What’s the Difference Between Training and Teaching?

When you were a middle school student, what did you call the person standing at the front of the classroom? No, I don’t mean what did you and your friends call them when you were out on the playground.

Did you call that person the … trainer? No, of course not! That was the teacher.

But when you’ve gone for training as part of your job, what’s the person up front called? Of course, the trainer.

What’s the difference? Why do you call one head of class a teacher and another a trainer?

A teacher’s job is to educate you, to impart knowledge in the hopes that you may go on and one day apply it (or, as was probably the case for my college professors, in the hopes that you may go on and figure out how to make a living with a literature degree). Education is about facts and theory, but it doesn’t really get into application.

A trainer’s job, on the other hand, is to impart instruction for the sake of application. Theory can be useful in training, especially when it comes to complex tasks, but at its core training is about learning to do something.

This, ultimately, is why organizations invest in the training of their workers. Companies benefit from the application of knowledge; it doesn’t do them any good for workers just to know a bunch of stuff.

The problem we see in many training programs is there’s too much theory, too much education for the sake of — actually, I’m sometimes not sure what its purpose is. Filler? It’s a point that someone’s boss thought was really important? I don’t know. But I do know that its effect is to dilute the training, to distract the learner, to make it less clear what they are supposed to leave the class and go do.

Want to train someone to repair an engine? They don’t need to know where it was manufactured. Or why the engineers who designed it made this technical choice or that one. They need to know how to diagnose a problem (which will involve some amount of theory) and how to fix it. Anything else is just noise.

In your training programs, ask yourself what you want your learners to do. Focus on how to accomplish that, and ditch the rest.

Personal Approach

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