Category Archives: instructional design

Technique + Power + Speed = 4MAT Cycle

Where do most of us get stuck on our way to building mastery in a new skill?

Our 4MAT course creators often ask, “How do we help learners get unstuck?” We can get stuck on technique when the new thing we are trying doesn’t create the impact (power) we want or the results don’t show up quickly enough (speed).

If you use a new approach for coaching a client (technique) and it feels awkward (power) and you see no immediate change in the results of the person you are coaching (speed), it is tempting to abandon that technique and either go back to your old approach or shop around for a new one.

How can we focus on building technique + power + speed?

  • Put the new technique into practice.
  • Debrief your application. What worked? What could have been better?
  • Bring your insights into your next round of practice.
  • Repeat.

The key is to continue noticing what worked and what you could do better. The very act of focusing attention on amplifying the results you are getting in each round of practice will create power. As you continue wiring the new behavior through practice, you will gain speed.

Invitation for comment: How can you address this in the 4MAT courses you design for others?

Cool People Doing Great Things with 4MAT: Daisy Asiimwe Byarugaba of Compassion International

Daisy Asiimwe Byarugaba, EAA Learning and Support Specialist, Program Communications at Compassion International, partnered with Dennis Mugimba (whom we met last month) in applying 4MAT during our recent 4MAT Instructional Design Fundamentals online course.

What are you working on? How are you using 4MAT in this work?
I worked on a team assignment with Dennis Mugimba (one of my colleagues) in using 4MAT to design a training on HPI and performance management. The 4MAT training was timely because we were able to use this approach in instructional design that married a number of concepts that we would ordinarily have handled separately. I have also been working with our global learning team to design sessions for a tours management summit which is beginning today in Colorado Springs.

What have you discovered lately that has positively impacted the results you are creating through the learning experiences you design?
Oh my goodness, so many things!  Given that I had only been a learning professional for a year at the time I begun the training, one of the most important things for me was is the importance of being systematic in designing a learning experience that is impactful. Although I knew intuitively the importance of having the learner in mind and have always designed my sharings (again intuitively) on the 4 quadrants, I had never fully realized that one can actually address all four aspects in a training.

The other was that one must always follow the cycle while delivering learning, but not when designing the sessions (that was quite the eye opener). I also learned the importance of not delivering learning for its own sake (information transfer) but for visible and measurable transformation – hence the critical importance of evaluation of learning.

What’s your favorite quote? Why?
My all time favorite quote is “If men could only know each other, they would neither idolize nor hate.” ~Elbert Hubbard.

I love this quote because it reminds me that people are people wherever we go – it doesn’t matter what the race, size, creed or stature is. We often admire or hate people from a stand point of ignorance/not having a full picture of who they really are and it is only when we see people as people … that we are able to fully appreciate and work with/impact them appropriately. It also reminds me that in the school of life, anyone can be my teacher, not just the people I like and admire.


Cool People Doing Great Things with 4MAT: Dennis Kagimba Mugimba of Compassion International

Compassion International exists as a Christian child advocacy ministry focused on supporting the needs of children throughout the world. The Compassion International learning team began using 4MAT online courses to certify their global instructor team in 2009. Dennis Kagimba Mugimba, Child Survival Program Specialist based in Uganda, recently completed certification in the 4MAT Instructional Design Fundamentals online course.

What are you working on? How are you using 4MAT in this work?

This 4MAT training came in handy at a time when our work-team was in the preparations for rolling out the Human Performance Improvement (HPI) model to the Field staff we support in the five East African countries of Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. We had drawn up some training plans for this rollout training prior to the 4MAT training. However, following the 4MAT training, we felt compelled by the knowledge we had acquired to completely overhaul our earlier plans and return to the drawing board. Everyone on our work-team as well as Management is quite pleased with the new look of Instructional Design that we have come up with – so, well done 4MAT for equipping us.

What have you discovered lately that has positively impacted the results you are creating through the learning experiences you design?

The greatest discovery during this training was the realization that even though we all learn differently because we are wired uniquely, with proper training and skill, the trainer can facilitate learning in a way that addresses the various learning styles/preferences of the learners. By the end of the training, I felt more empowered and equipped to be a better facilitator of learning. From the home-front, through this training, I also became more intentional in trying to understand how my children learn. I have realized Elizabeth likes to be given instructions, Grace-Joy prefers to be shown how to do something before she can go it alone, whereas Christina has no patience for instructions; she simply jumps into the fray!

What’s your favorite quote? Why?

Without a shadow of a doubt, Bernice McCarthy’s quote “The tension between these two ways of perceiving, feeling and thinking, is the central dynamic in learning. So the real issue in learning is how to balance being subject to our feelings with relating to our feelings as object.” is my favorite quote during the class.

The next session of 4MAT Instructional Design Fundamentals begins on October 5, 2012.

4MAT Hemispheric Mode Indicator: What if I only had a (left) brain?

4MAT Hemispheric Mode IndicatorThe 4MAT Hemispheric Mode Indicator measures our preference for right-mode of left-mode thinking. With an awareness of your natural preference for one mode of thinking over another, trainers, instructional designers and learners can more readily recognize how to stretch into their under-utilized learning mode. Most of the participants in our 4MAT instructional design courses and train the trainer courses share with us that the right-mode learning strategies are most likely to be missed.

We know now that the right brain plays an essential role in learning.  As recently as the early 1980’s, neuroscientists believed the right side of the brain was mostly unnecessary. Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Roger Sperry, shared in his 1981 Nobel lecture, the right hemisphere was “not only mute and agraphic but also dyslexic, word-deaf and apraxic, and lacking generally in higher cognitive function.” Sperry made it sound like our right brains might be non-essential.

What if you only had a left brain? If we look at patients who have suffered damage to the right brain, we will find a list of symptoms and inabilities that give insight into what would happen if you found yourself missing the right part of your brain. Here’s what that might look like:

  • You wouldn’t understand a joke.
  • You would have no idea what Forrest Gump meant when he shared the metaphor “life is like a box of chocolates.”
  • You would not be able to make sense of a map or any other visual tool.
  • A 2-year could draw a more realistic house, cat or dog than you.
  • You would have no concept of what Bob Dylan meant when he sang about “a rolling stone”:

              How does it feel

                           To be without a home

                           Like a complete unknown

                          Like a rolling stone?

All of the problems associated with right brain damage are related to the ability to relate one thing to another. The right brain enables us to make connections and synthesize which are essential acts in learning and innovation.

Without well-crafted right-mode learning strategies, learners have difficulty integrating learning into their lives. The 4MAT instructional model intentionally creates balance by moving the learner through a complete learning cycle while integrating both right and left-mode strategies.  We have to constantly ask ourselves, “How balanced are the learning experiences I am creating?”

What do you think gets in the way of effective use of right-mode instructional strategies?

Defining Learning Outcomes to Guide Activity Choice

4MAT Train the TrainerIn our online 4MAT instructional design course, Leading Training Needs Analysis to Define Results-Focused Learning Outcomes Online Course, we explore how to define measurable outcomes that guide the design process. We focus on four key questions that help shape the outcomes framework which you will use to filter activity and content choices. To ensure performance results, four key outcomes must be achieved: value, knowledge, skill and adaptation.

We work through three critical steps in the outcomes development process:

Step 1: Analyzing the gap in performance.
Step 2: Defining the desired outcomes for the course.
Step 3: Working with Subject-Matter-Experts to define the concept and content of the course.

Let’s take an example of a request for sales training and explore one of the four key outcomes you must define: the Value Outcome. The value outcome statement articulates what value shift must occur in the learner to ensure higher performance. How must the learner think differently in order for them to act differently?

To craft a solid Quadrant 1 outcome (and great training opening), you must get into the mindset of the high performer. How does the high performer think differently than the struggling performer? What do they value differently? An article by titled, What Makes Great Salespeople Tick” by psychoanalyst Rapaille  gives a great example of a fundamental difference between high performing and struggling sales team members. Rapaille shares that great salespeople are “happy losers” that view rejection as a challenge.  Rapaille goes on to explain that our first experiences in selling shape our views. When we sold (or didn’t sell) that first box of Girl Scout cookies, a foundational view of sales was formed.

If we imagine Rapaille as our subject matter expert on the mindset of high performing sales people, we might articulate a Value outcome statement for this course which sounds like:

1. Engage/Value Outcome: Learners will learn to value rejection or negative responses from customers as useful feedback in the sales process.

In the case of dealing with rejection, great salespeople value negative feedback. A high performing salesperson sees the negative response as a valuable clue that redirects their sales approach. To create this mindset in low performers, requires a reframe of their existing beliefs that are a direct result of their previous experiences.

In our 4MAT train the trainer courses, we explore the four roles that trainers play when delivering a 4MAT-based design. In this step,  the trainer plays the role of “Facilitator” and uses reflection and dialogue to connect the learners to what they already know about the content and establish personal relevance. Here the trainer introduces the big idea, or concept, that subject matter experts appreciate which leads to learner engagement around the topic being learned. The outcome statement will serve as a guide to define the focus of the content and concept for the course. When choosing the opening activity,  think about how you can tap into the learner’s previous experiences of learning from rejection.

For example, in the sales course mentioned earlier, you might design the following opening:

4MAT Step 1: Connect
Reflect on early experiences in “selling” something. Can you recall being faced with your first rejection? Describe the experience. How did you feel? What was the impact of that experience? What did you learn from this experience?

Note: In this step in the 4MAT model, the learner is tapping into their experiences which shape their perceptions around the content. The activity choice focuses on personal experiences around rejection which links directly to the desired learning outcome. Skillful facilitation will lead learners to connect their past experiences and current view of selling.

4MAT Step 2: Attend
Share your experiences in your table group. Answer the following questions, as a group:

  • What were the commonalities in your experiences?
  • How did this experience shape your view of “selling”?

Note: In this step in the 4MAT model, the learners compare and contrast their experiences. The learners begin to notice themes and identify how perceptions shape their behaviors. Energy is building around the topic.

4MAT Step 3: Image
Using the materials provided by the facilitator, learners are asked to visually illustrate how positive and negative feedback from a potential “buyer” impacts your sales approach.

Note: Here the learner begins to see how their perceptions (which are shaped by past experience) influence their results. Imagine a learner sharing a visual with “positive=negative” written across the paper chart sharing, “Positive and negative cues from a buyer give me equal value. Each points me in the right direction.

There are an infinite number of activities to choose from when designing. When you couple this with the unlimited amount of content you can include, effective instructional design choices can become difficult. Well-defined outcome statements make the process of filtering content and measuring impact much simpler.

4MAT Train the Trainer: Simulation in Live Courses or The Great Marshmallow Experiment

We learn from experience. When faced with something new, we ask ourselves “How does this connect with what I already know?” The 4MAT model of instruction, which we share in our instructional design courses and train-the-trainer courses, guides learners through a complete learning cycle which begins with the learner’s experience.

Simulations are a powerful way to generate a shared experience. There’s a lot of talk about simulations in e-learning environments. In our 4MAT e-learning instructional design courses, we play around with all the different ways we can simulate the personal interaction and reflection that is often missing in e-learning environments.  But, what about simulations in live learning environments? We tend to think that learning simulations require a great deal of time, but that’s not always the case.

Last week, I headed over to the Southwest Learning Summit hosted by ASTD Dallas to lead a train-the-trainer workshop on how to connect performance-based outcomes to activity choice. The rest of the time I had the pleasure of participating in the sessions. Diana Monk of Time Warner Cable, opened her 75-minute session with a fun, impactful simulation that took less than 20 minutes.  Yes, this was 20 minutes of a 75 minute presentation-sounds like a lot. However, I can tell you it was the most engaging and memorable part of the entire day. (And, our team took home the $10 Target gift card prize-gotta love that).

The winning marshmallow structure

Here’s how she did it:

Time needed: 20 minutes

What you will need:

Paper bags (1 per group of 5 attendees)

10 sticks of dried spaghetti (in bag)

12″ length of string (in bag)

1 Marshmallow (in bag)

2″ strip of masking tape



1-Teams of 5 are formed.

2-Each team is instructed to build a structure that will support the marshmallow without piercing, cutting or otherwise mutilating it. The goal is for the marshmallow to be positioned at the highest point possible from the base.  The structure must be stand-alone. It cannot lean on or be supported by anything else, including the people creating it.

3-Teams are given 12 minutes from “Go” to grab their bag of materials and create their structure.

4-Midway through the 12 minutes, the facilitator “remembers” that she forgot to tell us the following: “I forgot to tell you that the winning team members will each receive a Target gift card.”

5-At the 12-minute mark, everyone must remove their hands from their structure. The winning team is determined by the height of the marshmallow from the base.

What could you do with a simulated experience like this? Where might you take the debrief? How could you connect this to content you will be sharing.





Improv Activities to Use in 4MAT Instructional Design (and Delivery)

4MAT Improv ActivitiesThe 4MAT instructional design model guides the learner through an experiential learning process which begins with concrete experience. In our 4MAT train the trainer and instructional design courses, we find it is easy for trainers to get stuck in a rut of over-using reflective training openings that sound like, “Reflect on a time when…”

At ASTD ICE 2011  in Orlando, I experienced a session being led by the Second City improv troupe focused on how to use improvisational techniques in training design and delivery. Improv is a great way to create shared concrete experience through simulations. Here are some examples shared:

Improv #1: Celebrating Contribution

A learner, “Bob”, is invited to come to the front of the room. The facilitator introduces Bob and sets up the improv by sharing that he will be asking Bob a series of questions. The facilitator explains that the audience’s job is to demonstrate loud, enthusiastic applause to anything and everything that Bob shares. The interaction sounds like:

Facilitator: What is your name?

Bob:  Bob

Audience: Wild applause

Facilitator: Why did you choose this session?

Bob: It was closest to the Starbucks.

Audience: Wilder applause

Facilitator: What do you hope to learn from this conference?

Bob: How to make my boss think I am a training rock star.

Audience:  Applause reaches decibel level equivalent to a rock concert and someone pulls out a lighter

Imagine you demonstrated this in the front of the room with “Bob” and then invited table groups to mirror the same process. How might you connect a simulation like this to training content? In a workshop with content focused on thinking diversity in project planning, innovation or meetings, debrief of this experience might include questions such as:

“How did it feel to have this kind of response to every thought you contributed?”

“Are you typically wildly enthusiastic about every thought shared by your colleagues? Are there people in your life that you tend to “celebrate” by eagerly waiting for their every thought?  Are there people who invite the opposite response? Why?”

“What are some typical, less-than-enthusiastic thoughts that occur in the minds of meeting participants  (or your mind) in response to comments made by others? What would it take to create a more receptive climate?”

Improv #2: Listening with the Intent to Understand

Round 1: Partner One is tasked with talking about any topic. Partner Two is tasked with listening and periodically interrupting by sharing some reference to themselves and then apologizing for interrupting. This might sound like:

Partner One:  I am really busy remodeling my house which is….

Partner Two: Oh, I have remodeled a Victorian house. What a project!  I’m sorry, please continue…

Partner One: That’s ok. I just went to the paint store to choose the colors for our front porch…

Partner Two: Really-I have a front porch on our lake cabin. I go fishing there almost every weekend. I’m sorry, please continue…

This continues for 3 minutes or so and then the partners switch roles. The facilitator invites reactions to the exercise with questions like:

“Was it difficult to be the interrupter? How did it feel?”

“What was your reaction to being interrupted?”

“What was going on in your head when you were tasked with being the “Interrupter”?”

Round 2: Partner One is tasked with sharing a statement. Partner Two must begin a reply statement by using the last word of the statement previously shared by Partner One. This might sound like:

Partner One: I am remodeling my home.

Partner Two: Home is truly where the heart is.

Partner One: Is this your first conference?

Partner Two:  “Conference” is not the word I would use to adequately describe this event.

The facilitator debriefs the exercise by asking questions such as:

“How did you feel during this exercise?”

“Where was your attention when you were listening to your partner?”

“Was your listening more active when you were “interrupting” or linking to the last word shared by your partner? Why?”

“Compare this experience to the previous exercise. Discuss with your partner the differences in the two approaches to listening. (Reflection time) What did you notice?”

Imagine this improv activity being used to simulate the distinction between listening with attention on “self” and listening with attention on “other”.  After the improv, learners could be moved  into  personal reflection with an invitation to “Reflect on an experience when you felt truly “heard”. What created that feeling? Share the experience with a partner.”

Have you used improv in training? What ideas are sparked by this approach?

PS-When is showed the image to wandering folks in our office, only half guessed that the image represents “Think on your feet=improv”.

Working with Subject-Matter-Experts to Define Learning Outcomes

Our team had the opportunity to work with the Aveda training team to design a curriculum to be used globally to train hairdressers in haircutting. To define the learning outcomes for this project, we interviewed stakeholders including customers, trainers and master hairdressers to define the four learning outcomes that would guide the instructional design process.

An interesting insight on how master hairdressers view the concept of hair design came out of the performance analysis process. Using the 4MAT performance model we share in our Leading Training Needs Analysis to Define Results: Focused Learning Outcomes Online Course, we began to unearth some of the surprising ways that hairdressers view their work. In response to one of the questions, one hairdresser described the process of cutting hair as being similar to carving a sculpture. He went on to compare haircutting to the process of sculpting a large slab of granite into a statue. He shared that when the sculptor approaches the granite, he has to see what needs to be removed to get to the desired result.

Haircutting is similar to the process of sculpting  in that the hairdresser must see the “weight” that needs to be removed tocreate the desired result in the client’s hair.

To help a novice gain competency, trainers must create an opportunity for them to “see” what the competent already see. By asking the right questions of a subject matter expert, an instructional designer can uncover the important concepts that must be conveyed in the training delivery.  The right questions led to the discovery of a powerful concept , “weight distribution”, which  became one of the core concepts shared to help novice hairdressers begin to see what master hairdressers already see.

Training design is focused on improving the skills and competency of a learner.  Observing and questioning masters, or subject-matter-experts, will help you identify what to include in your training design. Subject-matter-experts can help you identify what concepts must be valued, what content must be included, what skills must be practiced and what follow-up and support must be offered.

4MAT Train the Trainer: How to Reach Every Learning Style

In our 4MAT Train the Trainer workshops, the question is often raised of whether we should simply match the training style of the trainer to the learning style of the learners in every class. Imagine training breakout sessions formed with an invitation that sounds like, “If you are a Type Three learner, please report to Doug’s session which will focus on how you will actually apply this information with minimal dialogue and interaction. If you are a Type One learner, go to Susan’s session where we will explore personal stories related to the content and spend a good portion of our time in partner exercises. ”  While this seems like an efficient solution that would allow both trainers and learners to operate from their learning style preferences, there are two reasons that this does not work:

1-Every learner, regardless of learning style, moves through a four-step cycle when learning new information. To learn something, we must move through the complete learning cycle that engages us at a personal level, shares the necessary information, allows for practice and equips us to assess and adapt the information in the real world.

2-Our research confirms that organizations, as a whole, represent a composite of learning styles. In other words, when you look at the whole of an organization, you will find a balanced mix of  learning style preferences and hemispheric mode preferences (right- and left-brain) . Equally, if not more importantly, you will also find a balanced distribution of least preferred learning style preferences.

These two factors are critical to consider when designing learning experiences. To effectively reach every learning style, we must design with intention.

In any well-designed training program, there should be a finite number of learning outcomes with supporting learning content that delivers on each outcome.  To reach every learning style, the outcomes must be directly linked to activity choice. The activities should be chosen to allow the learners to process the necessary learning topics in multiple ways that appeal to different learning styles.  

If you were delivering a course to leaders and managers on how to effectively address performance issues, how might you vary the activities so that they appeal to all learning styles while also reinforcing the desired learning outcome? Below are some examples of training activities that appeal to all learning styles that collectively address the desired outcome of equipping managers to lead performance conversations. The number indicates the 4MAT learning style that would most prefer this type of activity.

Personal Reflections-Participants are asked to individually reflect on a recent performance issue they have dealt  with then share their stories with a partner(1)

Group Exercise-Participants collectively define what works and doesn’t work in performance conversations, based on their previous experiences (1)

Advance Organizers-A visual organizer of the content to be covered is sent out, prior to the session, which illustrates how the content and topics to be covered fit together (2)

Video of Effective and Ineffective Performance conversations-Participants view demonstrations of real-world conversations (2)

Scripting Your Conversation-Participants take a real-world conversation they need to have and develop a script, using the model shared by the trainer (3)

Practice Conversations-Participants apply the model shared by the trainer to lead a converstion using real-world scenarios (3)

Self-Assessment of Practice- Participants assess the effectiveness of their role-play using criteria provided and adapt, as needed.

Follow-Up Plan-Participants develop a 30-day plan for application (4)

Notice how each activity reinforces the desired outcome. The key to reaching every learning style lies in intentionally choosing activities and placing them in the right sequence to move learners through the complete learning cycle.

If you haven’t experienced 4MAT, you may enjoy one of our free train the trainer web classes which explain the 4MAT 8 Steps of Design.

4MAT at ASTD Techknowledge: Cool e-learning tools

While many of our 4MAT friends were experiencing a storm of “historic” proportions, some of us were lucky enough to head to San Jose for the ASTD Techknowledge 2011 conference. Techknowledge is ASTD’s elearning-focused train the trainer event. On Tuesday, I led a session on designing outcome-based 4MAT elearning training designs and had a chance to connect with a great group of instructional designers, training managers and corporate university directors.

As part of the session, participants shared tools and resources being used to create elearning. Here are some highlights from the sharing session:

How to create screencasts the easy way: The 4MAT team frequently uses Screenr-it’s a no-brainer for quick screen capture. Screenr allows you to record screen movement and sync automatically audio. Great for quick, how-to videos or short web demos.

How to create avatar dialogue in minutes: One of our workshop participants, Carl, shared that he recently created a movie using Xtranormal allows you to convert text into dialogue using pre-designed avatars and settings.  I created this  using Xtranormal in 10 minutes, using the free version of the tool:

How to stay up-to-date on rapid elearning design tools: Subscribe to the Rapid E-learning blog by Tom Kuhlmann. We love Tom-he will be joining us on our 4MATion web education calendar delivering examples of how to use Articulate to design powerful 4MAT opening activitities. Here’s a recent post by Tom with 75 Free Rapid Elearning Tools

For more elearning tools, you can visit our post from our visit to the Elearning Guild’s DevLearn.