February 17

What’s the Difference Between Training, Education, and Development?

I don't know how many times I've heard "you train dogs, not humans" in my career.  This has always rubbed me the wrong way because it shows a distinct misunderstanding about the differences between training, education, and development.


Training is the act of imparting a skill, something a person will do.  People who think you train dogs not people are taking a decidedly Pavlovian approach where stimulus begets an automatic reaction.  In fact, training just means I am going to teach you how to do something but not necessarily why that approach is chosen.  This doesn't mean that you ignore motivation (what's in it for me) or limit your instruction to the lowest levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.

Training is the base of learning. I can't really tell you why we do something the way we do until you can do that task. Training is often quite complex as well, often requiring a large number of steps to accomplish a complex task. Training can also encompass the stringing together of a number of complex tasks to complete a job.   Training is rarely a simple Pavlovian moment.

Training however can be used to develop automatic responses.  The military in particular trains repetitively in order to elicit this exact response. I can attest that when things are very stressful and disorienting, training to respond automatically can mean the difference between life and death.


Some prefer to use the term education when discussing teaching humans.  This too shows a level of confusion. Education is the next step up from training where we impart the why to learners.  You might think of it as the theory behind the action. Why do we perform tasks the way we do? Are there alternatives? When do we use those? How do we choose one?

How much education a worker needs can be a matter of debate. Everyone needs to be trained to perform tasks but does everyone need to understand the why behind it?  This is the difference between a technician who can run a computer and have it tell him what is wrong and one that understands the underlying theory to know when the computer is lying to him or beyond its capacity.  What isn't debatable is the need to understand why things are done and even to be able to synthesize new procedures when we move to the next level


Development is where learners gain experience. Not just random experience but planned experiences to round out vocational knowledge.  Development is a plan of purposeful exercises designed to prepare for higher responsibility. It is most often used for management but really should be considered for senior workers as well.

It is common for people moving into executive levels to be slated to fulfill a track of job experiences. For example one might be task with several operational jobs, then move into financial positions and finally into a C-Level position that might lead to CEO one day. Less common is a development plan for employees designed to round out experiences to make them more flexible and have deeper insights into their work. 

What's the Point?

Understanding these broad layers of vocational education can help a person appreciate the value of each level and its place in the spectrum of learning. By looking at it this way training isn't something to be looked down upon but is a key stepping stone to better prepared workers as they progress through their careers.

What Do You Think?

What are your views? Feel free to leave a comment below.


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