As a homeschooling parent, you may be looking for ways to make teaching simpler and more effective.

Well, we have a suggestion.

You may be wondering, “With numerous approaches to teaching and learning, why should I learn the 4-Mat approach?”

Well, as you’ll soon see, the 4-Mat teaching style is one that realizes that there are 4 different types of learners, and you can address each learning type in a single lesson.

You’ll be able to design lesson plans that flow organically and seamlessly from one learning style to the next.

At Life Force Canada Education, we currently run a weekly Think Tank, which is basically a Zoom call dedicated to a certain topic.

On the evening of Thursday, January 27th, 2022, our guest was David Andrews, who has 25 years of teaching experience working in Ontario, with various school boards and the Ontario Teachers’ Union. His specialty was in the realm of professional development.

He also worked at Queen’s University at the Faculty of Education. There, he taught curriculum design to technology educators.

What Is This Approach?

Of the 4 education models that David presented that evening, one of them was the 4-Mat model.

Speaking of 4-Mat, David said, “I found it extremely useful. I’ve used it for organizing lessons, I’ve used it for organizing whole courses, I’ve used it for planning conferences and big events, I’ve used this for seminar seminars I’ve done.”

David then told us the basic concept of 4Mat: “The basic concept in 4-Mat is honour the learner. It’s kind of like do no harm, honour the learner.”

In a phone call I had with David, he elaborated on the concept of honour the learner: “It means teach the learner in accordance with how they learn best.”

The Origins of 4-Mat

David went on to explain the story behind the emergence of 4-Mat:

Dr. Bernice McCarthy and her friend Susan Morris…looked at 25 years of literature on learning…to say, ‘What do we know about learning?’”

David later told me that before McCarty and Morris, there was a 25-year collection of research that had been done by 25 other researchers. McCarthy and Morris synthesized the work that those 25 researchers conducted.

“And essentially, what they discovered was that a lot of the researchers were discovering the same things and describing the same phenomena. They were using different descriptors, different language, different charts, different graphs, so they synthesized it all together, and basically, what they came up with is there are four different styles of learners in any given population.”

The 4 Different Learning Styles

The reason why it’s significant to know the four learning styles is because there’s a teaching consideration that applies to each of the four learning styles. Each of these four should be addressed when preparing a teaching session, lesson plan, or curriculum.

NOTE: The phrases learning style and the word type (as in, Type 1, Type 2, etc) are used interchangeably.

There’s a reason why the 4 different styles are presented in this order: why, what, how-to, and what if?

These four are:

Learning Style 1: The One Who Asks, “Why Do We Need to Learn This?”

A person who is a Type 1 learner may be more emotional, sensitive, and intuitive.

A common experience of a Type 1 person is that when they walk into a room, they read the vibes, or sense the collective emotional energy of everyone in the room.

A Type 1 can get a sense of who needs a pat on the back or a hug.

Type 1s may find themselves drawn to working in the caring professions

Learning Style 2: The One Who Asks, “What Do We Need to Know?”

Another way of briefly describing a Type 2 is to say that they’re the I-want-information type.

Type 2 can be a person who likes information. They like to read it for themselves and/or see it for themselves.

A Type 2 can be very concerned about whether there’s a period at the end of a sentence.

Type 2s can be very procedural. They want to see information, and data in the form of facts, figures, and statistics.

Learning Style 3: The One Who Asks, “How to?” The Hands-On Learner

A Type 3 learner may prefer to learn by taking an experiential, kinesthetic, three-dimensional approach. They learn it by doing.

Learning Style 4: The One Who Wonders, “What If…?”

A Type 4 learner is, as David said, “…a little more off the wall, a little more eccentric, a little more on the outer fringes.”

Later, David told me, “They’re always ahead of the pack. They’re amazing synthesizers.”

Type 4 learners like the big picture. They like the relationship between things and the connection between things. They’re infinitely creative and innovative.

How to Structure a Learning Session Using 4-Mat

Before presenting the 4 types, I said that there was a reason why they were presented in the order that they were. That’s because if you’re preparing a learning session (or lesson plan, presentation, etc.) with the 4-Mat approach, you follow this sequence:

  1. Explain the “why” of the session. David helps each student identify their “why” for learning this content.
  2. Fulfill the what. The second step of the learning cycle involves identifying what, exactly, needs to be known.
  3. Illustrate the how-to. This stage is about application–applying the knowledge, usually in a hands-on way.
  4. Don’t forget the what-ifs. They are ready for synthesis: they’re ready to synthesize the new learning with what they already know. At this stage, David likes to put his students together, so they talk about what they just learned and how they’re going to apply it to their own lives.

If you think about this sequence of presenting information, I think you’ll intuitively feel that it makes sense.

Let’s look at this in a bit of detail, using this article as an example.

  1. I opened this article by asking a why-oriented question.
  2. Shortly after, I had a section titled, What Is This Approach?
  3. As for the how-to, well…that’s what this section is: How to Structure a Learning Session Using 4-Mat.
  4. Next comes the what-if.

What if you used this approach to structure your next session, lesson plan, report, or presentation?