The 4MAT System – the Easy Guide to Learning Styles


The 4MAT system allows you to easily meet the learning styles of those you are communicating with.  Many people find it useful because it is an easy structure you can incorporate into all of your presentations.  One reason for doing this is to allow you to keep your audience engaged and make your communication even more effective.  This article will explain what the simple steps are so you can use them straight away whenever you present.  I’ll explain how to use the system with practical examples.  And if you do you’ll be amazed at the effect it has on your presentations and your audience – and you won’t have to worry about meeting the needs of people with different learning styles anymore as the system incorporates these for you.

The 4MAT System and Learning Styles

The 4MAT System comes from a study of learning styles by Bernice McCarthy.  She noticed that people with different learning styles learnt by asking particular questions.

Some people asked Why? Why are we doing this, why should I participate?

Some people wanted facts – they wanted information – and asked the ‘What’ question.  What are we going to do?  What’s happening?  What’s this for?

Others were interested in asking ‘How?’ How does this happen?  How does this work?

The last group wanted to explore future consequences, and asked What If? What would happen if I did this?  What would happen if I did it that way?

There is clearly a relationship between these 4MAT categories and Jung’s psychological types, Kolb’s learning styles and the work of Honey and Mumford.  These links are shown here-



Honey and Mumford







Concrete experience




Active experimentation



What if?

Reflective observation



So how can public speakers, trainers and presenters use this?  When speaking, we can build the answers to the 4MAT question categories into our presentations to ensure we meet the needs of all of our audience and therefore all the learning styles.  Here’s one way of doing this when you speak-

  1. Start by answering the question ‘Why?’, because until you give reasons answering the question “Why should I bother learning this?” the Why groups won’t engage in the learning.  Until this question is fully answered, Reflectors won’t be ready to participate further.
  2. Then give the ‘What?’ information.  Let the What group know there’ll be plenty of action.  This group will also be satisfied by an activity – they’re Activist so let them loose.
  3. Thirdly, answer the ‘How?’ question and let the How group experiment with the content of the session.  Pragmatists want to know how they will use the skill in a range of practical situations.
  4. Finally, answer the ‘What if?’ question by putting the skill in context.  You can also engage the What ifs by inviting questions – “What did you discover?  What questions do you have?”  The Theorists will open up and ask questions as they build theories for the future.

So, for every major section of learning-

  1. The first thing to do is introduce it and then say “This is why you would want to know this”, and then give some reasons.
  2. And then, give the knowledge and information – “This is what you do, this is what it looks like, and these are the key points.”
  3. And then, invite your students to go away and learn/experiment with how to do it in different contexts.
  4. When they come back, tell them what will happen if they use it in real situations, and invite questions and feedback.

In your presenting, by taking your audience through this simple process you are giving them experience of every learning style, and everyone in the group, whatever their learning style is satisfied.

In Summary

I’ll finish with a practical illustration-

The reasons why you need to know this are that you want your audience to be fully engaged throughout your presentation.  In the past, you may have had some people switch off, or at some point half way through ask ‘Why are we doing this?’, and it would be good to avoid such situations again, wouldn’t it?  This is why you need to know this.

What this is all about is that people have different learning styles and assimilate information in different ways.  These learning styles are generally satisfied when certain information or questions are answered.  Each of us has a preference for one of these questions.  This is what you are learning.

Think about how easily you can use this structure in your presentations and engage with all of your audience because you are answering the question they are thinking about (either consciously or unconsciously) before they have to ask it. How you will do this is by following the simple steps above.  This is how you will actually use this in a practical sense, and how you will implement these ideas into your presenting.

And what if you’re thinking, “What if I started structuring my presentations in this way?  What would be the consequences if I did this from now onwards?”  One of the consequences would be that all of your audience would have been presented with the content of your session in a format that most suited them.  As well as allowing them to assimilate the information they wanted in the way they preferred, you have helped them learn easily and given them experience of the other learning styles too.  This is what will happen if you do this.

If you need another example, go back and read the introduction again.

For more information about performance coaching, training in NLP and learning styles please contact Kim.

Email -

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes

SEO Powered by Platinum SEO from Techblissonline