About 4MAT

The 4MAT model was originally developed by Bernice McCarthy in 1980. It is based on research from many fields, but mainly is a synthesis of findings from the fields of learning styles, and right and left brain dominance.

It entails the use of right and left-mode strategies within four distinct phases of the learning cycle…..

  1. Experiencing
  2. Conceptualising
  3. Applying
  4. Refining

As an instructional design tool, 4MAT gives teachers and trainers a systematic way to train all learners to think and learn well.

As a professional development tool, it provides a framework for assessing the quality of any learning experience.

As an organisational model, it offers a method for creating an environment for continuous learning and development.

Learning Styles

While all learners engage in all types of learning, most seem to have a preference for one particular type.
We show you how to help people develop all four of these learning capacities.

4MAT learning styles

Perceiving and Processing


The ways people take in new information occurs in a wide variety of ways, all of which range between experience and conceptualisation.

Experience – Perception by personal engagement – sensations, emotions, physical memories; the immediate, the self. Being in it.

Conceptualisation – The translation of experience in conceptual forms – ideas, language, hierarchies, naming systems. An abstract approach to learning. Being apart from it.The interplay between the “feeling” of experience and the “thinking” of conceptualisation is crucial to the learning process. It connects the personal values and perceptions of learners to those of expert learners.

4MAT training


What people do with new information also occurs in a wide variety of ways, all of which range between reflection and action.

Reflection – Transforming knowledge by structuring, ordering, intellectualising.

Action – Applying ideas to the external world; testing, doing, manipulating.

learning assessment

Right and Left Mode

We know, too, that learning involves interaction between the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

Left – Operates best through structure, sequence. Prefers language, is sequential, examines the elements, has number sense. Works to analyse or break down information.

Right – Operates out of being, comprehends images, seeks patterns, creates metaphors, is simultaneous. Strives to synthesize, consolidate information.The interplay between right and left is crucial to higher learning and thinking. It provides a greater depth of understanding and encourages creative expression and problem solving.

learning cycle

The Complete 4MAT Model

The complete model is an integration of learning styles and hemisphericity in a sequence that follows the natural cycle of learning.

For real learning to take place, all parts of the learning cycle must be addressed, starting from one and moving around to four, answering the key question of each style:

  1. WHY?
  2. WHAT?
  3. HOW?
  4. IF?

4MAT model

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