A tribute to Jeanine O’Neill Blackwell.

Jeanine O’Neill Blackwell 

October 7 1966 to November 18 2021

Our dear friend and amazing business partner, co-owner and Director of 4MAT 4Business, Jeanine O’Neil Blackwell has passed. 

She died after a year-long fight with breast cancer on November 18th of last year. Everyone at About Learning is deeply saddened.  If you want to make a post to her Tribute wall, we invite you to do so to share any special memories. 

We have been working with Jeanine since for over 20 years. Dr. McCarthy, the creator of 4MAT first met Jeanine at a conference for Neill Corporation in Louisiana. That it where their friendship began and it has lasted and deepened over many years since then.

Over many years, Dr McCarthy worked together with Jeanine on ideas and possibilities, travelled together, consulted, co-authored, created new approaches to how people learn and wrote a book together. She then went on to write the book Engage, describing 4MAT through the lens of the Corporate Trainer. 

In her role as Director of 4MAT 4Business Jeanine trained thousands of corporate trainers and HR Professionals in the use of the 4MAT Model of Teaching and Learning. Jeanine was instrumental in helping Corporate Learning Professionals implement 4MAT over the years, including American Family Insurance, Merck, Eli Lilly, Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Aveda Corporation. 

Her death is a terrible loss, personally and professionally. We will find it difficult not to pick up the phone when we are debating a new idea to try it out with her amazing creativity.  Everyone at About Learning is deeply saddened by her death. 

Her spirit, her heart and her wonderful laugh will be with us always.  We mourn her passing. She enlightened our lives.

In honor of Jeanine, About Learning will be donating a percent of our Corporate Training Sales and Profits to the CancerCare network. CancerCare for Kids is a program that provides for free, professional support services or parents children and adolescents affected by Cancer as well as information about helping children understand cancer.

The About Learning Staff

Special Note: If you are a 4MAT 4Business account and require assistance, please email Michael McCarthy or Courtney Kane. 

Or call the About Learning office at (800) 822-4MAT for Training or Technical Support.

5 Sample 4MAT Designs

About Learning is proud to recognize the following teachers for their work in creating exemplary 4MAT units.

You don’t have to be a student to learn from these teachers.

They’ve mastered the art of lesson design.

They’re creating lessons that reach out to all students, that foster a full range of learning skills, and that make critical connections between learning and life.

They’ve transformed 4MAT into something uniquely their own and we are proud to display their work.

We invite you to view and or print these five exemplary 4MAT Designs.

The most important skill for the 21st Century Learner

This excerpt from a LinkedIn post By Brad Smith, the former CEO of Intuit, speaks volumes for the importance of creating a strong culture of learning.

“I’m often asked what skill, experience or attribute I find most important in today’s fast-changing environment. Looking back, it has become clear that one skill stands the test of time, and I believe will be increasingly in-demand as we push ahead in the 21st Century.  That skill is agility.

Here is a great excerpt from his post.

Agility is defined as the ability and willingness to learn from experience, and then apply that learning to perform successfully under new situations.  It is a combination of “act” and “react,” with the velocity of learning being as important as the accuracy of outcomes. As the adage reminds us – it is not “the big that eat the small, it is the fast that eat the slow.”

I have found three particular leadership actions useful for fostering the mindset and capability to optimize for agility:

1.     Create a culture of experimentation

2.     Celebrate learning from the best wheelmakers

3.     Carefully choose how you measure success”

You can read his full post here.


The 4MAT Model is a powerful tool for creating a most positive culture for learning and for designing learning that has greater impact and more positive outcomes.

Moving Beyond Student Learning Diffferences with Diverse Teaching Methods

Tuesday, August 17, from 1-2:00 pm Central Standard Time

As teachers or trainers work to design learning experiences that account for the full range of student learning needs, we ask them to consider 3 key factors: 

  • Student Learning Differences—The profoundly different ways in which students learn, 
  • Teaching Preferences, and how they may impact student learning
  • Stretching strategies for taking a growth-oriented approach to teaching

This free About Learning webinar will journey through these three crucial factors to help teachers create more engaging and inclusive teaching methods 

In Moving Beyond Learner Differences, we will review the 4MAT Model of Learning and provide an overview of the different strategies that teachers employ around the 4MAT Cycle. Some of the more under-utilized approaches will be covered and how these can help transform student learning.  And finally, we will provide an overview of the key teaching strategies that you might see as you progress through the 4 Quadrants of Learning

Moving Beyond Student Learning Differences With Diverse Teaching Methods
    DATE:   Tuesday, August 17th
    TIME:    1:00-2:00 PM CST

Our goal in this session is to help empower educators to design instruction that accounts for the different ways people learn.

Why does 4MAT Start With Why?

Quadrant 1 is about Making Personal Connections.

4MAT® Quadrant 1 is about Making Personal Connections.


You open the learning process in Quadrant One, bounded by the parameters of direct
experience at 12:00 and reflective observation at 3:00.

Oneness: What Students Will Experience

• Personal, meaningful connections based on experience
• Shared storytelling to correlate meaning
• Meaningful dialogue (no telling in Quadrant One, please) with peers about the possible meaning of the material
• How to see the material in context, encompassed in some larger idea
• How to speak in their own subjective voice

The goal in quadrant 1 is to build camaraderie and to give students a sense of having been there, too. Students will experience the diversity of how others see things while gaining insights into their own experiences in discussions with others. This often creates high interest in the material to come. This is where students become aware of the value of learning.

In Quadrant 1, students will:
• Experience the discrepancies that learning will unravel
• Focus on present and past understandings
• Gain a sense of I know something about this, and I want to know more

The climate is one of trust and openness, with permission and encouragement to explore
diverse meanings. The method is discussion of experiences. The students engage in collaborative
learning, each contributing their individuality. The teacher initiates, motivates, and
creates experiences that captures their atttention and encourages perspective sharing.

Dialogue is at the root of the learning process.
—Asa Hilliard

Your teaching task in Quadrant One is to engage students in an experience that will lead
them to value and pursue the learning you initiate. Get them to see how the material will
connect to their lives.

Learning is not rote; it is how we make meaning. It is directly related to how we feel about
what we learn. When we talk about successful learning, we are talking about feeling,
answering the Why?” questions:

• Why do I need to know this
• Why is this material valuable in my life?
• Is there a larger relatable context?

Answer these questions by making connections with your opening activity.

For example, how would you address the Why? when teaching fractions to a fifth grade class?

Would your answer be Because it is in the fifth grade math book, or Because it will be on
the achievement test
, or Because the state standards require this.

All those reasons have some validity, but they have no personal meaning for students.

Why do children need to learn fractions?

Because they can use them. When they understand that we can look at sections of things in order to comprehend the wholeness of things, when they understand that we can manipulate parts to rearrange wholes, when they understand that some things can be understood discretely, then they will see the importance of fractionness.

In other words, the content you teach must carry its own Why? and its own benefit outside of school. Your students must see the validity of the content for themselves, or you will struggle to keep them focused and attentive.

What is a humanizing relationship? One that reflects the qualities of kindness, mercy, consideration, tenderness, love, concern, compassion, cooperation, responsiveness and friendship. Education needs to focus on human interaction.

—David and Roger Johnson


How well are you moving through the 4MAT Learning Cycle? Read these quadrant descriptions to assess your organization’s ability to create high impact learning.


“Why is respect and trust so crucial? 

How many people do we trust? 

On the answer to that hangs the whole design and structure of the organization.”

Charles Handy in The Learning Organization.

People derive their self-esteem from knowing rather than from learning.

Are there collaborations and new teams that we could create?

Why do we fear change if humans are always in transformation? 


Diversity is not only honored but also sought and celebrated.

Authentic conversation is generative: connecting, and inventing.

Communication must be free and open.

We need to admit to each to each other the things we don’t know. 

We need to continually check our underlying knowledge base. 


People work best in communities of practice tinkering with ideas and processes.

We need a system for constant inquiry into the systemic consequences of our actions.

Coaching needs to be a way of life. 


Assessments are multiple and diverse. 

Penetrating questions are asked that are not easily answered. 

We see surprises as opportunities.

We believe all operations can be individual successes that are worth celebrating. 

4MAT to Leadership

This blog is the 2nd in this series to continue exploring notions about the applications of 4MAT to Leadership. Read #1 below:

An organization without the balance

of all four quadrants

is by design

an organization in conflict.

-Ulf Camp, IKEA

Think of the quadrants as concepts in themselves ;
“Oneness, Twoness, Threeness and Fourness,”
each with its own climate, process and purpose.

The 4MAT Cycle is a framework for balance and wholeness:
in Community, Structure, Operational competence, and Renewal.

What awareness and skills would successful leaders need to travel the cycle with competence and ease?
Leaders like learners, need to function with some degree of comfort in all for quadrants.

Leaders like learners, need to function with some degree of comfort in all four quadrants.

My next blog content will focus on the gifts and skills needed i quadrant One, skills that Type Two, Three and Four Learning Style leaders have to master.

About Learning at Work: 4MAT and the Learning Organization

In the following months we will be posting mini blogs to discuss the values found in using 4MAT for corporate learning. Subsequent ones will focus on the gifts and skills of each of the four quadrants and the enrichments achieved through 4MAT understandings and use.

The earliest users of the 4MAT Model perceived what a difference cycle knowing could make for learners everywhere. We wondered together if this kind of Cycle knowing could make a real difference in students’ lives, why not in business and corporate learners?

Could learning how to learn bring discipline, balance and perhaps transformation to an organization? In our research a profile of the learning organization emerged, problem solving, decision making, team building a continuing renewal by going through the cycle, from meaning to structure, to operations, and new adapted understandings.

One of our first corporate clients reported:

“From our organizational structure,
to the formation of a project team,
to the planning for a meeting,
to the everyday dialogue,
we experience the value of differences.
4MAT has helped us to accomplish this.
We have woven an organizational fabric that has a rich texture, with diversity proving
to be amazingly strong and resilient.”
—Randall Murphy, founder of Acclivus

In the 4MAT Framework of balance and wholes,
There is a real community in which a common vision is shared,
There is a defined and agreed-upon structure that is congruent with the vision,
Methods that honor the vision are in place to accomplish and monitor goals,
Refocusing procedures are in place for continued stretching the possible boundaries.

The Neurobiology of Learning. 10 Key Recommendations for Enhancing Learning.

The Neurobiology of Learning 

by Michael J. Friedlander  March 31, 2011

Screen Shot 2020-06-26 at 4.55.54 PMMichael J. Friedlander is the executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and professor of biological sciences and of biomedical engineering and science at  Virginia  Tech.

He is the lead author on this article entitled The Neurobiology of Learning. This article provides 10 recommendations for learning design that were made by a prestigious panel of brain experts.

They believe that by incorporating these recommendations into instructional design more effective teaching will result.

We created an article summarizing the 10 recommendations from this panel, along with our comments in yellow on how these concepts relate to the 4MAT Design Model, a tool for creating more dynamic and engaging instruction.

View our summary of their 10 recommendations.

Or to learn more about 4MAT, visit the  About Learning Web site.

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