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The Difference Between Education and Training and the Relationship to Student Assessment

This article intends to help you to distinguish between education and training as well as student testing in education and training.  To do that, we have to discuss the difference between education and training.  Some will say there is no difference between education and training, but I believe, based on my years of experience, that there is a clear distinction.  I offer to you that there are 3 ways to move from zero knowledge to subject mastery.  Think about how people learned to treat physical ailments in ancient times.  For example, if a person exhibited particular symptoms, someone in a probably self-appointed capacity, assessed the situation and based on experience with similar symptoms, offered some type of remedy.  If the remedy worked, it was likely repeated the next time similar symptoms were displayed by a person.  If the remedy did not cure the ailment, a different remedy was probably offered to the ailing person.  This cycle was repeated over the life of the “medical provider” and was transferred to the provider’s protégé who added to that knowledge base throughout that person’s life, and so forth.  This cycle was repeated through the ages to refine the treatment of ailments.  So experience is one way to move from a zero knowledge base to subject mastery.  Not always successful, but experience is the oldest teacher.  Another simple example is the first flight of the Wright Brothers, who are credited with the invention of the airplane.  The first flight by Orville Wright lasted only 12 seconds and covered 120 feet, but Orville was learning to fly the airplane as he lifted off.  His second flight covered 175 feed and his third flight was over 200 feet.  The fourth flight of the day covered 852 feet and lasted 59 seconds.  How was this possible?  Simply, Orville was learning how to fly the plane through experience.  Fast forward to today, we certainly would not try to learn to fly a modern aircraft by hopping in and heading out the way Orville did.  We learn to fly today, we learn to be medical providers, and so many other career choices, through an organized system of learning events, some we might call education and some we might call training, with practical exercises (experience) added in to complete the learning process.


So what is the point of this?  Simply that we use all three methods:  education, training and experience to achieve certain skills.  We also use different types of targeted or specific objectives to achieve this expertise.  Let’s begin this by looking at the below graphic.


The graphic below shows there are three ways to get from zero knowledge (latin Tabula Rasa [blank slate]) of most subjects to subject mastery. 




























The first is shown in the center of the slide, experience.  This is the oldest form of learning about a subject.  The arrows of varying lengths are used to symbolize that many attempts are made to reach subject mastery before success.  This is sometimes referred to as the “school of hard knocks”.  Think about the Orville Wright learning to fly example above.  On the right side we have Training as a way to learn a subject.  In training, we are dealing with learning (mastery) of exact outcomes.  What is learned is very specific and targeted to doing the skill a precise way.  Training is typically of immediate use.  When the lesson is completed we expect the student to be able to walk out of the classroom and perform the task successfully time and time again.  To ensure we get the student to this point we use CRITERION OBJECTIVES to develop our lesson plan.  A criterion objective, (developed by Robert Mager for the Army at the beginning of WWII to enable the army to teach millions of troops some very complex and different skills) always has three parts.  Part one, the BEHAVIOR or TASK the student must learn, the CONDITIONS under which the student must perform the task successfully, and the STANDARDS to which the student must perform in order to be fully successful.  There are many variations of these words depending on who is “selling” the concept, but the intent is the same.  Criterion objectives lend themselves very well to things that require physical development since one of the key parts of the objective is BEHAVIOR.  At the top of the chart and that which cuts across all three ways of learning is the affective development which is absolutely essential in order for the learning to last with the student.  To the left of the chart is education.  Education has as its goal, general growth and development which are geared to long term use.  No one expects a student in college to walk out of a college class and immediately put the information learned about trigonometry to use in the next hour.  However, there are mental skills that can be readily taught without using Criterion Objectives and using Level of Learning Objectives.  To do this successfully, we do not use the Sample of Behavior where we “sample” student learning.  We replace the Sample of Behavior with a specific competency.  A competency is a specific skill, not necessarily a physical skill like rebuilding a car’s fuel injection system, but a skill that is more mental.  For example, a student could be taught computer skills such as how to use the latest version of Microsoft Windows.  While using these new skills would require psychomotor movements, the psychomotor domain is not the PRIMARY domain we are teaching in, we are teaching primarily in the Cognitive Domain.  Using competencies helps up pinpoint the content we need to teach and then build our assessments on the mastery of the competency.  Let’s look at an example. 


LOLO:  Apply selected Excel processes to develop an Excel spread sheet.

COMPETENCY:  Create a new Excel spread sheet

COMPETENCY:  Enter data as provided in class:  mean, median and mode data set.

COMPETENCY:  Develop a pivot table from a data set provided in class.


You can see that developing both a traditional test question and a performance evaluation is very easy to provide a full assessment of the student’s ability to use an Excel spread sheet.  Here’s an example:


Test question:  Which of the following is the FIRST step in entering data into a NEW Excel spread sheet?

a. Open a blank spread sheet.

b. Determine the number of rows and columns you will need.

c. Start entering data at Row 1, Column 1.

d. Adjust the pixilation of the rows and columns.


You can also easily develop a performance evaluation and a scoring rubric from one of these competencies. For example:


COMPETENCY:  Develop a pivot table from a data set provided in class.

Step 1:  Use the data set on page 35 of the student manual and enter the data into a new Excel spread sheet.

Step 2:  Perform a pivot table analysis of the sales dollar value compared to the regions of the country compared to the years of experience in sales by each salesperson.


Our scoring rubric would show the desired results that can be compared to the work the student produces. 

On the more ‘abstract’ side of using Level Of Learning Objectives, we use Samples of Behavior.  If we agree that the only way to measure learning is to observe a change in behavior, then we can sample broad objectives to see if a student has changed their behavior, that is, can respond correctly to a test question that they could not answer correctly before the instruction.  Since we can never actually “test” every single thing we teach when teaching broad content, we are willing to “sample” their learning and if the student can successfully master the “samples” that we pose to them, we can extrapolate that the student can correctly respond to any similar problem posed.  Take for example the mastery of multiplication tables.  Teachers do not normally ask the students to completely replicate the entire multiplication table.  Rather, they “sample” the student’s mastery by asking a variety of questions from each of the number sets.  The same is true in virtually everything we teach on the “education” side of the graphic. 

Compare this with the goal of training.  Because education is not geared to producing tangible immediate results and does not focus on physical development, it does focus on mental development and therefore CRITERION OBJECTIVES are not the best way to creata lesson objective.  Many people who don’t understand this model force criterion objectives into the education model, but in reality they do not fit and the person that does this shows that they do not understand the difference between education and training.  As always, the affective or emotional development must accompany any learning in order for it to take effect and stay with the student more than just short term memory. 


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