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Educational psychologists have developed several theories on how individuals learn via interactions with others. Prominent ideas that apply to reference librarianship and teaching information literacy are the theory of social constructivism, social-cognitive theory, and socio-cultural theory. These theories’ emphasis on the social aspect of learning underscore why collaborative learning within diverse groups can lead to deeper and broader learning. Techniques for effectively scaffolding student learning are introduced. We highlight the key role of collaboration for students to develop the ability to transfer knowledge, and the Guided Reciprocal Peer Questioning technique for developing that ability is described.


Originally published as

Black, S., & Allen, J. D. (2018). Insights from educational psychology part 5: Learning is a social act. The Reference Librarian, 59(2), 76–91.

Revised version published as Chapter 5 of Educational Psychology for Academic Librarians at



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