4MAT theory on learning styles

Learning Styles

There are two dynamics here:

Studies show that most teachers teach in the style they were taught and not their own preferred learning style. The failure of students to learn in a school setting is attributed to this. Theories of learning styles allow us to teach to our child’s strength(s), to understand his or her unique learning process and to tailor our delivery approach. In so doing we optimize our students’ learning.

Equally important, is how we can gain access to our own strengths as teacher-facilitators by using these varying learning and teaching styles.

Learning Types and Teaching Styles

Teaching Styles: What Are They? and Why Do I Need Them?

“In the world of learning and learners, there are many styles and types. To teach effectively for each type, corresponding teaching styles are very useful. In fact, teaching styles not only accommodate different learning types, but also guide the teacher toward situations that best suit his or her strengths.

 I have come to understand teachers, and learners priorities

      using a theory called The 4-Mat System and to appreciate the diversity and

      effectiveness of learning and learners on a deeper level.

      Bernice McCarthy, an expert in the field of learning styles, has developed

      The 4-Mat System as a model of four distinct learning styles. Dr.

The Mat System, the result of McCarthy’s doctoral research has been adopted by numerous school systems and companies as they seek to reach their students and employees more effectively. Her work is available through Excel, Inc. on the web at Excelcorp.com

Note: McCarthy maintains that these learning styles are distinct from the auditory, visual and kinesthetic modalities;

she suggests that each of these four types of learners have their own priority for learning..

Using psychology and left/right brain research, McCarthy characterizes each type of learner according to his or her priorities:

Type 1 learners are interpersonal learners who value the concrete experience of learning and seek to connect their learning to their daily lives by answering why they are learning this material. For example, you may teach students who peskily ask you, “Why must I learn this?’ or ‘When will I ever need this?” These learners can be somewhat annoying, yet, have a keen sense for what is important to them. 

Type 2 learners are analytical learners who learn best by observing and reflecting on their lessons, as they value learning what the lesson teaches. Other types of students may love theory and written notation. They may be fascinated by analyzing chord structures and in knowing key signatures backwards and forwards. This type of learner is type of learner is the analytic learner.


Type 3 learners are common sense learners who learn best by actively doing assignment as they learn, what they need to know. You may teach other students who love to practice and practice, eagerly using the skills they’ve just learned to master regarding a particularly difficult etude or passage. McCarthy defines this as type 3, the common sense learner. 

Type 4 learner s are dynamic learners who take the lesson materials and make it their own by asking, what if I do this my own way? Finally, you may teach students who constantly want to improvise and create, on their own. They are the ones that seem unencumbered by the notation process and love to invent new chords and melodies.

Students inherently have different styles of learning; According to McCarthy’s theory each type of student has a different priority for learning, and that each type is equally valid. “The interpersonal learners will want to sit next to me and tell me their favorite activity. The analytical learners spend more time watching my examples and need to understand the notation completely. The common sense learners will respond best to specific directions in a written or manipulative activity, while the dynamic learners will often make up their own variation on any given exercise.

What kind of teacher are you?

For example, the type 1 teacher will check in with each student and is best at explaining why they are learning this material. The type 2 teacher is best suited for teaching theory and very attentive to the concepts being taught. The type 3 teacher is most comfortable in drilling and enforcing practicing as a rule. Finally, the type 4 teacher is more permissive and encourages students to explore their own music, giving them the freedom to create it for themselves.

While traditional school situations favor the type 2 and 3 students and sometimes scold the type 1 and 4 learners, we can make room for all four learning types by paying attention to them in our lessons.

By distinguishing these four learning styles, the teacher can move beyond the traditional modes of instruction to encompass all students in their studio. As a musical expression of their student’s development, attention to each type of learner will produce measurable cognitive, kinesthetic, and auditory results. When we recognize students as interpersonal, analytical, common sense, and dynamic learners, we can bring a more comprehensive approach to our teaching and even more success to all of our students.

By Dan Johnson


The fact that a student may have a preferred, most-comfortable mode does not mean she/he cannot function effectively in others. In fact, the student who has the flexibility to move easily from one mode to another to fit the requirements of the situation is at a definite advantage over those who limit themselves to only one style of thinking and learning. The four learning styles identified by McCarthy are:
• Type 1: Innovative Learners are primarily interested in personal meaning. They need to have reasons for learning–ideally, reasons that connect new information with personal experience and establish that information’s usefulness in daily life. Some of the many instructional modes effective with this learner type are cooperative learning, brainstorming, and integration of content areas (e.g., science with social studies, writing with the arts, etc.).
• Type 2: Analytic Learners are primarily interested in acquiring facts in order to deepen their understanding of concepts and processes. They are capable of learning effectively from lectures, and enjoy independent research, analysis of data, and hearing what “the experts” have to say.
• Type 3: Common Sense Learners are primarily interested in how things work; they want to “get in and try it.” Concrete, experiential learning activities work best for them–using manipulatives, hands-on tasks, kinesthetic experience, etc.
• Type 4: Dynamic Learners are primarily interested in self-directed discovery. They rely heavily on their own intuition, and seek to teach both themselves and others. Any type of independent study is effective for these learners. They also enjoy simulations, role play, and games.

Excerpt from: Learning Styles and the 4MAT System: A Cycle of Learning

Further reference: 

Description of the 4mat model of learning 

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