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Difference between instructing and training


I am applying for a Training post shortly and have to do a presentation on the Differences between Instructing and Training? Can anyone help me with the answer?
Paul Cardell

9 Responses

  1. Training is learner focused.
    Training recognises that people learning in different ways – it is learner focused. Learning is a process of enquiry and training is about creating opportunity for that. By creating participation – through questions, group work, problem solving, role play, discussion etc – a trainer increases the likelihoold of learning taking place. Instructing is precisely that: it assumes the learner will learn by following given specific instructions (sometimes followed by questions). Any learning that takes place through instruction is likely to be limited.

  2. Instruction & Training

    I think Wayne has provided a good overview with which I generally agree but feel I need to add the following.

    Instruction followed by suitable questions/checks has a place in our learning and should not be disregarded.

    If the learning outcome is for the learner to ‘comply’ (as with policy, procedure or a compliance issue), then intsruction is perhaps the best method. As long as the learner also knows ‘why’ as well as ‘how’ to do the task in question.

    For example, I was instructed in how to lift heavy weights in a distribution centre. This was a compliance issue and there was a right and wrong way to do it. My instructor checked to make sure I could do it in the appropriate way by watching and asking me questions (he didn’t stop me asking questions either). It might have been less helpful and perhaps more frustrating for me if he had asked me how I thought it should be done (training style), because actually I had no options that were correct. So better for both of us if he/she just tells me and we can both move on.

    Many trainers that I have encountered fail to understand the above and end up frustrating themselves and the people they are training by not giving instruction when it is appropriate.

  3. Instruction and learning aren’t mutually exclusive

    Although the terms instruction and training are sometimes used interchangeably, the processes of instruction and learning aren’t (by definition, anyway) mutually exclusive.

    Training has an immediate goal: increasing proficiency and self-efficacy in current or anticipated job responsibilities, in line with prioritised business needs or statutory requirements.

    There are a number of methods for achieving these aims. The following occupational standards offer some clues:

    L8= Enable learning through demonstrations and instruction
    L10=Enable learning through presentations
    L12=Enable group learning

    By these measures, effective instruction is merely one of a range of legitimate methods, technologies or systems to help people acquire the Knowledge, Skills, Attitudes or Habits (KASH) they need to perform tasks safely and correctly. It’s most appropriate under the following conditions:

    * Learners are able to, willing to and allowed to get the required KASH,

    * They don’t already have it, and

    * Instruction is the most efficient way to help them learn how to perform under given conditions, behaviours or standards.

    So, I’d define training as an process for responding to immediate, identified KASH needs. To meet these, a trainer should have some understanding of adult learning principles, be able to work in several learning domains and have a range of methods within his or her repertoire.

    Among these may be instructing: systematic methods or technologies for identifying, meeting and assessing skill development needs. In the workplace, an instructor will most likely focus on observable performance in preparing and delivering structured demonstration, skill practice and feedback activities.

    The industry standard ‘Mager Six Pack’ explains relationships between training, instruction, learning and performance in a direct, lively, easily understood and thought-provoking style.

    ASTD Press’s ‘Telling Ain’t Training’ addresses some of the pitfalls of the ‘Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em…’ approach to instruction.

    For web-based resources, check Don ‘Big Dog’ Clark’s HRD website.

    Best of luck with your presentation.


    Scott G. Welch
    ‘Ask the Chief’

  4. Monkey see, Monkey Do

    This is an idealised view, but what the heck!

    Instruction is showing someone how to do a specific task on a step-by-step basis. It is often ‘on the job’ so the instructee actually performs each action as they are instructed.

    Instructing involves no theory and no alternatives.

    The best kind of training also enables the trainees to do a specific task, but in such a way that they have sufficient understanding of the theory, underlying principles, alternatice approaches, etc. that they can deal with the same task when problems occur, and can adapt, and extrapolate from, what they have learnt for use on tasks which are in any way related with little or no further training (or instruction!).

    Instructions are for robots, training is for humans

  5. Monkey see, monkey do? Not exactly…
    ‘Instructing involves no theory and no alternatives.’

    As someone who began his career in this field as an instructor on entry, intermediate and mastery level technical courses in formal adult learning settings, I would challenge this statement.

    Each of the courses I delivered in the platform instructor role (and the supporting competency development programmes used on the job) possessed all the attributes mentioned as characteristic of ‘the best kind of training,’ including interactive delivery of underlying theories and principles. These attributes were built into the programme content during a formal process of instructional system design (ISD).

    Furthermore, much of my experience in on-the-job instruction situations has involved helping learners to use appropriate alternative methods for accomplishing the task or skill to be mastered (e.g., legal shortcuts and workarounds), and relate organizational polices and practices (e.g., taboos and ‘no-go’s’) to the job at hand.

    ‘Instruction is for robots; training is for humans.’

    I don’t think so. Skinner et al didn’t ‘instruct’ those rats, mice and monkeys. They ‘trained’ them.

    With its behavioural modification associations, ‘training’ has also taken on a pejorative whiff in some quarters. This is evidenced by the debate in the literature over what we should call our industry, and the recently updated ‘learning and development’ qualifications.

    Paul here has to develop a presentation on ‘training v. instructing.’ Some of the opinions expressed in this thread regarding the relative merits of these two methods will certainly impress the panel.

    If we want to help, I’d offer that we ought to focus on operational definitions of the systems, functions and techniques we’re comparing.

    Simply put, training is one valid system, function or method of people development. Its aim is to improve employability and profitability in response to prioritized needs.

    Instructing is one valid system, function or method for identifying skill development needs, prioritizing what must be learned, enabling that learning though an efficient process of demonstration and skill practice, and assessing the results.

    As has ben pointed out earlier in this thread, both systems, functions and methods have their places. It’s unlikely that I would have efficently mastered the technical demands of my first career through facilitative, discovery learning methods. Conversely, understanding even a little about the art of leadership takes more than a course of programmed instruction or an instructor-led orientation.

  6. Binary options
    As interesting and useful as I found Scott’s contribution to be, I would like to respond to one point he makes concerning my own earlier post:

    I wrote:
    ‘Instruction is for robots; training is for humans.’

    Scott says:
    I don’t think so. Skinner et al didn’t ‘instruct’ those rats, mice and
    monkeys. They ‘trained’ them.

    In the case of Skinner et al, the training was purely binary: For example, in the famous, or infamous “Skinner boxes” if a pigeon pecked at the right bar it got food, wrong bar, no food.

    No theory, no alternatives. Unlike the famous dolphin experiments there was no room for creativity or individual variations.

    I *personally* would not dignify that with the title “training”. On the contrary, the formal description is “operant conditioning”, and the main purpose of the Skinner box sessions was to study the process of behaviour “reinforcement”.

    I leave it to Paul and other readers to decide which description – training or instruction – they think is most appropriate.

  7. time span
    Training and instruction are similar short term delivery focussed processes. Coaching is a longer term process where responsibility is shared between coach and coachee. Mentoring is lifelong where mentee is full responsible. See ‘The Learning Company’ for more

  8. Its a personal thing
    Is there a right or wrong? probably not. However, in my experience the Trainer can have advantages over the Instructor by using his/her personality. Not to make the students become clones but in the way he/she interacts, gets to know and then forsees/reacts to things as they happen. Instructing certainly ties you down nad doesn’t leave much room for flexiblity.

  9. Time-based?
    I wonder if things are quite as fixed as Richard Preston seems to think. Just as Peter (The Learning Company) Honey’s description of learning styles is one amongst several, so, I imagine, are his definitions of subjects like coaching and mentoring.

    For example, Eric (Oxford School of Coaching)Parsloe describes coaching and mentoring as nothing more than “methods of helping and supporting people to learn more effectively”.
    Which seems to imply that coaching and mentoring are just alternative forms of training.


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