Category Archives: learning styles

Balancing Right and Left Brain Activity Choice in Your 4MAT Design

I recently facilitated our 4MAT Advanced Instructional Design Course with the Aveda Global Education Team.  In this experience the group discovered their 4MAT learning style results and then overlaid this with their 4MAT Hemispheric Mode Indicator results. As we explored how their natural learning preferences influenced design and delivery approach, the group began to explore creative ways to increase retention of information by engaging the right brain. The learners were assigned to groups to reprocess the brain research shared on the impact on learning of right- and left-mode strategies. One particularly creative group came up with an interesting exercise to explore the differences between right- and left-mode processing.

Here’s the directions for the activity they designed:

  1. Draw two charts each titled with “How does this make you feel?” On one chart, draw a series of interconnecting squares. On the other chart, draw a collection of interconnecting spirals.
  2. Divide participants into two groups and assign each group a chart. Ask each group to answer the question, “How does this make you feel?”  Invite each team to write their answers on the chart.
  3. Have the two groups switch charts. Repeat the process.
  4. Debrief the exercise by sharing the insights written on each chart.

4MAT Learning Styles4MAT Instructional Design
One of the things I found interesting about this exercise is how the learners described the differences in how the two images made them feel. Some of the words used to describe the differences included:

  Boxes: Linear Image   Swirls: Abstract image
  • “Retrotastic”
  • Organized
  • Secure
  • Motivated
  • Structured
  • Deliberate
  • Softness
  • Free
  • Relaxed
  • Warm
  • Comforted
  • Inspire

 

As we stood in front of the two images, the entire group began to ponder how balanced their individual approach is to utilizing right- and left-mode strategies.  The consensus was that a balance of both right- and left creates the greatest learning impact and that the group collectively tends to lean heavily on left-mode processing.

When the group facilitating the exercise asked the question, “What do we miss when we underutilize right-brain learning strategies?,” the answers shared brilliantly summed up the power of right brain strategies:

  • The impact of seeing the bigger picture.
  • The ability to visualize how it all fits together.
  • The potential power of the mental image created when we use stories, metaphors and visual tools.
  • The impact of feeling.
  • Full engagement.

How the 4MAT Model Improves Performance

As a result of some interesting dialogue in one of our 4MAT train the trainer courses, Karen Hann, Senior Education Manager, and Denise Johnson, Performance Improvement Consultant, of Tupperware came up with a visual concept of how the 4MAT model improves performance internally and externally in an organization.

Since the 4MAT model was developed in 1979 by Dr. Bernice McCarthy, over 1 million people have discovered their learning style strengths using the 4MAT® Learning Type Measure. This is one of the most common ways that individuals are introduced to the 4MAT model-by identifying their individual learning style strengths. In the illustration below, you will see that this increased self-awareness is the launch pad for a common language that can be used  to improve teaming, communication, engagement, training, execution, leadership and coaching.

  • 4MAT creates a foundation for leadership and coaching skill development—4MAT is a simple framework for leading, managing, coaching and performance improvement.
  • 4MAT provides a model for execution—The 4MAT four-step model is a framework for getting things done. Project teams can utilize this framework to build a plan and identify potential barriers for successful execution.
  • 4MAT dramatically improves the impact of training—4MAT dramatically increases the measurable impact of instructional design and delivery by organizing the essential content around four critical learning outcomes that deliver on expected training ROI.
  • 4MAT provides a framework for engaging others—The 4-step model directly applies to planning meetings, sales presentations, coaching and marketing.
  • 4MAT builds complementary teams—Team members and leaders can use the awareness of individual strengths to assemble teams with complementary skill sets.
  • 4MAT increases self-awareness—The Learning Type Measure provides individuals with an awareness of their natural learning strengths along with concrete strategies for effectively interacting with learning styles of fellow team members. 

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: Interpreting the Learning Type Measure, Leadership Behavior Inventory and other assessments

The 4MAT model is a framework for understanding how people take in and make meaning of new information. The model can be applied to learning, training design, training delivery, coaching and leading. Most people discover the 4MAT model by taking one of the 4MAT assessment tools.

Each 4MAT assessment tool delivers a top-line, easy-to-digest description of the user’s style strengths. When you look deeper at the assessment profile, you will find that most users have a primary preference for one approach and a secondary preference in another. For example, a leader may have a strong preference for the 4MAT Type Four leadership approach with a secondary preference for the 4MAT Type Three leadership approach.

The primary and secondary approach descriptions combine to give a clearer picture of the individual’s approach. The illustration above shows how the combination of preferences described by the 4MAT Leadership Behavior Inventory illustrates leadership approach. Equally important to preference for a particular approach is the avoidance of another approach. 

To gain the most benefit from the assessment of style strengths, you should pay attention to the degree of focus on all four approaches. The 4MAT assessment tools are designed to foster understanding of personal strengths and deliver strategies for maximizing those strengths. A significant part of the process of maximizing strengths involves addressing potential weak areas to the extent that they may diminish the potential impact and contribution of the individual’s strengths. We refer to this as gaining a “threshold” level of skill.

The corporate 4MAT assessment tools available include the:

Learning Type Measure or LTM assesses preferences in taking in and making meaning of new information. At an individual level, this tool is helpful for understanding how you process information and how to identify your natural thinking strengths. On a team level, this tool enhances communication and productivity.

Hemispheric Mode Indicator or HMI assesses preferences for right-brain or left-brain processing. On an individual level, this is an excellent tool for understanding your preference for the two dimensions of creativity: abstract and concrete. thinking For trainers, this tool enhances awareness of what might be missing in your training design and delivery.  For teams, this tool is excellent for analyzing the creative process within the group and a great kick-off to a creative strategy session.

Leadership Behavior Inventory or LBI assesses preferences in four critical leadership approaches. On an individual level, this tool will help you understand your leadership approach’s strengths and the impact of that approach on all four learning styles present in your team.  At an organizational level, this tool creates awareness of the diversity (or predominance) of the four essential leadership approaches.

Training Style Inventory or TRSI  assesses preferences in four critical training roles: facilitator, presenter, coach and evaluator. At an individual level, this tool will help you understand your natural strengths when training others. It will also illustrate what might be missing in your training design and/or delivery. On a team level, this tool helps identify the composite training strengths of a team offering new possibilities for team teaching and colleague coaching.

How you are using the 4MAT assessment tools? Hiring? Coaching? Teambuilding? Leadership development?

3 Things Every Trainer Needs to Know About Learning Styles


Three Things Every Trainer Should Know About Learning Styles Any trainer who has logged a few hours in front of a classroom or read through the diverse spectrum of responses that show up on a post-training reaction survey recognizes that learning differences are real.  A Google search on “learning styles” recently displayed over 16,500,000 results. Clearly, there are many people out there talking about how to address learning styles. What should a trainer know to address learning differences? There are three things every trainer should know about learning styles:

What is a “learning style”? Learning style refers to personal preference for how you like to take in and process information.  The most recent brain research confirms that when we learn new information, the activity in our brain follows a defined cycle. This path is universal, regardless of learning style.  Your learning style describes the part of the learning process you enjoy most and default to in new learning or problem-solving situations.

 How should I address learning styles? When you first discover that different people have unique preferences, you might think it would be advantageous to group learners by style and teach to their preference. Some learning styles models advocate this.  Brain research shows us that for learning transfer to occur, the learner must move through all four parts of the learning cycle. The 4MAT model provides a framework for addressing the needs of all learning preferences while also ensuring learning transfer.

There is a difference between using “style strategies” and brain-based teaching. In the recently released book Evidence-Based Training Methods: A Guide for Training Professionals by author Ruth Clark, learning styles are referred to as a “myth”.  The idea that we should group learners by style and teach only to their preference is indeed a myth. This book brings forth a healthy distinction in the conversation around learning styles. To engage each learner, we must address their unique needs. To fulfill the learning objective, we must lead the learner through the learning cycle. When you apply the 4MAT model, you accomplish both.