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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.

Content Savvy Experiences to Engage and Motivate

This is the third commentary on teacher skill in choosing content-savvy concepts to teach the content they are required to teach. (See the last two blog entries). Concepts are the Big Ideas, the core meanings of the knowledge and skills that make up the content that teachers use to connect their students to personal meanings.

There’s a startling idea, content that has personal meaning for students. Sounds strange in light of conventional teaching practice. And yet what leads more directly to positive learning results than personal meaning?

Circle12and6oclockHere are some ideas for concepts that engage students from The 4MAT Software LessonBank.

1. Content: Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Day. Concept: Coping
2. Content: The Characteristics of Sound Waves. Concept: Energy in Motion
3. Content: Normal Distribution and Statistics: Concept: Chance (likelihood of college admission based on race and gender)
4. Content: Marketing Segmentation: Concept: Adaptation

So What experiential activities did these teachers choose to begin their instruction?

1. Alexander’s Very Bad Day: Scenario for the children— A backyard picnic with all the neighbors their for your birthday, but it begins pouring rain. What can you do? Children decide Mom can decorate the back porch and have the games played inside and outside on the porch. Children finish this unit by making coping badges to give people when they are having a very bad day.
2. Sound Waves: Favorite musical groups are scaled from 1-10 for energy in motion with reasons given for the ratings.
3. Normal Distribution: Students guess chances for each member to get into college based on their race and gender. They begin with their personal perceptions followed by actually digging into the stats.
4. Marketing Segmentation: Shoes are brought in and tried on. Some fit, some don’t fit. Why weren’t sizes checked beforehand? (This one is simple but leads beautifully to adaptation skill in marketing.)

The discussions that follow these engaging experiences are will exemplify the meaning and purpose of the learning need (to support what Elizabeth Green calls, academic discourse).

Four things to remember:
1. Adults cannot do the talking,
2. Students have to talk about the core idea, the concept itself: coping, adapting, the energy and motion connection, actual chances for being in the necessary distribution group.
3. They must talk to their teacher and receive coaching and assistance. This will engage them in “academic discourse” and finally
4. They must explain what evidence they are using to devise their own conclusions.

Stay tuned. More content-savvy conceptualizing next Friday.

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