The 4 Quadrant Model of Facilitated Learning

A framework for planning the best way to facilitate mastery of a task.

Craig Greber was our guest speaker for our final Employment Peer Group meeting of 2020. Craig introduced the Four Quadrant Model of Facilitated Learning. This model provides a framework for planning the best way to facilitate mastery of a task. It can be used in conjunction with a task analysis (covered in the previous peer group meeting with Tom Bevitt) to determine which strategies to use to support a person to successfully master a task.

Key Takeaways

The best strategies to facilitate task mastery should:

  • Be well aligned with the learner’s existing skills
  • Encourage active participation
  • Provide just enough information and only when absolutely necessary
  • Become redundant over time

Craig uses the term Taught Helplessness rather than Learned Helplessness. The onus should be on the teacher/facilitator to provide appropriate support rather than over supporting the learner by doing tasks for them that they are capable of doing themselves or with a more appropriate level of support.

The Four Quadrant Model (4QM)

For a new task, the first step is to complete a task analysis and determine which components of the task the learner can and cannot do. The 4QM can then be used as a guide for choosing the right strategies for any task(s) that the learner requires support to master. Do this by asking the following questions:

  • Does the person know what to do and how to do it?
    • If no then use Quadrant 1 (Q1)
    • If yes then move on
  • Is the person making astute decisions? Are they aware of their errors?
    • If no then use Quadrant 2 (Q2)
    • If yes then move on
  • Is the person recalling procedures and key features of their performance?
    • If no then use Quadrant 3 (Q3)
    • If yes then move on

Each Quadrant contains suggested strategies that can be implemented to provide the appropriate level of support for a task. You should choose the strategies that are most useful to the learner.

  • Descriptions and examples of each of the strategies within each quadrant can be found in the resource Guide to 4QM along with a run-through of how the strategies may look for tooth brushing and shoelace tying as examples.

When developing an individual 4QM you should work backwards. Decide what form autonomy will take (Q4). What will it look like when the person can complete the task independent of support?  Then work backwards through the strategies you would use for each of the previous quadrants and how you will transition between them.

The quadrants don’t necessarily have to be completed in sequential order. Rather in some cases, quadrants may be skipped. For example, someone may move straight from direct instruction (Q1) to complete the task independently (Q4).

The 4QM can be used as a template to communicate agreed cues and prompts for tasks to all stakeholders. This will create consistency which will in turn promote more rapid mastery of a task.


Does verbal self-instruction increase when a task is new or there is increased stress? If it’s inappropriate in a workplace to use verbal instructions are there strategies to help utilise another strategy?
The first option is if it’s not socially appropriate then it might be worth exploring some other strategies. The other option would be to practise the task with full verbal self-instruction out of context and encourage the person to whisper instead in the work context which might meet some of the social constraints.

When people are about to start a new job and you’re trying to set someone up for success where do you start?
It’s about recognising what the needs of the learner are at any one point in time. Does the person know what to do and how to do it? If they don’t, quadrant one is where we go.

If the person does know that information, but they’re having difficulty making decisions and solving problems and things like that, then we need quadrant two.

But recognise that at different times, different days, different attempts at that task, they may require different styles of prompting. Avoid being drawn straight into quadrant one and making that assumption that they don’t know what to do.

Can you marry the task analysis from last week to then using the quadrants?
You need to look at your task analysis first so that you are only providing intervention where a breakdown might appear. You only need to look at the 4QM for prompts where you need them, rather than prompting for the whole task.

If we haven’t broken the task down into enough detail and we start to see the person not able to complete the task, then focus on what step that breakdown may actually be occurring at and then start to analyse that element of the task in more detail and figure out what are the micro-steps in that element and use the 4QM to determine appropriate support.

Are all OTs trained in 4QM?
OTs work in a variety of ways. A better question to ask an OT would be “are you experienced at developing ways for people to learn complex skills?”

Where would you start a completely new task, which is quite complex in its own?
First of all, you have to understand the characteristics of the task. It’s really easy to look at it and say, “Oh my gosh, that’s so complex, he could never do all of that”. But there are really key parts of it that I’m sure he could right now.

So once you start breaking it down and using that task analysis approach, you start to realise that it’s not the whole thing that’s difficult. It’s just a few key things about it. If you can identify what those things are, then you can develop specific ways of helping the person acquire those skills.

Difficulties with planning, organising etc – is that also generalised as requiring support with executive functioning?
When we think about cognition, we can often think about it on three levels: lower-order cognition, higher-order cognition and executive functioning.

Lower order cognition includes being able to pay attention, memory, those sorts of things that set the foundation for then making decisions.

Higher-order cognition is problem-solving, sequencing, organising, those sorts of things.

And often when we talk about executive function, what we mean is, we’ve got this curious ability as human beings, not only to make a decision but also to be aware of how we made that decision. So we’ve got that sense of insight and judgment and we can decide whether something is socially appropriate or not. When we lose cognitive function that happens in the reverse order.

So thinking about cognition like that helps us to recognise what aspects of cognition might be breaking down and therefore affecting the person’s performance and then we can match strategies to support those cognitive processes.