Training vs. Teaching

27 Jan

Both training and teaching look deceptively similar – in both we have a person responsible for delivering learning, and many who will receive such learning. There will be a transfer of knowledge and information in both and in both of these cases, the learner will be rise a notch in whatever grading system is applicable.
So, why have two words if they are the same thing. Could it be about payment? Training is in the workplace, teaching in educational institutions. Training costs more, and pays more than teaching. Training, per unit of time is even more expensive-as most are short duration, time limited experiences with specific targets. Not really.

Does that mean that if one wants to pass down knowledge or learn something in the workplace, one can only sign up for training and not a taught course? Asking this question brings the issue into sharper focus. Reversing it makes it even clearer -à Can there be no teaching in the workplace – does it always have to be training? Is it not possible to train students in an educational institution – do they always have to be taught? The answer leaps out now, and we realize that both teaching and training occur at any of these places and often even outside of these.
In all the teaching and training I have done, the sessions have been interactive, full of laughter and learning. Yet, as I planned them, the difference was clear.

The first is clearly in the objective of the endeavor. Teaching is about imparting knowledge, about embedding values and passing on skills for use across jobs, in the long term. While training may also achieve the objectives of teaching, it is focused on specific goals in the short term. Of course the benefits of training are supposed to show throughout the career span, but some immediate change in behaviours and processes is expected too. In fact, the success or failure is tested via such changes over the time period of about a year. The returns to training thus must show up in the workplace visibly and rather quickly.

The discussion becomes more interesting from the point of view of the teacher or trainer. Conventional teaching includes lectures, examples, practice sessions and testing. An ideal teacher designs the session to ensure that the range needs of the class are met, and that they have understood the concept enough to be able to build on it when the time arrives.
Training, on the other hand is almost always delivered in a specific context, normally to a cohort with similar abilities or potential. The learning objectives are more sharply defined and tightly scoped. Training could be, say, in specific software, a specific methodology or concept that is used by a work team. Training is designed to impart certain skills that will be useful in a specific context.

Designing a training session therefore is different from designing a teaching session. When selecting the content and the pedagogy, a teacher focuses on knowledge and attitudes, while a trainer’s first concern is transferring information and transforming behaviours. A teacher seeks to embed learnings that will be reused in various situations over fairly long periods of time even if it is tested via near term assessments. A trainer, on the other hand must deliver learning that can be demonstrated rather quickly on the job (even if it will be used throughout the career)– while in line assessments are not significant.. Typically, a trainer uses pedagogies that focus on engaging kinasthetics in addition to cognition – based on the wise adage- “I do and I learn”. Training sessions engage the five senses and emotions more than traditional teaching sessions do.

Does this mean that teachers do not train and trainers do not teach? Certainly not. Every session has elements of both techniques, teaching and training, but in significantly different proportions. It would be impractical to train when teaching is required for reasons that include significant efficiency arguments. Training is very resource intensive. Using training methods in classrooms may even mean that students have little time left for anything else if they are to cover their required curriculum. The converse-using teaching methods in a training session – may not meet the full objectives of the session. The objectives of each are clear and distinct. Teaching sets one on the path to knowledge, training on the path to expertise in a skill.

Despite synergies, if both are so very different, then one wonders whether it is even fair to ask educational institutions to deliver both – efficacy and efficiency. They, especially higher education institutions are traditionally designed to provide deep, slow release, context agnostic knowledge bytes. Now, as we face a gap, we ask them to turn into delivery machines for specific, instant contextual skills. Is it fair to expect schools to do both?

This was published in the Times of India blogs on 25 January 2012, 12:25 PM IST, link here


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