Monthly Archives: February 2009

How do you apply 4MAT to Computer Based Training?

We’ve seen great examples of 4MAT applied to synchronous and asynchronous learning by our clients. The major challenge in CBT is simulating the social interaction that is often missing in these programs. In synchronous, there are many features in most platforms ie webex that allow you to create this. I recently attended a sychronous course in which the facilitator asked us to draw an image that represented the concept of “process” to us. She then showed several line drawings on the screen, each labeled with a number. We were then polled to determine which drawing on the screen was closest to the image we drew. This was a clever way of having 1000+ people participate in an image exercise that explored concept.

In asynchronous, think about how you integrate stories, images and simulated dialogue to create the social experience. 

Underneath the content you are teaching is a core concept that is the key to understanding and applying the information learned. For example, what is the concept underlying division? If you were a third grade teacher, you might reply “sharing”. Think about how you animate the concept, before moving into the content. Identifying and animating the concept is the key to building brain-based online learning.

Some examples of content and possible concepts:

Content-“stuff” we have to teach                            Concept-the bigger idea

Leadership                                                    synergy, accountability, empowerment

Conflict Resolution                                       win-win, alignment

How to Cut Hair                                            weight distribution

Effective Presentation Skills                         energy, connection, authenticity 


The key to creating connection in computer-based instruction is animating the concept. Think about how you can pull from the learner their story, their experiences around the concept being explored. I recall seeing a great example of this in an asynchronous program. The content was emergency procedures. In each department of this company, one individual was responsible for the emergency procedure manual.  The desired outcome was to have the learner thoroughly review the emergency procedures manual for their department. The concept chosen was “preparedness”. The designer created a scenario with the learner viewing a typical employee receiving a panicked phone call that water was leaking from the roof. The employee portrayed on screen could not locate their emergency procedure manual. Phone calls escalated and the general panic really came through in the module.

This could even go deeper by having the learner thing about things they do on a daily basis that enhance their safety and well-being—wearing a seatbelt, taking a multivitamin. In an asynchronous environment, we must encourage the  the learner to imagine themselves in an experience. This draws out the connection to the content.

Does anyone have some great examples of ways to connect learners in CBT? We would love to hear what’s working out there.

Great Questions for Facilitating Training

Crafting powerful questions is an art. Powerful questions provoke. They provoke emotion, they provoke controversy and they provoke learning. Webster tells us that the root of “provoke” helps us understand the word’s essential meaning as “to call forth”. What are you calling forth with the questions you are crafting?

Powerful questions are

Open-ended-they leave space for the learner to fill in the blanks

Ambiguous-there is no right answer, no leading of the learner to some preconceived idea

Personal-linking the learner to their mental maps around the content

Tension-creating-causing the learner to recognize some gap, some opportunity that needs exploring, pushing the learner into discovery.

A less-than-powerful question skips reflection and moves into action:  “How do we improve results?”

A powerful question leads the learner to reflect and dig deeper: “What is an “unspoken” truth, that if explored might lead us to improving results?”

Think about where the learner must go in each part of the learning process. Craft questions to lead the learner there.

Defining Learner Outcomes: Customer Satisfaction Through Training


In 2008, I had the opportunity to work closely with American Family insurance’s Design and Delivery teams. They were focused on a complete redesign of their New Agent Training Program, which was just featured in Chief Learning Officer magazine. Kudos, Amfam!

4MAT was chosen as the instructional design platform and served as the common language between design and delivery.  The project was ambitious—delivering a massive amount of content and a high level of practical skill with high return on investment.

For those of you that are familiar with the 4Mat model, it is easy to see how the four parts of the Learning Cycle can serve as a guide in defining learner outcomes.

1- Engage: What  shift has to occur in the learner to ensure transfer? What has to be appreciated? Valued? Perceived as meaningful?

2-Share: What knowledge is needed to serve as a foundation for transfer? What content must be understood?

3-Practice: What skills are needed? What will the learner need to know how to do? What behaviors must be demonstrated?

4-What adaptation is needed? If the learner is going to use this content in the real world, what refinement must be encouraged to link knowledge to real-world results? What will transfer look like in the real world?

Defining strong outcomes begins with looking at high performers that demonstrate the desired behavior. In the example of American Family’s New Agent Training Program, what do successful agents do differently than less-successful agents? Oftentimes, we find the behaviors are different and the conceptual approach to the work is entirely different. In this month’s Chief Learning Officer magazine, Betty Berquist, VP of Education at American Family shared:

“Our division did a lot of research on what behaviors were important for agents to know when they started in their agencies. We built the training curriculum around those key behaviors, and we used the principles of human performance improvement, performance-based learning and 4MAT to develop a strong curriculum.

The 4MAT model is a means of designing and delivering curriculum that engages multiple learning styles. Instead of new agents attending class, receiving handout materials and being lectured on the subject matter, the new process engages them in interactive and hands-on learning, an approach that Bergquist said better prepares them to hit the ground running.”

See the complete article:

Accountability and Commitment in Learning

” …people will be accountable and committed to what they have a hand in creating. This insight extends to the belief that whatever the worlds demands of us, the people most involved have the collective wisdom to meet the requirements of that demand.”

-Peter Block, Community: The Structure of Belonging

There is a false belief that the trainer must embody the wisdom needed to meet the demand of learning transfer. Not true. The collective wisdom is held within the group of “learners”.  To access that wisdom, the learners must become the “most involved” members of the learning process.

Free Content: Wiimote Whiteboard

In 2007, Johnny Chung Lee began working with Nintendo’s Wii system’s Wiimote. He discovered that the $40 wiimote could be used to create low-cost, high tech devices that rivaled much more expensive components. If you have ever lusted after an expensive whiteboarding tool, take a look at what Lee created with his wiimote:


Word on the street is that Lee is working on a low-cost version of the infrared pen.  Has anyone created one of these?

Engaging Learners: Community in Learning

Reading Community:  The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block.  Block shares:

“If we have any desire to create an alternative future, it is only going to happen through a shift in language. If we want a change in culture, for example, the work is to change the conversation–or, more precisely, to have a conversation that we have not had before, one that has the power to create something new in the world. This insight forces us to question the value of our stories, the positions we take, our love of the past, and our way of being in the world.”

To create learner engagement, we must  tap in to the conversation the learner is having with themselves about the content to be learned. Next, we move the conversation from an internal one the learner has with themselves to an external dialogue they have with others. Well-designed questions lead the learner through this  process.  Without this dialogue at the beginning of the learning experience, it is difficult for true engagement to occur. Think about:

-Eliciting learner stories about their own experiences through simulations, journaling, group sharing,  and personal reflection exercises.

-Asking the learner to compare and contrast their story with others’

In a recent 4MAT web class, a designer shared that she had  learners create a timeline of experiences that shaped their definition of effective leadership. The exercise created a rich dialogue focused on great and not-so-great leadership moments. By comparing and contrasting the stories, the group began to create a collective definition of powerful leadership. Community emerged and engagement was immediate.

Here we go…

Co-author, Hold On, You Lost Me! Use Learning Styles to Create Training that Sticks

Co-author, Hold On, You Lost Me! Use Learning Styles to Create Training that Sticks


I frequently have the opportunity to connect with learning professionals in our 4MAT live and web workshops and the consulting work we do.  The conversation begins with the application of 4MAT, a model for understanding different learning styles.  Inevitably, the dialogue  centers around  questions on how best to apply brain-based design to real-world leadership and learning issues. As learning gurus, the questions that we collectively seem to be most interested in:

How do we engage learners in the content we are sharing?

What are the best practices in training design and delivery that we can learn from?

What’s the best examples of elearning that truly addresses the way the brain learns?

Where can I find examples of powerful activities that engage different learning styles?

Any new, interesting technologies out there that can make design simpler and delivery more engaging?

The intent of this blog is to ponder these questions and create a forum to share the answers we are discovering.  I hope you join the dialogue.