Many organizations confuse training and education. Training is a process of teaching people skills. Education is a process of transferring ideas or knowledge. Often organizations educate people but call it training. People learn ideas and gain knowledge from education. People learn skills from doing the required task. Education is necessary to build skills. Building a skill is not required to aquire knowledge or learn new ideas. This is were the disconnect between education and training occurs. Trainers think passing ideas and knowledge to learners means learners understand how to use the information to complete tasks. For people who posses skill in a given area, this may be true. More often, new learners need practice completing the skill one task at a time after receiving foundation ideas and knowledge. People learn skills by doing.
In the movie, The Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi teaches Danny several karate defensive moves through the process of household chores. Miyagi never tells Danny why he is expected to complete certain tasks in the prescribed fashion, only to follow instructions. Eventually, Danny learns the basic skills of karate.
Most adult learners require understanding of the ideas behind a skill. Education is required to pass along knowledge and ideas. Typically ideas and information are presented in slide decks lulling learners to sleep. Transferring knowledge requires communication. Sleeping students receive less information that alert students. Showing images related to the task while discussion the action supported by an idea improves knowledge. Require students to take notes during your talk so they can access knowledge during skill building exercise.
Students remember slides with images better than slides with only text. Use an image that has something to do with the information presented. Trainers committed to improved slides often turn to photographs or computer generated drawings. Charts and graphs are also images. Charts and graphs help learners understand how information relates to similar information. Images of flow charts showing steps required to complete a task, or data comparison puts information in perspective.
Follow up each bit of knowledge with a check on student learning. This can be in the form of questions, asking students to discuss their understanding, or a short worksheet. Learning checks ensure students received the knowledge, understand it, and remember it. This step serves as the base for the next step, building skills. If the foundation is defective, the structure eventually fails.
Completing the educational piece of the training sets up students to work on skills. Whether the skill is making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, conducting an analysis of data, or building a rocket motor to take a space vehicle to Mars, knowledge is the basis of the skill. Skill building exercises begin the process of changing ideas and beliefs into actions to achieve results.
Skill building exercises can but used as checks on learning as described above after the introduction of certain information, or as separate learning steps after information transfer. In the example of analyzing data, students may need to understand data base basics like data entery, how reports are generated, or how to write a standard query language command. The instructor determines what information students need to know and develops a means to transfer that knowledge. The instructor follows up with some questions. The skill builder requires students to enter certain portions of data from a stake of 3×5 cards. The exercise teaches students how to find data in a source document, how to work the software, and develops understanding of how errors may occur. These exercises reinforce information provided students during the education portion of the training.
Another exercise might require the students to organize the cards manually so they understand the process databases use to organize data. The teacher might ask a group to alphabetize the cards by last name. Another group organizes the cards numerically by phone number. A third group sorts the cards by age of the person. The first two are pretty simple. The last exercise helps them understand how the computer has to calculate the year and then sort by month and then day. That is a more complex task than just alphabetizing, especially of the date fields include month by name rather than by number.
Every skill building exercise should be developed to allow students to connect the skill to information learned during the educational portion of the training. Connecting knowledge to skills improves understanding so when things go wrong, students can trouble shoot the situation. Teachers and instructors cannot teach students how to respond to every possible situation they may encounter. Connecting skills to knowledge allows students to effectively solve problems in the real world.
As students work their projects, they will make mistakes. Making mistakes is an important part of skill building. Mistakes in training are opportunities for instructors to provide deeper information, improve understanding, and identify areas where knowledge may not have been transferred effectively. Mistakes allow students to rely on what they learned to correct mistakes on their own. Correcting mistakes allow the student to practice again.
Instructors share information with the class based on student mistakes improving overall understanding. People absorb only so much information in an abstract sense. As they begin to develop skills, mistakes present opportunities to provide additional information and improve understanding. Use mistakes as opportunities to expand student knowledge of how a task step effects the overall skill.
Sometimes instructors fail to effectively transfer information to students. The information may have been communicated poorly, or the student may have a barrier preventing reception of the message (like sleeping during your boring slide deck). The instructor should accept responsibility for the lack of transfer and send it again. In the process, the instructor may learn other students failed to receive the information correctly. Restating the information using other terms may improve understanding. Asking a student who demonstrates understanding to explain is another way to help students learn.
Training and education are not the same thing. Education is an important part of training. Education is simply passing knowledge or ideas from one person to another person. Training requires the transfer of skills. Skills are best learned by doing. Training is doing. Instructors identify critical knowledge and tasks required to learn a skill when they develop training. During the educational portion of the training, the instructor passes on knowledge and ideas to students related to the skill. During the doing portion of the training, the instructor develops exercises to build skills one step at a time so students can complete the task upon completion of the training. Students develop skill by doing activities. Training develops skills so people know and can do. Next time you are assigned to conduct training, develop lessons that transfer knowledge and incorporate doing.
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