Tag Archives: Jeanine O’Neill-Blackwell

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.

Frequently Asked Rapid E-learning Questions

Last week, I attended several train-the-trainer sessions at ASTD ICE 10. One session allowed time for  participants to share best practices on elearning training design. One of our 4MAT design team’s favorite elearning resources is the Rapid Elearning Blog by Tom Kuhlmann of Articulate. I was surprised to find that many training designers in my best practice sharing group had not heard about Tom’s blog. If you are dipping your toe into elearning or deeply immersed, you will find value in the tactical tips that Tom shares.  Here is a recent post on “Frequently Asked Rapid E-learning Questions”:


Tom has graciously agreed to conduct a free web session for the 4MAT Community. Stay tuned for announcements on dates through our eletter , Twitter or Facebook.

Increase Interactivity in Training Using Text Polling

This week, I headed to Chicago to share the 4MAT approach to integrating needs analysis with training design at the ASTD International Conference and Expo. The rest of the time, I had the chance to attend some great train the trainer sessions. Mike Fredericks of Farmers Insurance Company led a session titled Fast and Furious: Creatively Building High-Impact Training. Mike had some great ideas to share on increasing interactivity in training delivery. Mike opened the session by introducing us to the Poll Everywhere tool (www.polleverywhere.com). Before a training session, you can load up polling questions on the site. Participants can answer poll questions by texting responses with their cell phones. In Mike’s session, the entire audience was participating in text-based polling in minutes. Lots of fun!

live audience polling image

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.

Training Activity: Story in 6 Words or Less?

Can you tell a story in 6 words or less? Hmmm….let’s try:

She just left…I am exhausted.
Thank God, good things still happen.
We came. We conquered. We celebrated.
Hot fudge sundae. I am stuffed.
We kissed. She melted. Mop please!*
Find satisfaction for now, regret tomorrow.*

The challenge to tell a story in 6 words or less was posted on the ASTD National page on LinkedIN. What an interesting idea to paint a picture in a few words–leaving much to the imagination. As I read through the discussion posts, I wondered how we might incorporate this challenge into a training design:

4MAT Connect Activity (Step 1 of a 4MAT Training Design): Encourage the learners to reflect on their experiences around the training concept. Have them write a story about their experience in 6 words or less. Imagine learners reflecting on their experiences of “great mentor relationships” or difficulty in “resolving conflicts” or “being part of a powerful team”. What stories might they share in 6 words or less? What powerful dialogue might emerge as the learners explored their 6 Word Stories further?

Who are YOU? In 6 words or less, can you tell your story?

How else might we use a “6 Words or Less” Story Exercise?

*Posted comments on ASTD LinkedIn page

Inc. Magazine and the Concept of Selling

If you were tasked with designing a high-impact sales training, where would you start? The 4MAT design model leads us into analyzing and defining four distinct outcomes for the learner:

Quadrant 1-What value shift must occur in the learner? How must they think about this differently?

Quadrant 2-What knowledge must the learner have?

Quadrant 3-What skills must the learner possess?

Quadrant 4-What adaptations will the learner need to make to ensure transfer in the real world?

To get started with that training program, you may want to check out this month’s Inc magazine which gives us a glimpse into the inner psyche of the super salesperson. 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?

In the article titled, What Makes Great Salespeople Tick psychoanalyst Rapaille shares that great salespeople are “happy losers”. Rapaille shares that “Happy losers are people who see 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.

What if you designed that sales training with the concept of “happy loser”. It might look like this:

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 expereince?

Here the learner is tapping into their experiences which shape their perceptions around the content.

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”?

Here 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 your facilitator, create a visual which illustrates how positive and negative  feedback from a potential “buyer” impacts your sales approach.

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.”

Notice how the concept of “happy loser” (or, if you must be traditional “embracing negativity”) links to the image of finding value in positive and negative cues. The rest of the design could flow easily from this beginning.

What concepts have you used in sales training that worked well?