Training vs. Education and Learning

Training maximizes the opportunity for learning to take place.

We had a discussion in our office the other day. The subject was: “Are we in training, or are we in education?” I came down resolutely on the side of training.

Why? Training is about learning for living. Education tends to be about simply learning enough to pass a test or a class. The Latin root of “to educate” means “to lead from.” If that is what actually happened in education, then I’d say we are in education, not training.

But more often than not, we don’t lead trainees from ignorance to knowledge. Rather, we try to pour knowledge in from what we think of as the larger vessel (the teacher) to our smaller vessels (the students).

In education, all too often, the teacher is understood to be the font of all knowledge, the center of all wisdom. We don’t take into account what students may already know, what they may be able to teach the teacher—and their fellow students.

In training, we honor the experience our participants bring with them. We involve them in discovery processes that expand their knowledge and experience, and create in them a sense of ownership. This makes the transfer of knowledge much easier.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

When the discussion in our office turned to whether we are a training organization or a learning organization, I answered a decisive, “Yes!”

For me, we’re engaged not in one or the other, but in both. They are two sides of the same coin. Heads is training. It encompasses all the things we do to create an environment in which learning can take place: getting management support for training, conducting needs assessments, looking for performance gaps, acting as performance consultants to evaluate whether training is a viable solution to a problem, and more.

Tails on my “Yes, both” coin is learning. Learning is when participants dig into the resources we’ve prepared and provided to discover their own answers, develop their own skills, and create action plans for confidently applying answers and skills back on the job.

Trainers with a Capital “T”

Training maximizes the opportunity for learning to take place. You cannot force anyone to learn anything, but you can create a climate or an environment in which learning occurs. When you and I do that, we can be proud to call ourselves Trainers with a capital “T.” Let’s excel at both training and learning, and help our organizations reap results on the job from whatever we do in the classroom—actual or virtual.

Until next month—add value and make a difference.