Monthly Archives: June 2010

4MAT Train the Trainer: 6 Interactive Training Activities for Engage

What does a great opener to a learning experience look like? The 4MAT design model defines four critical parts of the learning cycle:  Engage, Share, Practice and Perform. What does success look like in Engage? First, let’s look at what it is happening in this critical step of the training experience:

Part of the 4MAT Cycle Goal Learning Climate Learning Method You know  it’s effective when: Trainer’s Role
EngageThe question is “Why?” Learners connect personally to the content being delivered. Easy, open and inviting; focused on listening Dialogue, discussion and reflection Learners are sharing personal and meaningful insights related to the content. The learners are engaged and ready to learn. Facilitator

Source:  McCarthy and O’Neill-Blackwell, Hold On, You Lost Me! Use Learning Styles to Create Training that Sticks, ASTD Press, p 25.

How do we, as trainers, create the desired climate? What kind of activities should we use to generate insights and create meaningful dialogue. Here are 6 activities that work with any content.

1.       Expectations (or Big Questions) Exercise

Ask learners to reflect on their expectations for the course. In small groups, have teams share their expectations. Prepare  a large flip chart on a visible wall. Record all responses. Link responses to the agenda for the day.

2.       Expectations Exercise (Elearning)

You can lead an expectations exercise in an online course. Using a whiteboard with a numbered grid, assign participants to write expectations in an assigned grid section.

3.       Timelines

Using a visual timeline, learners plot experiences that have shaped their perception or current understanding of the content being shared.

“Think about the people, events and experiences that have shaped your definition of effective leadership. On the timeline, make note of these events and be prepared to share in your table group.”

 4.       The One Thing

Show “The One Thing” clip from the movie, City Slickers. Encourage participants to reflect on:
-The one thing which, if accomplished, would generate the biggest results.

-The one thing we should be talking about today.

-The one question which,  if answered, would make the biggest impact.

5.       Partner Interviews (Elearning)

In the chat, participants interview an assigned partner with the task of discovering key areas of interests and past experiences around this topic. On the whiteboard, partners write down what they discovered about their partner’s interests in the course topic. 

6.         Visual Metaphors Ask the participants to create a visual metaphor which relates to the concept using an item in the room. For example, if you are teaching a course on leadership development, you might choose the concept of “empowerment”. Learners will reflect on “empowerment” and pick an item in the room that illustrates the concept of “empowerment” to them. A learner might choose a light bulb in the room (“illuminating the way”) or a cup of coffee (“energizing others”) to share their understanding of the concept.

You can download the facilitator guide here:   

4MAT Interactive Lecture: Teach like Socrates

In the 4MAT learning model, the trainer designs a learning experience that taps into what the learner already knows about the subject. Thousands of years ago, Socrates was putting 4MAT into action. Socrates believed that every learner brought knowledge into the learning experience. And, it was the teacher’s responsibility to bring forth that knowledge.

Here’s a training activity idea to put the Socratic teaching method into action. You might try this to liven up Inform, the lecture portion of the 4MAT training design model:

Socratic Circles

Socratic circles can be used with any subject matter. Typically, learners first read information with an eye toward critically analyzing the content. Then, learners form into two concentric circles. First, the inner circle explores and discusses the text while the outer circle makes notes and later comments on the quality of the dialogue. Next, the two circles switch places and roles. The process is repeated, based on the dialogue of the second group. Each group is quiet while the other group shares.

Socratic circles are effective in developing the critical thinking skills of the group. Through this process, the learners develop shared meaning around the content being presented.


1.  Facilitator shares reading assignment (typically, prior to the session).

2. Learners analyze and take notes to prepare for dialogue.

3. Learners form two, concentric circles.

4. The inner circle shares their comments and observations for 10-15 minutes,  while the outer circle silently observes.

5. The outer circle listens and evaluates the inner circle’s dialogue.

6. The outer circle provides feedback on the dialogue, emphasizing what they observed.

7. Learners switch circles and roles.

8. The new inner circle shares their comments and dialogues for approximately 10-15 minutes.

9. The new outer circle shares their observations on the inner circle’s dialogue.

4MAT Train-the-Trainer: How Learning Happens

A learner’s preferences indicate where the learner lingers in the learning cycle. Regardless of learning style, every learner moves through all four stages of the 4MAT learning cycle. In The Art of Changing the Brain, Dr. James Zull shares that there are four stages of the Learning Cycle:

  Neuro-speak Translation
1 We have a concrete experience. Something happens
2 We engage in reflective observation and create new connections. We watch and reflect.
3 We generate abstract hypotheses. We think about it.
4 We do active testing of hypotheses, have a new concrete experience and a new learning cycle ensues. We move into action, something happens and the cycle begins again

 4MAT Training model

4MAT and learning styles

When we follow the 4MAT Learning model to design and deliver, we craft experiences that mirror the natural learning cycle.

10 Powerpoint Tips for 4MAT Training Design

The use of images is an integral part of the 4MAT training design process. We are constantly on the hunt for new ways to maximize the impact of the visual training tools we have at our disposal as trainers. In our 4MAt train-the-trainer workshops, powerpoint is often declared to be one of the most “painful” learning strategies.

Powerpoints should serve to punctuate knowledge sharing through high-impact visuals. We frequently look to graphic design and visual media artists for inspiration. Garr Reynolds is one of our visual design heroes. Check out his Top 10 tips for Powerpoint design.

Training Assessment: 3 “On-the-Way” Tools

Last week, I joined the ASTD Baton Rouge chapter to share a quick icebreaker on  4MAT Learning Styles in their “Show Not Tell” conference. Fellow speaker, Kent Blumberg, showed us how to assess the learning transfer before the learning is complete. This is referred to as “formative” assessment. In our 4MAT Train the Trainer programs, we call this “On the Way” assessment. On-the-way assessment is in-the-moment and provides the trainer with an opportunity to adjust, as needed.  Here are four easy-to-use  ideas shared by Kent:

One Minute Paper

Provide participants with an index card. In one minute, answer the following two questions related to the content shared:

“What’s the most important idea shared?”

“What questions do you still have?”

The feedback shared allows the trainer to assess if the big ideas are clear. The questions shared can be divided into two categories: “moving forward” or “moving backwards”. Moving forward questions indicate that the learner is thinking about what’s coming next in the learning process. For example, “How can I apply this to….” is a moving forward question and a good sign that the learning is on track. Moving backwards questions indicate that the learner needs to revisit content previously shared. For example, “Can you explain what you mean by ….?” is a moving backward question that indicates content needs to be revisited.

Application Cards

Provide participants with an index card. Encourage participants to write down two ideas for implementation of the content shared. Ask participants to partner up and share their application ideas.


At the end of a  learning module within a larger course offering, you can use RSQC2*. Encourage participants to complete the following reflections:

Recall:  Brainstorm key words or phrases of what you recall from this course. Choose three to five main points,

Summarize:  Using as many of these 3-5 points, write a summary sentence that describes the essence of what you learned.

Question:  Jot down one or two questions that remain unanswered, at this point.

Connect:   Explain in one or two sentences the connections between the main points today and the overall objectives of the course.

Comment:  What I enjoyed most (or least) about this session was….

Please share strategies you use to assess learning “on-the-way” in the comments below.

*Kent Blumberg shared the following source for this exercise:

Angelo, T.A & Cross, K.P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques. (2nd ed., pp. 344-348). San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.