Help Students See the Value of Learning

Teaching Experientially with Content-Savvy Concepts

Every 4MAT Design begins with a connect activity to engage students and to help them experience the value of learning. This connect must create an experience, an actual experience, that immerses students in the key idea of what’s being taught. And you cannot create an experiential connect without a big concept. 

The twofold purpose of the 4MAT instructional framework is always the same; to bring people to learning agility by understanding how they learn and to help them achieve expertise in the material being taught.

But you must know your content and you must know your students to do this. And you must know what learning entails. 

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 11.34.53 AMLearning: a process where prior experiences connect and arouse curiosity about what experts know and the skills that can be mastered in light of what the student already knows.

But you must know how to translate content into concepts that students experience in their lives.  So, you do not begin with content, but with a big concept that relates to them. This connection is what transforms learning into the student’s world both in and out of school.

Many call it deep learning, or moving beyond surface knowledge. I call it concept-savvy content knowledge combined with intriguing experiential beginnings that engage and motivate.

How do we make these crucial experiential connections to the material we have to teach?

Here are some content-savvy concept connections from lessons and units written by teachers in our 4MATION software:

  • The US Constitution: the tension between freedom and order.
  • Nutrition: Choices
  • Probability and Statistics: Chance
  • Toxicology: Do No Harm
  • Workplace Safety: Risk
  • Place Value: Belonging
  • Magnets: Attraction

Because students can relate to belonging, or chance or choices but may not relate to nutrition or Probability. And that is where you begin by creating an experience of the concept!

Tune in next week for continuing insights on content savvy connections and a listing of how the units cited here were initiated with experiential strategies.

Why People Should Develop Right Brain (Intuitive) Approaches to Thinking and Problem Solving

Creative, out of the box thinking methods are the hallmark of all great entrepreneurs. And now leading educators from some of the world’s most prestigious universities are working to balance the use of both right and left brain thinking methods when delivering courses or designing curricula. 

• Northwestern University uses the term Whole-Brain Engineering™ to recruit engineers to attend its renowned engineering school. 

• Wharton Business School is developing both right and left brain teaching and promoting this in their ads about the university 

• Even Mercedez Benz is promoting how their cars appeal to both the right and left brain.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 7.52.01 PM

So, a key question for teachers…

How can I infuse right brain thinking skills into my classroom to prepare students for the challenges of a rapidly changing world? 

Left Brain teaching is more verbal, systematic, and factual. While right brain teaching is more open-ended creative and exploratory.  So, clearly teachers should balance the use of both. But sometimes teachers focus more on left brained vs right brained methods.

Want to Learn More? 

Request our Free Guide to Creating Right Mode Instruction and receive a free trial to the online HMI, a tool for assessing individual preferences for either right or left mode processing. 

Or if you just want to jump in and try some new things here are some things to try out…

1. Have students experience their own brain processing preferences at the onset of a course or a new section of content. That way, they will enter into the experience with a fresh and open mind and a better understanding of how to use both methods as they move through the learning process.  

2. Use visual assignments that tap into student creativity and their preferences to display information in their own creative and intuitive ways?  This is as simple as changing a worksheet assignment to a visual depiction of what they understand about a key concept. 

3. Use metaphors to deepen student understanding or mastery. 

4. Use creative project assignments, where student must search for the answer and devise their own conclusions.

Raising Student Motivation and Engagement

4MAT is an instructional framework for improving learning and is used by many leading organizations throughout the world, including Samsung Electronics, Aveda Corporation and the Center for Creative Leadership.

The 4MAT 10- step Design Recipe is a step by step guide we created to help teachers construct high impact learning experiences. Here is just one crucial step in the 4MAT 10-Step Design recipe (Step 6). 


In step 6 of the 4MAT design recipe, we provide guidelines on how to create the initial connect activity that is found in every single 4MAT Design.

Why is this step so important?

New research from the Gates Foundation (Measures of Effective Teaching) points to the high level of importance of this most crucial step in learning, which is the place in the learning cycle where students come to experience the value of learning. 


The Gates Research looked at student responses to key questions relating to Quadrant 1 of 4MAT. The top 25% of teachers are shown in the second column, while the bottom 25% are shown on the left. Top performing teachers score higher on measures of student captivation and or engagement and on their ability to confer with students to tap into their unique ideas and viewpoints.  The 4MAT Model places a strong emphasis on this in its 10-step design recipe.

Want to learn more about designing 4MAT Wheels?

Sign up for our a 30-Day Trial of 4MAT Design Software (4MATION) to explore this recipe for yourself and to experience exemplary 4MAT Sample Designs. Use the link below the Login Button in the middle of this page to sign up for a free trial. 

Or take advantage of the many different teacher training options we now offer to learn how to become a 4MAT Master Teacher or Trainer. 

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About Teaching Excerpt: Broadening the view of Student Intelligence

We now know that Piaget’s formal reasoning is only one aspect of intelligence.

The processing of learning into active behavior with hands-on and adapting mechanisms must take an equal place in the current definition of intelligence. Hands-on learning can no longer be regarded as lesser talent.

Yet the schooling definition of thinking remains quite narrow. It is limited to the 6 o’clock things, the reasoning and analysis things. And somehow that need, to teach the 6 o’clock kind of thinking, has become the only kind of thinking to teach. We ask our students to stay often in the receiving mode, studying facts and analyzing, examining what the experts have done. While this is a part of all learning, it is just not enough.

Circle12and6oclockWith formal thinking as the highest level, the best thinkers are the abstract thinkers, and direct experience takes a back seat. Using these stages, we view children through the narrow bias of logical ability, neglecting to take into account the whole range of knowing that human experience is.

We start with the concrete and we move to the abstract. But it is not just the ability to be abstract that we are after. Learning is active doing. Learning is problem solving, creating hypotheses, tinkering with them, drawing conclusions, and much more.

In Piaget’s conception, we have a vivid description of the functions of the left cerebral hemisphere. The whole brain needs to be engaged. There is no hierarchy on the cycle. All parts of the cycle are equally necessary and equally intelligent. Together they comprise the wholeness of how we learn. It is not better or smarter to be at 6 o’clock. It is simply a part of the cycle.AbtTchgCover.jpg

We need to return to direct experience by using what we learn. The cycle represents how each of us learns at whatever developmental stage. The cycle describes how we move from direct experience to expert knowledge, through reflection to action, and then to integration.

Learn more about the 4MAT Teaching method in the About Teaching book!

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Diversity Makes you Brighter

New Research shows Diversity Makes You Brighter

New research confirms the key advantage of diverse groups as a resource for developing more creative approaches to problem solving.

A key excerpt…
Diversity improves the way people think. By disrupting conformity, racial and ethnic diversity prompts people to scrutinize facts, think more deeply and develop their own opinions. Our findings show that such diversity actually benefits everyone.” 

Read the full article from the New York Times to learn more.

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Create a Learning Mindset

Students learn in different ways.  And their success when entering a new learning experience may depend on how well they understand their own unique approaches to learning. 

For example, what learning methods do they rely on the most? And which ones might they struggle more to develop.

About Learning offers a full range of self-assessment tools to help raise awareness of these differences.

We provide practical and effective strategies for developing student understanding and awareness of how they learn.

Want to Learn More?

Download our Free 4MAT Assessment Tools Brochure to learn about the printed and on-line assessment tools from About Learning. Just fill out our request form and we will promptly send you a link to our on-line guide!

Or try out the 4MAT On-line Learning Type Measure. Just sign up as a New User and select Teacher/Professor/Facilitator as Membership type.