Learning Styles and the 4MAT System:
A Cycle of Learning
A Living Laboratory: Volcanoes provides, wherever possible,
learning activities and an instructional sequence that accommodate four
major learning styles identified in the literature. The sequence used is
modeled after the 4MAT System developed by Bernice McCarthy, author of
4MAT in Action: Creative Lesson Plans for Teaching to Learning Styles
with Right/Left Mode Techniques.
This cycle of learning is based on a number of premises. First,
different individuals perceive and process experience in different
preferred ways. These preferences comprise our unique learning styles.
Essential to quality learning is an awareness in the learner of his/her
own preferred mode, becoming comfortable with his/her own best ways of
learning, and being helped to develop a learning repertoire, through
experience with alternative modes.
The fact that a student may have a preferred, most-comfortable mode
does not mean she/he cannot function effectively in others. In fact, the
student who has the flexibility to move easily from one mode to another
to fit the requirements of the situation is at a definite advantage over
those who limit themselves to only one style of thinking and learning.
The four learning styles identified by McCarthy are:
Type 1: Innovative Learners are primarily interested in
personal meaning. They need to have reasons for learning--ideally,
reasons that connect new information with personal experience and
establish that information's usefulness in daily life. Some of the many
instructional modes effective with this learner type are cooperative
learning, brainstorming, and integration of content areas (e.g., science
with social studies, writing with the arts, etc.).
Type 2: Analytic Learners are primarily interested in
acquiring facts in order to deepen their understanding of concepts and
processes. They are capable of learning effectively from lectures, and
enjoy independent research, analysis of data, and hearing what "the
experts" have to say.
Type 3: Common Sense Learners are primarily interested in how
things work; they want to "get in and try it." Concrete, experiential
learning activities work best for them--using manipulatives, hands-on
tasks, kinesthetic experience, etc.
Type 4: Dynamic Learners are primarily interested in
self-directed discovery. They rely heavily on their own intuition, and
seek to teach both themselves and others. Any type of independent study
is effective for these learners. They also enjoy simulations, role play,
Traditionally, instructional techniques commonly used in public
schools best address the needs of the Type 2 Analytic Learner, with heavy
emphasis on linear sequential processing of information.
This curriculum is designed so that all styles are addressed, in
order that more than one type of student may be permitted to both "shine"
and "stretch." That is, each lesson contains "something for everybody,"
so each student not only finds the mode of greatest comfort for him/her,
but is challenged to adapt to other, less comfortable but equally
The instructional sequence suggested by Bernice McCarthy and used in
this curriculum teaches to the four styles using both right- and
left-brain processing techniques. This integration of styles and
processing modes ensures that we are educating the "whole brain."
The diagram below illustrates the 4MAT cycle of learning. It
represents graphically the teacher behaviors appropriate to each stage
and style, and provides a framework for planning any lesson or unit, for
any age level or content area.