The difference between teaching & training

Updated February 21, 2017

Teaching and training may be thought of as the same thing, but they, in fact, have many differences. While they are both appropriate in certain circumstances, sometimes the presence of one may be to the detriment of the other. Often, a balance between both is necessary.

Strictly Defined

Teaching is typically defined as, "to cause to know something, to guide the studies of, to impart knowledge or to instruct by example, precept or experience." Training seeks "to form by instruction, discipline or drill" or "to make prepared for a test or skill." (See References 1) Training usually has a more specific focus than teaching, which seeks to instil a deeper knowledge over a longer period of time. Training, on the other hand, seeks to help someone master a specific skill, or skill set, until he is able to execute it efficiently. Training is usually a one-time or short-term event, as with job training.

Implied Differences

Teaching is usually broader in focus than training. It generally is theoretical, while training is the practical application of knowledge. Also, teaching seeks to impart new knowledge, while training equips the already knowledgeable with tools and techniques to develop a specific skill set. One of teaching's goals is to enrich the mind, while training's end is to mould habits or performance. "Training provides depth of knowledge in a specific sphere, while teaching provides breadth of knowledge in all spheres." (See References 2) Teaching is usually within the context of the academic world, while training is generally associated with the commercial realm. Another difference is found between thought and action. H. Clay Trumbull stated, "It has been said that the essence of teaching is causing another to know. It may similarly be said that the essence of training is causing another to do." (See References 2) Also, teaching usually deals with a subject or topic, while training deals with a duty or function. Teachers generally give students feedback, while trainers receive feedback from trainees.

Teaching and Training Working Together

There are times when teaching and training must work in tandem. For example, an excellent singer may be wonderfully trained, but not necessarily taught about the theory of her craft. For example, she may not know how a certain muscle moves when she sings. Most importantly, she must have strong training in order to perform the physical tasks that make up a great performance. However, learning is involved here as well. She inevitably will be required to sing in a specific style, therefore, learning various styles will allow her to apply her training appropriately. For this purpose, then, it appears that teaching should precede training. However, the process of training, in this situation, can be of higher benefit to the singer.

When Teaching Interferes with Training

There is always a danger that training may interfere with teaching (as when parents and teachers are concerned with classroom teaching that seems to merely train students for a standardised test), but teaching can, in certain circumstances, interfere with training. Again, in the singer's case, thinking about what she is doing or analysing it, as she would do when learning, would actually distract her from the task at hand. The part of her brain that allows her to perform physically is different from that which is involved in knowledge acquisition. The second she begins analysing what she is doing, she will lose touch with her free-flowing actions. She must instead focus on training, including developing her muscles and mind to perform the action of singing.

Balancing the Two

Enhancing teaching and training, each with the other, is generally necessary. If someone has the academic or theoretical knowledge required to flourish in a position, or at a function, she will no doubt need some kind of skill-set training at one point or another. On the other side, training will always be enriched when a deeper, longer-term knowledge is continually sought and acquired. Finding a balance between the two creates a person who not only can understand and perform, but also, who can contribute, invent and lead.

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