Balancing 12 O’clock and 6 0’clock on the 4MAT Model, an About Teaching book excerpt

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 4.09.10 PMAbout Teaching Excerpt (Bernice McCarthy)

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.

With 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. 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 About Teaching book!

The Key Scholars Behind 4MAT

The Liminal Scholars who form the foundation of the 4MAT Learning Cycle

liminal |ˈlimənl|

1 of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.  2 occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.

Kurt Lewin: 1890-1946KurtLewin

Founder of American Social Psychology. The integration of theory and practice. Discovered that learning is best facilitated in an environment where there is a dialectic tension and conflict between immediate, concrete experience and analytic detachment. There is dialectic tension throughout 4MAT.


John Dewey: 1859-1952JohnDewey.png

The continuity of experience is a powerful truth of human existence, central to the theory of learning. Every experience both takes up something from those which have gone before and modifies in some way the quality of those which come after.


Carl Jung: 1875-1961CarlJung

Jung was one of the first people to define introversion and extraversion in a psychological context, i.e., the 4MAT process dimension. The Myers-Briggs Typology was developed from Jung’s theory of Psychological Types and was one of the instruments used to norm the 4MAT Learning Type Measure. (LTM)


Jean Piaget 1896-1980Piaget.png

The learning process as a dialectic between assimilating experience into concepts and accommodating concepts to experience, the 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock movement. In addition, his work on epistemology, the relationship between the structure of knowledge and how it is learned, by ordering

It, moving from feeling to thinking, and then using it, in both old and new ways–Constructivism.

David Kolb 1939—DavidKolb.png

 Developed the Experiential Learning Model composed of four elements:

  • concrete experience,
  • observation of and reflection on that experience,
  • formation of abstract concepts based upon the reflection,
  • testing the new concepts,

These four elements are the essence of a spiral of learning that can begin with any one of the four elements, but typically begins with a concrete experience.

Kolb’s Learning Styles Indicator (LSI) was one of the instruments used to Norm the 4MAT Learning Type Measure. (LTM)

Paulo Freire: 1921-1997  PauloFreire.png

The educational system is primarily an agent of social control. We must change this by instilling critical consciousness, the active exploration of personal experiential meaning of abstract concepts through dialogue.


William James: 1842-1910  WiliamJames

Knowledge is continuously derived from and tested out in the experiences of the learner. Feelings are the germ and starting point of cognition. To know means that we have become wiling to turn away from “precious possessions” in behalf of a grasp of understandings we do not yet own.

Mary Parker Follett: 1868-1983

A management consultant, philosopher, and pioneer in the field of group dynamics. She believed in the necessity of participatory, integrative democracy. She believed the boundaries of a person’s identities are effected by the society around them, and that society in turn is effected by the identities of the people within it. Thus the self and the society, according to Parker, are in a cycle in which they constantly help to create one another.

Carl Rogers: 1902-1987

One of the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology. People react to the continually changing world of experience. It is their reality. The best vantage point for understanding behavior is from the internal frame of reference of the individual.

Lev Vygotsky: 1896-1934LevVygotsky

(The Zone of Proximal Development)

Learning is a social process, and the process is shaped by social development, in collaboration with more capable peers, that is where learning occurs, with interactions with others, stretching to transform reactions—the dialectical approach, that is, admitting the influence of nature on man while asserting that man in turn affects nature.

4MAT Scaling Criteria: Assessing Each Step in the 4MAT Natural Learning Cycle.


When teachers or trainers attend 4MAT Training, they must assess each step of their 4MAT Wheel to ensure it is well designed and true to the 4MAT Design Methodology. So we ask aspiring teacher to rate each step from 1 to 3, with 1 being acceptable and 3 being exemplary.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 11.34.53 AM

The goal in Quadrant 1 is to motivate students and create personal meaning that helps people see the value of learning. 

We call this the 4MAT SCALING CRITERIA, and here is the criteria for the Quadrant One Steps of 4MAT where the goal is to create a reason for learning and to answer the question Why?

Quadrant One help peoples people see the VALUE of learning prior to moving to teaching the content and is a most crucial step in the 4MAT Design Methodology.

GOAL: To Create an Experience that Relates

Quadrant One Right (1R): CONNECT

1 is acceptable and 3 is exemplary

1 The activity connects learners to the concept in a personal way and directly relates to the concept. There is a meaningful exchange among learners regarding their experience with the activity.
2 The activity goes to the heart. Learners have an emotional connect between the activity and their own past experiences. This connect is a deep and rich one.
3 The activity has high personal growth potential. The connection creates a high need to further explore the learning.

Quadrant One Left (1L): ATTEND

1 This activity is well linked to 1R. Feelings about the activity experience are shared.
2 Learners further explore stated feeling: listing commonalties from diverse experiences, patterning, and possibly prioritizing.
3 Small group cooperative learning activities where learners analyze their collective experiences and come to some conclusion about the commonalties.



A Deeper Look at Quadrant 1

While Quadrant One may sound easy to orchestrate it can be a challenge for teachers to understand how to create an experiential activity—one that draws on the own experience of the student and that they truly come to value. So here are some practical suggestions for building student motivation and engagement and connecting content to the lives of students.

Quad1VisualExperiential Learning: You want then to be in it, to feel it.

  • Briefly violate students’ rights as intro to the legal practice of Due Process.
  • Come up with an exciting ten to twelve word sentence and have each of 10 to 12 children be a word. give them the task of creating the sentence.
  • Give students rules for their school bus that discriminate by age In terms of who sits where.
  • Choose the real names of passengers on the Mayflower and have the students choose a name and keep a diary of their ocean journey.
  • Assign students a city, a year, a social class rank and have them plan a day in the life of a person living in that place, at that time, and with their assigned place in society. Rules, transportation, food, etc.

Personal Reflections: You want them to learn to go deeper.

  • Literature, teach the great mythologies that span cultures and have them connect story symbols with familiar mythologies. Birds as universal symbols of the spirit in flight. In India, the wild Gander is a symbol of the Self.
  • Serpents are symbols of the earth. White footprints leading up often a symbols for heroes journeys.
  • Have them write every morning for 10 minutes and then collect insights about themselves weekly.
  • Journals, model a reflection of own at opportune times and comment, in a talking to yourself way, “That might make a good journal entry.”

Dilemmas: Setting Up Interesting Problem

  • Use Why questions because they often inspire personal answers. Why do you hunch that happened? to the liquid? to the heroine? to the forest? to the ship? to that family?
  • Ask a perplexing question yourself (but only if you are really interested in the question and honestly don’t know the answer). Tell the students you will ponder it for a week and invite them to also do so. Compare answers and/or hunches a week later.
  • Have an interesting unanswered question each week.
  • Find something people accept as true that may not be true. Pose the challenge for verification.

Discrepant Activities: Figure Out What’s Wrong

  • Pictures with important parts of things missing.
  • Cloze techniques, sentences with key words missing, use great sentences from literature, or key information from history.
  • Comprehension work, where you tamper with a section of reading and make the middle of it make not sense. Have the students read it and tell you what’s going on in the passage.
  • Math problem model samples with one answer wrong.

Situations with Intrigue: Finding the Mysterious

  • Teach the meaning of mystery. Then have them share recounting a mystery in their family lives that was never solved.
  • Have them list 3 great mysteries of the world.
  • Present them with a mystery that is current and have them hunch possible causes, like, what is that stuff on Mars scientists think is water? or what could the reason be that the autism rate has skyrocketed?
  • Have them work on coincidence.
  • Find some intriguing inscription on a tombstone, and have the students hunch its possible meaning or the reason behind it.


About the Learning Cycle—A Journey through the 4MAT® Quadrants.

These four quadrants embody  the core elements of learning: feeling, reflecting, thinking and doing.

  • WhyWhatHowIfGraphicOneness combines feeling and reflecting, the heart of meaning.      
  • Twoness  combines reflecting and thinking, the heart of conceptualization.     
  • Threeness  combines thinking and doing, the heart of problem solving, and
  • Fourness combines doing and feeling, the heart of transformation.

Each of the core elements of learning – feeling, reflecting, thinking and doing – elicits a different and crucial question from the learner.


All successful learning deals with these four elements and answers four questions: Why? What? How? and If? 

In Quadrant One the union of elements creates personal meaning, the way we question the value of new learning  by connecting it to ourselves. And the question to be answered is “Why?” Why is this of value to me? Why do I sense the need to know this?

WhyWhatHowIfGraphicwCopyIn Quadrant Two the union of elements creates conceptualized content, structuring knowledge into significant chunks that form the essence, the coherence, and the wonder of new ideas. The question to be answered is “What?” What is out there to be known? What do the experts know about this? What is the nature of the knowledge I am pursuing?

In Quadrant Three the union of elements creates usefulness (and the more immediate the better), the transferability into one’s life, problem solving with the learning. The question to be answered is “How?” How does this work? Will this streamline my tasks? How will this be of use in my life?

In Quadrant Four the union of elements creates creative integration, the way we adapt the learning into something new and unique. The question to be answered is “What If?” If I use this in my own way, what will happen? What can I create and how will that creation expand, enhance, and maybe even transform the world I know?


Using 4MAT to Teach the Constitutional Convention

We invite you to view this sample Wheel Design on how to use the 4MAT Learning Process to teach The Constitutional Convention.

The Concept for this wheel was Compromise, which sets the stage for a great experiential connect activity that helps students see how this relates to their own experience.


Want to view the full 4MAT Wheel? You can download it here.


Are you teaching full circle?

The Balanced Instruction ScoreCard

Here is a simple worksheet to assess if your teaching is traveling full circle and addressing the 4 Quadrants of Learning in the 4MAT Learning Cycle.  

Check off those you are doing well to assess the range of teaching methods. Q1-1

Quadrant One Score ________          

  • Begin by building on what they already know.                              
  • Make it an experience.
  • Get them to share their personal stories and perceptions.



Quadrant Two Score ________

  • Teach the overarching ideas.    
  • Explore relationships between big ideas.
  • Synthesize as well as analyze.



Quadrant Four Score __________   Qadrant4

  • Have multiple options to show mastery.                                
  • Require new questions as part of the learning results.
  • Use rubrics that students know ahead of time.                      
  • Have students evaluate the use of learning in their own lives.



Quadrant Three Score ________       Q3

  • Make your practice require knowledge.                                        
  • Differentiate practice, providing multiple methods for students to demonstrate understanding.
  • Use open-ended problem solving.

Two Kinds of Intelligence

Two Kinds of Intelligence– The Essential Rumi

There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired, as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts from books and from what the teacher says, collecting information from the traditional sciences as well as from the new sciences.

With such intelligence you rise in the world, you get ranked ahead or behind others in regard to your competence in retaining information. You stroll with this intelligence in and out of fields of knowledge getting always more marks on your preserving tablets.

BoyHoldingWorldThere is another kind of intelligence, one already completed and preserved inside you. 

A spring overflowing its springbox.

A freshness in the center of the chest.

This other intelligence does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid, and it doesn’t move from outside to inside through the conduits of plumbing-learning.

The second knowing is a fountainhead from within you, moving out. 

Four Questions to Consider Before Creating High Impact Learning

questionmarksIf you want to create more impactful courses or presentations, start with these four questions. These will guide you in building an initial hook or experience that draws people into the content, and gets them excited to learn more. This is a most crucial step in the 4MAT Wheel, and one that some teachers might overlook.

1. Have you gone deeper to get to the heart of the content?
2. Does the concept truly convey the essence of the content (its core meaning)?
3. Does the concept create personal meaning, and does it relate to the daily life experiences of the group?
4. Are you using the same words to describe the concept and the content? Hope not.

1. Have you gone deeper, to get to the heart of the content?

What is this really about? Is this a significant idea? Does it connect to the main body of content?  Here’s an example. A writing course, full year, two semester course—teacher has divided Writing into a series of  concepts.  She is working on narrative as her first unit design with 4MAT. So she begins by zeroing in on one of the key elements of narrative, describing characters.

characterbuildingumbrellaShe initially chooses Creativity as her concept. This concept is too big. Her content is The craft of character: how to build and bring to life complex and unforgettable characters. Her bridge is Techniques used by good writers to create memorable story characters. 

2. Does the concept truly convey the essence of the content (its core meaning)?

To continue with our example, creativity does not accurately convey the concept of character building. This is an example of a concept that is just too big for the content.  So, what is the essence of character building in literature? Answer: Creating real, authentic and compelling characters. Authenticity is a much better concept for this unit? And it more closely aligns to the essence of this writing skill?

3. Does the concept create personal meaning, and does it relate to the daily life experiences of the group?

Some questions to consider in creating a concept. 

  • Does it have potential for creating meaning in people’s lives?
  • Do people encounter this concepts in their lives on a regular basis?
  • Have they had prior experience with it?                                                                                        

If so they will better relate to what is being taught.

4. Are you using the same words to describe the concept and the content? Hope not.

The concept and content should not be the same. We use the following formula to help formulate a good concept.

_________     is a study in        _____________________
(Content)                                         (Concept)

For example    Character Building is a study in Authenticity
Or workplace safety is a study in Risk

By following these guidelines, you will be able to build an initial connect activity that truly connects to people and gets them excited about the content to come in Quadrant 2, Left or the lecture portion of the 4MAT Wheel.

Special Thanks to John Sung, a Master 4MAT Trainer from Paul N Mark in South Korea for his work to help author this blog contribution. John uses these questions when teaching 4MAT To corporations and universities in South Korea and has found it be a real help when helping people design their teaching concepts. 

What is your Teaching Style?

The 4MAT Framework helps teachers examine the scope and breadth of teaching and learning as it moves through the Learning Cycle. And the role of the teacher and the activities change as people move through the 4MAT Learning Process.

When teachers design teaching based on 4MAT,  they move students from Experiencing to Reflecting to Thinking to Acting. 

• In Quadrant 1, the goal is to engage students in discussion of an experience that relates—The Discussion Method.

TeachersRolesLoResIn Quadrant 2, the goal is to clarify and or deliver key information or ideas—the Information Method.

• In Quadrant 3, the goal is to move to experimentation and problem solving as students work to master the material: The Coaching Method.

• In Quadrant 4, the goal is to have students adapt learning in new and original ways. The Self Discovery Method.

Imagine a teacher who can do all four!

So, the role of the teacher and the activities that are used in each phase of learning change as people move through this cycle.

About Learning offers a simple self-assessment tool if you want to hunch your teaching style. This is most useful when it is used in conjunction with the Learning Type Measure, an instrument for assessing how people learn. So, we invite you to Download this Free Resource to explore your distinctive approach to teaching.


But understanding your teaching preference is only the beginning. So, if you want to transform your approach to teaching or training, we invite you to attend 4MAT Training. This will train you to create full 4MAT Wheel Designs that are now proven to dramatically increase student motivation and performance.

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