training vs. learning

2 03 2004

the cover story in the december issue of t+d magazine was the future of the profession formerly known as training. (sorry, can’t do a hyperlink ’cause the web version is only for astd members.) in the article, the author reports the result of a survey conducted by astd which asked people in our profession how they thought our profession should be identified. only 32.4% of the respondents included the word “training” in their answer. (workplace learning and performance was the largest single answer at 31.9%)

so are we trainers? are we professionals who help people learn? are we performance managers? in my bio in the “about me” section of this blog, i identify myself as a learning professional. before i get into my reasons for that, let’s look at a few definitions. (weren’t we taught that rhetorical devise in middle school? or did we learn it?)



pronunciation: (trA’ning), [key]
1. the education, instruction, or discipline of a person or thing that is being trained: He’s in training for the olympics.
2. the status or condition of a person who has been trained: athletes in top training.

1. of, pertaining to, or used in or for training: a training manual.
2. intended for use during an introductory, learning, or transitional period: a training cup for weaning a baby; a training bra.

“training.” dictionary.
© 2003 family education network.
30 jan. 2004


pronunciation: (lûr’ning), [key]
1. knowledge acquired by systematic study in any field of scholarly application.
2. the act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill.
3. psychol.the modification of behavior through practice, training, or experience.

“learning.” dictionary.
© 2003 family education network.
30 jan. 2004

these two definitions point to one of the reasons iprefer to think of myself as a learning professional. training is something that is done to someone. (“is being trained” “has been trained”) learning is something that one does. i think most of us have experience, many of us on both ends of the transaction, that has shown us exactly who is in control of the educational situation – the learner! An award winning teacher could teach herself blue in the face and fail to teach her pupil anything if he wasn’t interested in learning it.

the reverse situation is true too. some of you have heard my story about my accounting 102 class in college. my roommate and I were both taking principles of accounting our freshman year. through the entire first semester, class consisted of listening to the professor read the textbook outloud! i mean, come on! accounting basics is already a boring class to go through, but this professor took boring to the ultimate limits. (of course, in my memory his voice was monotone too. but i’m not sure about that part!) as the second semester was about to get underway i asked my roommate if he was going to go to classes. he replied “i guess, why?” i explained my scheme to him. since the professor didn’t require attendance as part of the grading system (it would surely have violated the geneva conventions on the welfare of prisoners!), i was going to skip all the classes except the exams. at the end of the semester i finished the course with a score of 110 out of 100 (yeah, i even got the extra credit questions right). you’d be very hard pressed to convince me that i was taught that content. but, since it was my major, i had a reason to want to learn it.

i like thinking of myself as a learning professional because it reminds me that it’s my job to help the learner along his or her chosen path. not a path of my choosing.

a second reason i like thinking of myself as a learning professional is the fact that it simultaneously allows me to recognize that i’m a learner too. if i think of myself as a teacher who teaches what i know to others, i feel like i’m facing the wrong direction. if i think of myself as a learner who is helping other learners learn, then i feel like i’m heading toward the future.

well, that’s enough of me. hit that comments button and let me and the other readers of this blog know what you think. as always, if you have any suggestions for topics for this blog, email dave.

note to gap colleagues: i have a hard copy of the t+d article if you’d like to borrow it.



9 responses

29 03 2004
Jochen Robes

Dave, the article is still available:


30 03 2004
Meir Navon
31 03 2004
Dave Lee

Sorry to break etiquette and post a comment to my own blog, but Meir the link you’ve posted worked for me. Do you have Adobe Reader on your machine to read the pdf? any other suggestion readers?

2 04 2004


I just entered your blog for the first time today as a link from George Siemens’ blog. Good stuff! 🙂

I especially appreciate your reflexive thinking as an individual dealing with elearning in a corporate context.

I echo many of your sentiments from my context as a “learning professional” in a higher education setting.

Along with the important terms that you’ve identified here (i.e., “training” and “learning”) I’m interested in phrases such as
elearning (however one chooses to spell it), distributed learning, online learning, asynchronous learning networks, etc.

From your corporate context, I’d be interested in your perspective on a definitional issue raised on my blog.

Thanks. 🙂

2 04 2004
Planet K

Choosing Words Related to Our Field

As a link from George Siemen’s blog (elearnspace), I was introduced to Dave Lee’s very thoughtful blog focused on corporate elearning (e e learning). He has some general thoughts on how our choice of words opens up or limits possibilities…

23 10 2004
Albert Ip


this is my first time to visit your blog and really enjoy reading this. I did one on my view of “elearning industry” in my blog sometimes ago. Would like to share with you. Birthday Business and Elearning Industry


25 08 2010

The information you provided was very useful. Because of your help, thank you.

25 06 2013

I was wondering if you ever considered changing the page layout of
your site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
But maybe you could a little more in the way of content
so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of
text for only having one or two pictures. Maybe you could space it out better?

27 06 2013
energy shots

It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d without a doubt donate to this superb blog! I guess for now i’ll settle
for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
I look forward to new updates and will talk about this site with my Facebook group.
Talk soon!

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