< Back

Questions that Drive the Learning Process
February 11, 2009 @ 11:00 AM | By Guest Blogger

2009-02-12-Online-Learning On February 18, InterCall will host a webinar with Jeanine O’Neill- Blackwell, co-author of Hold On, You Lost Me! Her book investigates different learning styles and how to improve communication and team building. These are especially important topics as more teaching is brought online and into virtual classrooms.

Please welcome our guest blogger, Jeanine O’Neill-Blackwell.

Learning is the process of asking and answering questions, and there are four key questions that drive that process. The 4MAT model provides a framework for leading the learning process. Whether  learning is happening in a web meeting, one-on-one or in a classroom, you can create an atmosphere that ensures transfer.

When we learn something new, the bulk of the brain activity is happening in the “new learning” area (prefrontal cortex), where we process new things and compare it to what we already know.  Once we figure “it” out and a routine sets in, the brain activity occurs in the “habit” area of the brain (basal ganglia). It requires much less energy to process activity in the “habit” area than it does in the “new learning” area. If you create an opportunity to ask and answer these four questions you encourage the shift from habitual to new thinking.

1. Why?

Why do I need to learn this? Why is this important? Why do I need to change?
Begin by connecting with the learner’s own experiences. Help the learner discover why the content or required behavior change is important. Create a dialogue that elicits experiences and personal sharing that helps the learner understand why the learning is important.

2. What?

What do I need to know? What do the experts have to say about this? What are the key ideas I need to understand?
Avoid “telling” as much as possible. Our brain is flooded with chemicals when we have a personal “aha!” moment. Those chemicals lock in the insight and create permanent change. Create some “aha!” moments in your meetings and training through reflective activities and sharing.

3. How?

How will I use this information? How will this improve my work or personal life?
The very act of focusing our attention on new learning through application locks in the learning. Move the learner into application, before they leave the learning experience. In a meeting, this might mean clear action items are defined. In a classroom situation, this might be a role-play or real-world practice.

4. If?

If I adopt this learning, what will the result be? If I want to apply this, how will I need to adapt it for my work situation?
Give the learner the opportunity to figure out how they can use the information they are learning in their real-world work situation. Allow the learner to do the assessment of how effectively they apply the information.

Keep in mind that changing behavior is stressful. Our brain senses that something is wrong when we shift from processing in the “habit” area to the “new learning” area. Do you recall the first time you drove a car? The first car I learned to drive was a baby blue Toyota Celica with a stick shift. I remember concentrating on every shift, holding my breath every time I pushed down the clutch. I no longer put that kind of focus on driving; in fact, I hardly think about it. Driving has become routine. I can pretty much do it without thinking because now it’s a habit.
By focusing on the four key questions above, you will engage each of the 4MAT learning styles. And, more importantly, you will ensure that learning happens. To learn more about 4MAT, visit www.4mat4business.com or register for Jeanine's webinar.

20090218webinarspeaker  Jeanine O’Neill-Blackwell is the President/CEO of 4MAT 4Business, a consulting and training group that provides support in implementing 4MAT, one of the most widely used learning style assessments in the world. She is the co-author of the 2008 Top 10 best-selling training and development books, Hold On, You Lost Me! Use Learning Styles to Create Training that Sticks. She has consulted and trained on leadership development, team building and curriculum design with many learning organizations including Princess Cruises, American Family, Humana, and Cabela’s Sporting Goods.

« Video Conferencing Defined, Part 3|Main|The Virtual Huddle »


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Questions that Drive the Learning Process:


Linda Uli

Totally agree with the 4 questions that drive learning...let's add one more!


I think that in order for effective learning to happen in the first place. The instructor needs to answer the WHO right up front. "Who are you that you are someone I should listen to?"
Credibility of the instructor is important, especially when teaching a culturally diverse classroom. In the 30 years I've been teaching (10 of which are online), this has been something that always needs to be addressed.


This is really something quite revolutionary. I never heard about this anywhere. Though we all can have differing opinion, I must say I am amazed to see this post about with genuine information. Surprised the site is not frozen with comments!

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the author has approved them.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In.