To Train…To Learn, That is the Question

Whew! There are a lot of thoughts on the subject — the difference between training and learning…or if there is a difference.  A lot of thoughts, but not exactly set in concrete yet.

Among several definitions for the word, learning, in the online Free Dictionary, it is defined as the “act, process, or experience of gaining knowledge or skill.” A few other sources tend to agree. Training, on the other hand, is considered “the process of bringing a person to an agreed standard of proficiency…by practice and instruction.”

The words learning and training are often used interchangeably.  I’m sure there is a wavy line between the two, where training and learning share commonalities. The definitions do imply to me, however, that training is more specific, such as “learning” how to perform a skill or skills for a specific purpose, as well as to a specified attainment. This theory holds water when we consider business training for a type of employment or military training for a particular assignment. Only certain, necessary skills are taught to do the job.

One contribution to the “debate” is this distinction:  “Learning is something you do for yourself; training is something you do to someone else.”  If, however, you are the recipient of the training, you wouldn’t look at it quite that way. If you are being trained, there is transference of knowledge — in some form. Normally you would be utilizing this training for yourself, to better your job skills and abilities.

Therefore, learning seems to encompass training. But, let’s consider, when we are shown how to do a certain job in training, and then repeat the action in the manner expected — are we mimicking, memorizing, or have we learned it? Do we actually gain knowledge when memorizing a set of events or actions? Is knowledge a necessary factor in implementing a skill?

I perceive learning as the large picture where training is one subset. Other subsets or forms include environmental experiences, intuitive learning, and conceptual thought. Each of these subsets contain further divisions or characteristics. While it may be possible to “learn” predominantly from one subset, it is usually the case that we learn a little bit from them all, incorporating these influences into the final image.

  • Training involves specified information transferral. This may include learning a process or skill by memorization, repetition, or “copying” an action. It typically does not involve teaching conceptual understanding of the information.
  • Environmental experiences include the senses, such as tactile, auditory, visual, as well as scent and taste. Here we find a lifetime of informal learning opportunities, with individualized experiences which shape each of us.
  • Intuitive learning is a bit more abstract, so much so that there are dissenters who feel it has no place in the learning category. Intuitive learning, as its term implies, does not possess the tangible mathematical formula, the hot stove that burns the finger when touched, nor does it instruct you how to install Windows 7. Possibilities, ideas–this is the dreamer aspect of learning. This subset formulates ideas into knowledge by creating solutions before they are formally derived.
  • Conceptual thought brings understanding, and thereby reasoning, into the picture. Concepts provide the ability to connect other learned information together which expands the scope of knowledge.

Whichever the stronger subset our brain chooses determines the type of career or life work we feel the most comfortable with.

Learning vs training? Training is just an integral part of the whole…