Between the corporate and academic worlds, the borderlands are wide and mostly ill-defined, but you can always rustle up a ruckus by asking, “What’s the difference between training and education?”
I’m not that big a ruckus-rustler, and nearly all my career has taken place in the non-academic world–at least since a Certain University bounced me, and other unworthies, from its adjunct faculty because we lacked what it referred to with a straight face as “the terminal degree.”
But even in the efficient system of a corporation (which, as Voltaire might have said, is at times neither efficient, nor systematic, nor corporeal) you can spark a decent-sized ruckus by asking about the difference between training and learning.
The main difficulty is that many people who’ve worked in what used to be called training and development have come to see that training as it’s been practiced can be:
- Narrow in scope (the task, maybe the job, rarely the function)
- Limited in timeframe (this week, this month, this quarter)
- Modeled on the dreariest aspects formal education (classrooms, lectures, the
- Posited on the transfer of skill–and even more so on the transfer of knowledge
I think all of those are generally true, though I don’t think they’re generally evil. For example, I see “transfer of skill” as a metaphor for a process through which someone who lacked a skill comes to acquire it. I do not equate that phrase with “content dump,” though I’ve sat through more than one training class that held strictly to the knowledge-as-freight approach.
Still, the traditional (albeit diminishing) approach to training is a kind of freight train. There’s no steering wheel; someone else controls the signals and throws the switches. To further overextend the metaphor, the suboptimal form of learning is–I don’t know, some solar-powered, personal flying car, powered by your innate desire to learn.
I’m all for learning, and in particular for learning the things that interest me, but I’m not delusional enough to think that I can necessarily maintain the standard of living I’d like to maintain solely through that.
The drawback, at least in the most extreme forms of this point of view, is that somebody’s got to value your ability to learn what you want, when you want, enough to provide you with a means of making a living. I’m sure people manage that, even a few people I know, but I have no clue how to pull that off myself.
And that’s okay. Especially since I have a new home (Victoria, British Columbia) and a new job–working for a crown corporation in BC. (It’s roughly the equivalent of a not-for-profit corporation, established by the province to administer public-sector pension plans.)
I’m a curriculum designer, which means I work with stakeholders and subject-matter experts to figure out how our people can master new or changing conditions in order to better serve members of pension plans, as well as satisfying the requirements of the plans themselves.
The job search that led to this move is one reason I haven’t posted here for so long: I’d hit a slow period in terms of consulting, and I was ready to make a change. Moving 3,000 miles to another country seemed to have accomplished that.
Years ago, my first professional experience with social media was as part of the original TRDEV-L listserv begun by David Passmore of Penn State. (If you have no idea what a listserv is, then you have some idea how long ago that was.) Many participants wanted to make clear that they spoke for themselves and that their opinions were not necessarily those of their employer’s. My own email signature for TRDEV-L included “My opinions, not GE’s.”
Tthat approach still holds. I’ve missed my blog and want to resume thinking out loud about the interests, ideas, and notions that I see as relating to learning and performance in the workplace. None of this should be taken as necessarily reflecting any policy or program of BC Pension Corporation, or the province of British Columbia, or the government of Canada, or anything other than something that held my interest long enough for me to write about it.
It’s good to be back.