Case Study: Use of TetraMap® to
Shift our Mindset in Emergency
Remote Teaching

By TetraMap_Admin

The adoption of TetraMap® model inspired the instructors to understand self-inclinations on four elements, value the difference from each other, embrace the new perspectives to develop sensible and feasible teaching strategies within the tight schedule.

Support Students to Learn – Use of TetraMap® to Shift our Mindset in Emergency Remote Teaching

By  Ivy CHAN, Carmen SUM and Joyce CHENG
College of Professional and Continuing Education, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, PRC.
The conference proceeding is published by International Business Information Management Association LLC.

Cite this Article as: Ivy CHAN, Carmen SUM and Joyce CHENG “Support Students to Learn – Use of TetraMap® to Shift our Mindset in Emergency Remote Teaching” Proceedings of the 36th International Business Information Management Association (IBIMA), ISBN: 978-0-9998551-5-7, 4-5 November 2020, Granada, Spain.


The outbreak of COVID-19 has swept its abrupt impacts in education around the globe. The higher education institutions in Hong Kong are in no exception. Instructors of a business subject were given limited time to plan, design, and implement emergent remote teaching, which is a transformation from conventional face-to-face teaching. To meet the ends, the instructors adopted the TetraMap® model, and deployed the four nature elements to shift the mindset on pedagogical design of various learning and teaching materials for 344 students. Without enormous adoption towards high-end technologies, the instructors made the mindset shift to explore new solutions that support students in their learning amid the coronavirus pandemic. The results were encouraging that positive feedback on emergent remote teaching was well received from students. Educators may further explore the application of TetraMap® model in their online and face-to-face teaching.

Keywords: mindset, emergent remote teaching, learning


The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the learning and teaching ecology with the sudden shutdown of schools and pressing need to transform face-to-face (F2F) teaching into emergency remote teaching (ERT) (Chen and Hu, February 26, 2020). Like other faculties around the globe, two instructors of a business subject were inundated with expectations: become nimble learners with digital technology, re-design semester-based curriculum and prepare teaching materials ready for remote teaching within a tight schedule (Lederman, March 18, 2020). The instructors were primarily familiar with conventional classroom teaching through which they interacted with students directly. Knowing most students were not completely prepared for the abrupt transition to remote instruction, the instructors believed the mere digitalisation of PowerPoint slides could hardly connect and engage students throughout the remote learning journey. Therefore, they adopted novel perspectives to transform face-to-face teaching into emergent remote teaching.
This paper reported the transformation of teaching pedagogies in a business subject with 344 students enrolled in spring 2020. Instead of replicating the face-to-face pedagogy over online platform, the instructors adopted the TetraMap® model, including the four elements (TetraMap®, n.d.), instigated “mindset shift” to rethink and experiment different teaching practices that could support students’ learning in this exceptional era. Student evaluation of learning on ERT is comparable with student feedback in F2F mode.

The four elements of TetraMap® model

TetraMap® is a well-proven learning model that helps to unlock everyone’s potential, understand diversity, and improve team performance. It uses four basic elements of nature: Earth, Air, Water and Fire to assist in defining aspects of people’s nature. Individuals are unique with various orientations on the four basic elements that guide their thinking and influence their behaviours. The key ideas of the four elements are discussed below.

Earth element – like a mountain is firm (TetraMap®, n.d.)
• Individuals are confident and bold with their decisions. They are firm and conscientious to accomplish predefined goals.
• Typical question raised: “Where should we head to?”

Air element – like the wind is clear (TetraMap®, n.d.)
• Individuals are focused and methodical. They turn idea into detailed and orderly procedures.
• Typical question raised: “What are the next steps?”

Water element – like a lake is calm (TetraMap®, n.d.)
• Individuals are considerate and people-oriented. They show patience and are able to hold the team cohesion.
• Typical question raised: “How does this work affect others?”

Fire element – like the sun is bright (TetraMap®, n.d.)
• Individuals are inspirational and action-oriented. They stay open and explore different possible directions.
• Typical question raised: “Why not give a try?”

TetraMap® Adopted in a Business Subject

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, F2F learning mode was unanimously adopted across schools where students and instructors learned and interacted directly. The unexpected halt of schools induced immense stress to different stakeholders. Students and parents were not fully prepared for the novel learning experiences, such as hardware requirement and attention span. Instructors had to make swift move to ERT and curriculum transformation with limited time while they were uncertain their students could continue the learning pace as expected.

In a business subject, two instructors were pressed to restructure the 13-week face-to-face teaching as remote learning, ranging from pre-recorded teaching slides, assessments, online exercise, and interactive discussion. The adoption of TetraMap® model inspired the instructors to understand self-inclinations on four elements, value the difference from each other, embrace the new perspectives to develop sensible and feasible teaching strategies within the tight schedule (Table 1).

Four major learning and teaching constituents for ERT were considered while the four TetraMap® elements were deployed to derive a synergetic mindset shift to support students’ learning. The Earth element helped the instructors to stay firm with the learning outcomes. The instructors connected and taught students with a consistent schedule for the learning outcomes via TEAMS as a well-suited tool. Synchronous and live lectures were essential to the students, in which the instructors can externalise new ideas to the students and support them to combine and foster with their resided knowledge that they learned before.

By adopting the Air element, the instructors organised weekly learning topics systematically, which corresponded to the learning goals on learning management system. This practice ensured the fit between know-who and know-how. Considering the disparity in IT devices and remote learning infrastructures, the instructors provided both learning and teaching materials that can be used at synchronous and asynchronous modes.

The Water element ignited more empathy to the students, particularly those who were less privileged or unable to engage in live lectures. Students were encouraged to embrace change together, and more student-driven learning activities were introduced, e.g., theme-based discussion, instead of mere lecturing by instructors. More encouragement on effort, embrace of mistakes and guided inquiry of knowledge can build students’ confidence to progress.

Hesitation to show face or speak up in online platform presented more challenges to the instructors to ensure the students can progress accordingly. The Fire element transcended the instructors’ idea about what they can do other than live virtual classroom learning. The pre-recorded videos prepared by the instructors, links to access relevant videos (e.g., snap judgment in interview), and short articles posted on the Learning Management Systems enabled students to master the pertinent knowledge and learn at their own autonomy and pace. Therefore, the instructors designed content in small doses that enabled the students to comprehend easily.

Table 1. Four Elements of TetraMap®



Be sturdy

Subject learning objectives: 
Follow the stipulated subject intended learning outcomes

Teaching & learning materials (Asynchronous): Mastery of knowledge

Teaching & learning materials (Synchronous):
Externalise and combine knowledge and good practices



Be systematic

Subject learning objectives: 
Develop weekly learning topics and develop a visible learning progress

Teaching & learning materials (Asynchronous): Neat and visible learning flow in the learning management system

Teaching & learning materials (Synchronous):
Ensure fit between know-who and know-how



Be empathetic

Subject learning objectives: 
Embrace change, be flexible and have fun of the new attempts

Teaching & learning materials (Asynchronous): Be empathetic and care well-being

Teaching & learning materials (Synchronous):
Appreciate efforts, trials and errors



Be innovative

Subject learning objectives: 
Empower students to take the lead for better strategies; cutting back on traditional lecturing time

Teaching & learning materials (Asynchronous): Encourage students to set their own pace

Teaching & learning materials (Synchronous):
Learn with bite-sized doses

Students’ Feedback on Emergent Remote Teaching

Regarding teaching and learning design, the two instructors had been working as a team and teaching for a business subject in 2018/2019 and 2019/2020. In order to understand the learning impacts of ERT on students, a comparison of two student evaluation surveys’ results was made (Table 2). At the end of the spring semester, students who enrolled in the business subject were invited to complete subject evaluation surveys. They were invited to rate their learning experiences along with a five-point scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree. There were 344 and 351 students enrolled in 2019/2020 and 2018/2019 respectively. The response rates were comparable: 184 (53.5%) and 203 (57.8%) completed and valid surveys were returned in 2019/2020 and 2018/2019 respectively.

The shift of mindset helped the instructors to face hectic situation, plan and reorganise the teaching pedagogies to support the students’ learning (Shah 2016). In essence, the students had clear understanding about the learning objectives, and were able to progress accordingly. The distinctive learning modes did not undermine their participation or engagement in class.

Table 2. Students Feedback on Teaching

Students Feedback on Learning

Emergent Remote Teaching
(n =184)

Face-to-Face Teaching
(n = 203)

1.       I have a clear understanding of what I am expected to learn from this subject.



2.       The learning materials, e.g. prescribed textbook, handouts and/or reference materials, have helped me achieve the subject learning outcomes.



3.       The tests/assignments have helped me achieve the subject learning outcomes.



4.       I understand the assessment criteria.



5.       Relative to the subject learning outcomes, the amount of work required for this subject is reasonable.



6.       I am encouraged to think about the material in a critical manner.



7.       I am encouraged to find information on my own and learn independently.



8.       I found the lectures stimulating.



9.       There have been sufficient opportunities for me to ask questions/raise issues.



10.   Students were encouraged to participate actively in class.



Conclusion and way forward

The emergent remote learning experience reported in this paper showed that the shift of instructors’ mindset has yielded the positive outcomes on students’ learning in spite of the absence of cutting-edge technologies. The unprecedented disruption amid the COVID-19 outbreak serves as a wake-up call to educators to revisit their habitual stickiness on conventional F2F learning (Bishop 2020; Oblinger 10 August 2020; Shah 2016).

In the long run, educators can utilise the four elements of TetraMap® model to design new instructional strategies to support students’ learning, no matter in online or F2F mode. The Earth element addresses what to be achieved – outcomes. Educators have to plan the learning outcomes of a course or subject and then each learning topic. These learning outcomes have to be “SMART”, that is simple, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. Educators should then communicate these SMART goals to students via the learning platform or teaching plan. An outcome-based approach would guide the teaching process for instructors and facilitate the learning strategy for students.

The Air element addresses how the learning goals are to be achieved – processes. Educators could adopt different activities and feedback that help students understand the visible path to harness their learning capacity (Horspool and Lang 2012). Lesson plans could be used to specify the teaching contents, resources, references, and learning outcomes for each topic. The learning platforms or formats, for example, face-to-face, asynchronous, or synchronous settings, should also be announced in advance, which enables students to prepare well for the lessons. For example, students have to know “what are the key learning points in this topic?”; “what are the assessment criteria of my report?” and “how could I improve my presentation style next time?”

The Water element may encourage educators to balance students’ psychological state, anxiety level, peer relationship when they have to improve the pedagogical competence (Biddix et al. 2015; Martin 2020). Educators should first understand students’ ability and learning behaviours under different learning modes, and then adjust or balance the teaching materials for different students and teaching settings. Greater patience and empathy would instil greater harmony between instructors and students, and that would enhance students’ commitment and involvement in their study.

In addition, educators may exert their Fire element to stimulate students to acquire the essential digital skills that enable them to learn in a new era, as well as the resilience to embrace change as lifelong learners (Tull et al. 2017). Educators might introduce different possible directions and suggestions to students in different learning situations. Various types of teaching and learning activities could be explored to motivate and engage students in the learning process. They should also adapt to any unprecedented changes or challenges with an open mind and respond in a fast and positive way. Educators with this kind of mindset and action would become the role models for students.


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