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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.

Guidelines for Managing with the 4MAT Learning Cycle

4MAT is a proven system for building more successful learning environments, and as a meta-model it applies in a variety of contexts.

And while it is often used in teaching or training, it is equally useful as a tool for improving communications, management methods or leadership practices within an organization or group.


The goal is to help managers use more diverse and inclusive methods to learning to encourage greater participation and involvement among those who are vested in learning.

To see how well you are managing around the 4MAT Learning Cycle, we invite you to download this free Handout that is excerpted from our 4-Day 4MAT Leadership Program. This activity was designed to help managers reflect on how well they were integrating 4MAT into their own practice.

Managers Checklist for Moving through the 4MAT Learning Cycle.

Let us know how well you are integrating the principles of inclusive learning (4MAT) into your current management methods.

4MATION® Software Update

4MATION Online Development Software
Order now at the special introductory rate…

To explore our software for creating and sharing 4MAT wheels, accessing hundreds of high quality units, and learning the 8 steps to creating more dynamic and engaging instruction.

We just upgraded the software with a host of new features including a new Instructional Resources Area for building your own database of  resources, new tutorials and guidance in the 4MAT Model and its effective implementation and a database of pop-in strategies for creating more dynamic and engaging instruction, to name a few.

Order now at the special rate of just $79 by using the About Learning online shopping cart. 4MATION subscriptions are on sale now through May 15th so act now to take advantage of this special sale price.

About Learning April and May Webinars

About Learning Webinars provide great insights into how to improve the process of teaching and learning. Please join us for the following free sessions scheduled for April and May, 2020. All sessions are from 3-4:00 PM CST.

Monday, April 20th




Meta Analysis of Learning Styles Models from Turkey, including the 4MAT Model of Teaching.

A new meta-analysis of learning styles models from Turkey has some interesting findings about these types of educational interventions. Hare are key highlights from this research. To view the entire research study, you can use this link to view the full PDF File. This research article was published Online in October of 2016 in the journal Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice

Overview of the meta-analysis

The total sample size included in this review was 2159. The treatment groups consisted of 1075 and the control groups consisted of 1084 students. Here was analysis of how the research studies were selected or inclusion in this meta-analysis.

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The table below shows the frequency distribution of the studies by course type, study type, learning style model, experimental design and investigated variable.

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According to Table 1, in terms of course type, 30% (f = 9) of the studies involved natural science (science, physics, chemistry, biology), 23.3% (f = 7) involved math, 20% (f = 6) involved social science (social studies, history, geography), 16.7% (f = 8) involved English, 6.7% (f = 2) involved informatics and 3.3% (f = 1) involved music. In terms of study type; 53.3% (f = 16) of the studies are thesis and 46.7% (f = 14) are articles.

In regards to the types of learning style models involved, here is the breakdown:

  • 43.3% (f = 13) of the studies employed the Perceptual Learning Styles Model,
  • 33.3% (f = 10) employed the 4MAT Model,
  • 6.7% (f = 2) employed the Kolb Learning Styles Model,
  • 10.1% (f = 3) employed the Dunn & Dunn Learning Styles Model,
  • 3.3% (f = 1) employed the Felder & Solomon and Brain 2070 EDUCATIONAL SCIENCES: THEORY & PRACTICE Dominance Model.

In terms of experimental design, 86.7% (f = 26) of the studies used quasi-experimental design and 13.3% (f = 4) used true-experimental design. In terms of investigated variable, 58.0% (f = 29) of the studies investigated the effect of learning style on achievement, 22.0% (f = 11) investigated the effect of learning style on attitude and 20.0% (f = 10) investigated the effect of learning style on retention.

Effect Sizes of Learning Styles Models 

Under the random effect model, the common effect sizes were as follows.

Studies employing the…

  • 4MAT System, 1.168 (0.860, 1.477);
  • Perceptual Learning Style Model, 0.870 (0.653, 1.023);
  • Dunn & Dunn Learning Style Model, 1.331 (1.047, 1.087);
  • Kolb Learning Styles Model, 1.067 (−0.876, 3.009).

These results reveal that there is not a meaningful difference between the effects sizes of the classification created according to course type: namely the effect sizes of the courses tailored to learning styles model on the academic achievement are independent of course type.

When the effect sizes of 11 studies included in this review were combined according to the random effect model, the common effect size was calculated as (d) 1.113 with 0.227 standard error and 95% confidence intervals of 1.557 and 0.669. This common effect size is large according to the Cohen’s (1988) classification. This d value is associated with a U3 value of 84.1%, which means that the average student receiving instruction tailored to their learning styles scored higher on attitude tests than 84.1% of students receiving no instruction.

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When the effect sizes of 10 studies included in this review were combined according to the random effect model, the common effect size was computed as (d) 1.763 with 0.241 standard error and 95% confidence intervals of 1.763 and 0.817. This common effect size is large according to the Cohen’s (1988) classification.

This d value is associated with a U3 value of 90.3%. This means that the average student receiving instruction tailored to their learning styles scored higher on retention tests than 90.3% of students receiving no instruction.

When the effect sizes of 10 studies included in this review were combined according to the random effect model, the common effect size was computed as (d) 1.763 with 0.241 standard error and 95% confidence intervals of 1.763 and 0.817. This common effect size is large according to the Cohen’s (1988) classification.

This d value is associated with a U3 value of 90.3%. This means that the average student receiving instruction tailored to their learning styles scored higher on retention tests than 90.3% of students receiving no instruction.     

In these meta-analytic review, it was found that when student received an instruction tailored to their learning style, their attitude (d = 1.113) toward courses improved and their learning was more permanent (d=1.290).

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Comparison of Effect Sizes to Hattie’s Barometer of Influence.

When comparing this to Hattie’s Barometer of Influence,  it is clear that this meta-analysis shows a very positive impact for learning style interventions and the 4MAT Model of Instruction in particular. The Chart above displays the impact of 4MAT on the Hattie Scale and places it near the top of the Desired Effects for an Educational Intervention. 

According to these results, it can be said that the learning environment designed based on learning styles has a large effect on students’ attitude toward course and learning retention.

Steps to Becoming a Master Teacher: Promote Student Creative Performance

Promote Student Creative Performance

Quadrant 4 is where people must adapt learning in their own unique ways.

The goal for teachers in Quadrant 4 is to help people produce creative adaptations or explorations of learning. This might involve evaluating the use of learning or producing or performing a creative interpretation or evaluation.

Key Question What If?

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 11.35.24 AMQuadrant 4 is where people create new understanding through personal evaluation and or extension of learning.  It is not enough to just understand the content, it must be put to use in the real world and adapted in a personally meaningful way.

This is just one of the things you will learn in 4MAT Training as you work to master this transformative approach to teaching and learning. 

Learn More About 4MAT Training

But if you want to truly master the 4MAT Learning Cycle, or become a 4MAT In-House Trainer or Consultant, while earning One Full Graduate Credit Hour…

Learn more about 4MAT Online Training This Fall  (begins Sept 24th)

4MAT Pure and Simple Book Excerpt

Teaching seldom begins with meaningful experiential connections. Instruction often begins with lists of what must be learned—couched in measurable objectives concerning materials that are frequently outside learner experience and interest. Recent research from the Gates Foundation finds that less than 3% of teachers demonstrate regard for student perspectives.

And so teachers hear the incessant, ubiquitous Why do I need to know this? question.

Some claim this is the way it must be. Students need patience. There are many things to learn. It takes too much time to explore the underlying meanings, to excite students about what must be learned. That’s just the way it is. Students are expected to ignore the need for meaningful experiences (in school at least) and just learn the material. They are told the reasons will become clear later. 

1. ConnectBut something very important happens when you begin with an experiential connection.

The learner is caught up in it. There’s a level of emotion, an impact and a newness often accompanied by an ineffable sense of recognition. The learner reflects and ponders, seeks out more knowledge, and has the desire to talk it through and discuss it with others.

Teachers must begin by enabling learners to confront new learning from the vantage of their own experiences. Engaging in this process means coming to balance with the otherness of the learning. It’s about the learner and the learning. It’s about being and knowing. This process is at the heart of 4MAT pedagogy and is the key to all successful teaching. 

The 4MAT Model is a process for moving people through a dynamic learning cycle:

  1. To connect learners to significant concepts through the lens of their own experience, and to bring them together to share their perceptions
  2. To introduce them to excellent knowledge and ideas,
  3. To teach them to critique and examine, by creating multiple practice activities that enable all learners to achieve mastery, and
  4. To encourage creativity, by moving them beyond content for its own sake to the adaptation of learning in their own lives.

4MAT requires teachers to convince learners of the value of the learning by drawing it forth from their own experiences, then leading them through the work of the experts to their own work, their own use of it.

It is as open-ended as the very student diversity it serves.

About Teaching Book Excerpt

And What of the Learner?

What happens to the learners in schools if most learning activity takes place at 6 o’clock, if learners primarily sit and listen to lectures?

How does the child who needs to linger in experience fare in such schools? type1

And what of the child who needs more reflecting time?

How does the child fare who needs to do it to learn it?

And what of the child who doesn’t take anyone’s word for it, but has to find out  personally?type2

How do all these children succeed? How are they judged?

These are legitimate learners. They are intelligent, they have a right to be who they are. They are just different.


In life outside of school, or in the world, these type3differences  are good.

They form the foundations of great and creative teams.type4

Schools must include them all.

About Learning Book Excerpt

Alfred North Whitehead also described a cycle; he called it three “periods” in education.

The first he called the freedom stage, the place where the student must choose to be interested, must move toward self-development through joy, a process of becoming, of noticing what happens, wondering, and then being filled with wonder.

The emphasis here is on freedom, freedom that allows the learner to see, to make independent choices.

The second period he called the discipline stage, a necessary period of development of best practice, examining the data, learning the facts, concentrating with purpose.

The third he called generalization, where something definite is known, where general rules and laws are apprehended, when the learner is ready to shed the details in favor of the active application of the principles.

Here real learning happens because knowledge has become invested with possibilities; learning has become active wisdom, “connecting a zest of life to knowledge.”

“ An education that does not begin by

evoking initiative and end by encouraging it

must be wrong.”

— Alfred North Whitehead


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