More on Learner Types: 4MAT Model

In my last post, I shared that we need to focus more on cognitive styles of learners rather than their learning preferences. In this post, I further share on learner types categorized in 4Mat model (created by Bernice McCarthy) and how we could apply it in eLearning design. I’ve created a visual summary of 4Mat below.


Learners, in 4Mat model, are categorized into four types. To design a memorable course and achieve learning transfer it is necessary that we allow learners to experience all four of them by creating a learning experience cycle in our course design. Most of us are one or two types of the quadrants, but in order to retain the information and use it in real life in different contexts, we have to experience all four quadrants of 4Mat learner types.

The first step is to create strategies that engage the learner. This is not new to us, but what is essential is to let learners know ‘why’ they should do the course? How does it relate to them, or help them with their work/life. Answering these questions and sharing them with the learner can somewhat help them see the reason for doing the course.
The second step is to think how to share the course content/information with the learner. Whilst we mostly receive the content from a subject-matter expert (SME), we should still decide ‘what’ and how much of information need to be included.
The next part of design considers common-sense learners, in which we design activities that allow them to apply and practice the information and see ‘how’ it works.

In the final step, which I find as an anchor, we cater to dynamic learners. We create activities, discussions, strategies, or assessments that help them ‘perform’ what they’ve learned. This is certainly through using authentic activities and assessments. To me, this is the step I believe I should consider first in my course design. Backward design model emphasizes on this as well.

All and all, as our goal should be learning transfer and creating an experience in which learners can achieve performance outcomes, we must ensure to fully understand their real-world expected skills from our SMEs. If my learners are university students, I ask my SMEs what skills and competencies they need to build in order to land a job and perform well after completion of this course. If they are already employed or I’m designing a training, I ask them what skills learners need to develop in order to improve their performance at workplace, or be promoted.
Well, I must add that 4Mat model is mostly used in face-to-face training. But this can surely be applied in eLearning or blended design as well. After all, how many times haven’t we seen a course with pages of content, some basic activities, and a quiz in the end, but with a bulk of visuals, sounds, and animations?