Tip #218: Training Methods vs. Learning Activities

A participant in a recent training session objected to the term “training.”He felt that training is something we do to others, while learning is something that learners do for themselves.

Since I am an English major, I went directly to the dictionary to check out the definitions. “Train”is defined as “to instruct so as to make proficient.””Instruct”is defined as “to teach or educate.””Teach”is defined as “to provide with knowledge or insight.””Educate”is defined as “to develop the knowledge, skill, or character of, especially by formal schooling.”Training can, therefore, be further defined as providing a learner with knowledge or insight.

“Learning,”on the other hand, is defined as “the acquisition of knowledge or skill.””Acquire”is defined as “to gain by one’s own effort.”Learning, in essence, means gaining knowledge or skill by one’s own effort.

Based on these definitions, a lecture would be a good example of a training method. We use a lecture to provide knowledge or insight that the learners do not already possess.

Any activity that requires the learner to expend effort to gain knowledge or skill would, based on these definitions, be a learning activity. This would include art projects, discussions, case studies, questionnaires, role plays, games, and hands on exercises.

Some might say that this is merely a semantic difference. Who cares whether we call them training methods or learning methods?

But I think the difference is more substantive than semantic. Many people continue to hold on to the paradigm that lecture is the only method to use. Yet we know that learners have different learning styles that require methods other than lecture. Perhaps if we start to refer to these methods as learning activities instead of training methods, we will place the emphasis in the classroom where it properly belongs: on the learner rather than on the trainer.

I now refer to all methods as learning activities.

I would love to hear your take on this!

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