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:

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 valuable modes.

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.

The complete 4MAT System Model

See also Tactile/Kinesthetic Learning.

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