody, Rogers, & Sabido, 2004). To achieve these objectives, producers of EE narratives design the story and the characters hoping that the reader or viewer will be both immersed in the story and connect with the characters. If a character in a film behaves poorly and is punished, the viewer may decide to avoid that behavior. If a character in a story behaves appropriately and is rewarded, the viewer may decide to adopt that behavior. This principle of modeling behavior in a story and showing the outcomes, is based on Bandura's (1986) Social Cognitive Theory.

Albert Bandura conducted a famous experiment in 1961 where his research team reported that children changed their behaviors after watching a film of a teach kicking and punching an inflatable Bobo Doll. Bandura's findings from that experiment, and his Social Cognitive Theory, form a framework for EE design and development.

Examples EE Video Projects

(1) In this example video, the producers wanted to raise awareness of cervical cancer, and change attitudes regarding cervical cancer screening. There are three characters in this video: (1) the older sister who has engaged in sexual activity and contracted cervical cancer, (2) the younger sister unaware of the risks associated with unprotected sexual activity, and (3) the grandmother who has no intentions to seek for cervical cancer screenings. In the video, the younger sister and the grandmother change their way of thinking and model the desired behaviors. Click here: The Tamale Lesson

(2) In 2013 I attended a pharmaceutical compliance conference in Philadelphia. While listening to a story from a US Attorney from the DOJ, I thought that it would make a good addition to our educational video series. I approached him during the coffee break and asked him for details about the story. Gina's story is a variation of what he shared with me that day. In this scene, Gina relates her story of misjudgements as a pharmaceutical sales representative. Kim, the main character in the video series, listens and learns from Gina's story. Click Here: Gina's Story, password = theworkshop


Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S. A. (1963). Imitation of film-mediated aggressive models. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 66(1), 3-11.

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action a social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall.

Singhal, A., Cody, M. J., Rogers, E. M., & Sabido, M. (Eds.). (2004). Entertainment-education and social change: history, research, and practice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.