Difference between training, education, and learning?

Nov 25, 2014

I have a strong belief that if you're not being taught a new skill, it's not really training, it's a presentation or information session. 

I'd be interested in hearing the community's take on this subject: What's the difference between education, learning, and training? Are education and learning two different things? How do you define training, and these other terms?

Thanks in advance!

11 Replies
Steve Flowers

Learning is a biological process. It's something we do all of the time, whether or not we're aware of it. It's like breathing. It's something we do. 

Training is usually something we do to or for others to help them increase proficiency in a skill or help them feel better about doing it. We can engage in training independently, usually classed as practice and consisting of repetition or rehearsal -- possibly the best and most critical parts of a good training regimen. 

Training is usually associated with a task. If training is not focused on a skill associated with performance of a task, I completely agree with you -- it's a presentation or information session. Presentations and information sessions can help when training a skill or making folks feel better about performing the task, but these alone will probably fall far short of changing behavior or moving the needle toward accomplishment. Concepts need to be connected with the skill all the way through to the accomplishment to be effective. Concepts fade fast when not connected with practice.

Education, to me, is about connecting dots in a domain and providing a "sense of a world", whatever world is the focus of the education. Education tends to answer the Why? questions where training answers the How? and When? questions. There is overlap as how, why, and when don't exist in isolation, but thinking about the weights - these make sense intuitively. I don't remember who said this about the comparison between education and training but it stuck with me. 

  • Most of us don't think twice about our kids getting sex education in school. But we would likely have a serious problem with them participating in a sex training course.

I propose a level higher than training. We focus a lot of energy on training (and focusing mostly on skills and technique) when (I believe) what we really want is development of capacity. And thinking in terms of capacity development broadens the range of effects beyond skills. We likely agree that capacities like confidence, connection, insight, perspective, grit, empathy are great work characteristics. When we focus on training, we might hit confidence and could touch on a few of the others, but how often do we do that? Some of these are purported as the aim of education (insight, perspective, connection.) 

Development of capacity is the outcome of both training and education. The type of development depends on the experience. We've started to put together a list of development ideas across six categories:

  • Discover
  • Achieve
  • Connect
  • Apply
  • Create
  • Lead

These extend the experience beyond the standard LMS and corporate practice standard fallback of solo and one-to-many to include a broad spectrum of social contexts (and different types of conversations). 

  • Solo
  • One-to-one
  • One-to-many
  • Many-to-one
  • Many-to-many
  • Team
  • Association
  • Organization
  • Society
  • World

When we set sights higher than training (or even education) and break the default patterns, we can focus on what really matters. It's not the content. It's readiness to meet the challenge. There are a ton of opportunities we can use to 1) help optimize the path to readiness and 2) get the heck out of the way and let folks work their own learning magic:)

Mike Jones

I have a saying that, "Training is what you do to your dog, Education is what you provide to human beings." 

When I think of training, I think of getting a person (or animal) to perform a given task/procedure with the least amount of effort necessary. It's all about getting from point A to point B in the least amount of time. Training is also almost entirely a formal learning process that focuses on physical/psychomotor skills.

Education is a man-made construct of experiences designed to help a person make implicit and tacit connections between the physical world and the internal workings of the body/mind. For this reason, the results of education tends to be more robust and profound. Education can be either formal or informal, depending on the variety of experiences that make up the whole, and can cover both physical/psychomotor skills and affective/cognitive concepts. 

Learning is what occurs as connections are made; it's the result of training and education. You can have Learning occur with both, however learning from training will be limited to a single task/idea compared to deeper growth and connections that can come from diverse educational experiences.

Bob S

The working definitions I've used for years...

Learning -  The big umbrella as it were. The process of learning never stops. While each of us often learns better via certain methods, there are three "formal" categories of learning in the business/professional world.

* Education -  Learning about something. Sometimes "awareness", sometimes background, sometimes rationale/value.

* Training - Learning how to do something. Be it a hard skill, soft skill, process, etc.

* Experience - Learning that happens as a result of being in the role. While less structured than either education or training, it can overlap either type in that you may learn about something or how to do something through experience.

Sam Lincoln

I was once challenged by a superior who asserted that there was no difference between training and education. I probably should have thought of a better response but what I said at least made him pause and think ... I said, "Sir, your daughter is 16. Would you prefer that I gave her sex education or sex training?" I hope that I have not offended anyone.

Bob S

To place Sam's example up against my working definitions (apologies in advance)...

Education = Learning all the reasons why using a contraceptive is so important

Training = Learning how to deploy a contraceptive device via instruction

Experience = Suffice it to say one could learn either of the above pieces of knowledge though this less formal method; though with some serious unwelcome risks.

Perhaps that's one of the key reasons our industry exists... Often things can be learned through experience in a less formal way. But the costs in terms of risk, time, etc are what Education and Training alleviate.

Raul Esparza

What a great question!

Education is teaching content that will be used over a length of time.  We are educated and learn math that we will use over our lifetime in different environments/situations. A teacher educates by checking for understanding, creating activities, providing critical thinking, testing, re-testing, grading various types of assessments, group activities, and providing complete learner experiences/simulations over a given time period (weeks, months, years even).

Training is short-term learning of skills that is specific to an environment.  Training can be applied immediately after a session.  What is trained today, should be useful tomorrow. A trainer trains - monkey see, monkey do! The good trainers uses some of the teaching methods but alas, we are not given the amount of time that would allow for such an immersive experience so we are focused on behaviors that will increase performance and not so much on critical thinking.

I may be educated in word processing (what it is, various ways of processing, how to define it, editing, formatting preferences...) but I needed training in inserting a picture into Word97, then how it changed in Word 03.... up to 13.

Learning is just what we do as a result of our biology, perceptions, environments and experiences. We cannot stop learning.