Lesson Plan 4MATs

While some university educators feel comfortable teaching without a lesson plan, a recent study of college teachers who regularly develop lesson plans shows that lesson planning impacts student learning (Nicoll-Senft & Seider, 2010).  Students in classes where faculty members developed lesson plans using the 4MAT model were more motivated, engaged and able to apply their learning in new settings beyond the classroom.  Lesson planning influences learning because it helps the instructor to focus on how students learn. 

What is the 4MAT System?

Bernice McCarthy developed the 4MAT system using Kolb’s Learning Cycle.  The system offers a model for planning instruction that takes into account the four learning styles of students.  According to McCarthy, “4MAT benefits teachers by giving them a framework to design learning activities” (McCarthy, 1990).

Dynamic Learners
  • Favorite Question: “If?”
  • Prefers Creativity
  • Teacher helps students to apply learning in new and creative ways.


Imaginative Learners
  • Favorite Question: “Why?”
  • Seeks Personal Meaning
  • Teacher must help students to forge connections between the content and their lives


Common Sense Learners
  • Favorite Question: “How does it work?”
  • Learns by Doing
  • Teachers offers opportunities for practice and personalization of information


Analytic Learners
  • Favorite Question: “What?”
  • Wants information at the conceptual level
  • Teacher must delineate conceptual themes in manageable units  and relate the parts back to the whole


How does the 4MAT System work in lesson planning?

In the 4Mat System, teachers sequentially design lessons focusing on four issues:

  1. Personal Connections -- How can I help students to make connections between the content and their immediate lives?
  2. Concept Development -- How can students integrate this information and see how it fits within the overall course?
  3. Practical Applications – What can students do in the learning environment using the information to see it at work?
  4. Creative Integration – How can students apply this information in original and more complex ways?


  • McCarthy, B. (1990). “Using the 4MAT System to Bring Learning Styles to Schools.” Educational Leadership 48: 31-37.
  • Nicoll-Senft, JM & Seider, SN. (2010). "Assessing the Impact of the 4MAT Teaching Model across Multiple Disciplines in Higher Education." College Teaching 58: 19-27.