4 Great Ways to Engage Your Learners

4 Great Ways to Engage Your Learners

The first part of the 4MAT cycle is all about engaging the learner, so how you begin your workshop or unit of work is critical for providing the foundation, not only for the rest of the session, but also possibly for the next 3 months of content delivery.  Not only is it about getting your learners interested in what might be coming next – it is also about drawing out what the learner already knows about the content (through the lens of the concept). When you do this you light up the neurology so the brain knows how the new information you are going to teach (when you get to that part of the cycle) fits with what is already known.

What does a great start to a learning experience look like? First, let’s look at what it is happening in this vital step of the training experience:

Part of the 4MAT Cycle 

  Connect: The question is “Why?”


  Learners connect personally to the content being delivered.

  Learning Climate 

  Easy, open and inviting; focused on listening.

  Learning Method 

  Dialogue, discussion and reflection.

  You Know it’s Effective When

  Learners are sharing personal and meaningful insights related to the   content. The learners are engaged and ready to learn.

  Trainer’s Role 


Source:  McCarthy and O’Neill-Blackwell, Hold On, You Lost Me! Use Learning Styles to Create Training that Sticks, ASTD Press, p 25.

So how do we, as teachers and trainers, create the desired climate? What kind of activities should we use to generate insights and create meaningful dialogue? Here are 4 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. Personal Experience

    Ask participants to recall a time in their lives when they experienced the concept for themselves. Get them to focus on aspects of the experience that you know will be vital threads for your content.  It can be particularly engaging to get them to think about a time when they experienced the concept in a negative way eg. Instead of asking them to think of a time when they experienced great customer service, get them to think about a time when they experienced poor customer service.  Then get them to focus on why the service was poor.

  3. Scenarios

    Generate a number of scenarios that demonstrate the concept and come from real world examples to start learners discovering their own stories.

  4. Create an experience

    If you are not certain that all your learners have a personal experience that relates to the concept create a game or activity that will!

Whatever you do it should be interactive, provoke discussion and relate to the lives of the learners in a meaningful way, it has to contain something that is familiar to them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *