The last few posts have talked about Albert Bandura’s concept of reciprocal determinism, which explains learning in terms of changes in either one’s environment, behaviors, or cognitions (beliefs, values, ideas), which lead to changes in one or both of the other factors—a process that can go on and on, with one factor influencing the others.

In the last two weeks, we saw how reciprocal determinism can explain the very useful turning points in the life of a Rhodes Scholar and of a legally blind college professor.

One environment that made a difference in the lives of Hazim Hardeman and Doug Webber is college. In the case of Hardeman, that environmental influence began at Community College of Philadelphia, where he studied in the honors curriculum. The young Oxford graduate student attributes going to CCP as a significant factor in his intellectual development. (Photos from CCP’s website)


The environment of Community College of Philadelphia changed me in a big way also, but unlike Hardeman, I didn’t get its full impact when I was an undergraduate student there. However, returning to my alma mater as a faculty member six years after transferring from CCP changed my cognitions and behaviors—a la reciprocal determinism, making me a better writer, teacher, and learner.

I tell that story in OPEN ADMISSIONS, and I want to take today’s post to celebrate the role that community colleges play in so many lives.

In every corner of the United States, nontraditional students venture into the alien territory of the college campus. Often, they begin not really believing that they are “college material,” but that change in environment changes how they think about themselves and the world. Those new cognitions cause them to attempt behaviors they might never have attempted were it not for the environment of community college. It works.

13_honors students_055_940x360_0

As a teacher collaborating with my colleague from psychology, I learned how scientists explain learning, and I realized that I owed it to my students to teach them at least a little bit about how learning works. Albert Bandura’s concept of reciprocal determinism showed me that such knowledge could spark changes in what my students BELIEVED and DID.

Community college served as a useful environment, triggering very good changes for Hazim Hardeman and for the late bloomer who writes this blog, and I wanted the same for my students.