Sunday, June 7, 2009

Education-Training Distinction

Learning objectives are something I first encountered when I entered the world of corporate training. During my academic life I never learned anything carrying the 'GPS navigator' of learning objectives. But in the world of corporate training, everything starts and ends with learning objectives.

As I was reading a
blog post of Supriyo Chaudhuri, an online friend, it dawned upon me that actually it is learning objectives that distinguish training from education.

Supriyo's post posits this distinction, though without bringing in the phrase ‘learning objectives’:

…in my mind, education still remains distinctly different from training. Education is about broadening the perspective and preparing the learner with a wide variety of knowledge, so that s/he is prepared to meet the world half way and with an engaged mind. Training, on the other hand, needs to be narrower and deeper, focused on a specific skill, based on the assumption of certainty - we know what's needed - and the learner, in the end, should be equipped to carry out the specific task/ role that the trainer had in mind.

There are obvious overlaps. Like Management Education, where the whole thing revolves around an assumption of certainty of knowing what's needed. On the other end, this whole discipline of Leadership Training, which I am trying to get involved into, aims to prepare the learners with the uncertain, the unknown and the fuzzy.
In short, in another blogger's words, 'training' should ideally be aimed at immediate, performance-based use, while 'education' more broadly and abstractly is aimed at some unspecified future use. Yet another blogger says, "Training is outward performance focussed with measurable outcome and immediate applicability."

An old post by Harold Jarche also brought out this difference. He said that informal learning, facilitated by Web 2.0 tools, follows the educational approach, which is distinct from the training approach. These two approaches are complimentary, and both are required in today's work environment.

Blogs, wikis, aggregators, social networking software, etc. are great tools for informal learning. They help in the creation of personal knowledge repositories and communities of practice. They enhance "learning", in the social-constructivist sense that I always believed our education system should. Given their decentralized nature, these informal learning technologies do not provide the kind of data that a formal system, like an LMS or performance management system, would give.

I think that one of the problems with our education system is that there is too much of a focus on getting quantitive data, like testing. These functions are more suited to a "training" system, where the performance requirements are clear, measurable and observable. In education, the performance requirements are fuzzy. There is nothing wrong with either a training focus or an education focus; each one has its merits. The problem is when you try to mix the two. The arguments that I hear over testing or the adoption of blogs in the classroom seem to be the result of mixing a training systems design approach with a general educational approach. Water and oil.

If your organisation, be it a school or a company, has clear performance expectations, then you should use proven performance technologies, such as drill & feedback, performance support, or a wide variety of other interventions. On the other hand, if your objectives are educational in the broad sense, then forget about testing and controlling, and allow learners to explore and construct their own knowledge.

Informal learning, facilitated by the likes of blogs & wikis, works well for general education, and for continued learning outside of the "classroom". Informal learning (education in the broadest sense) is messy by its very nature. Training, such as how to drive a car, can use a more scientific method to optimize training time, achieve the desired performance and reduce the risk of accidents. Training and education can even use the same tools, like simulations, but not the same approach. Education and training are complementary, but distinct.
Geetha Krishnan also had a good post on this distinction: Education versus Training

1 comment:

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