Does Education Lead to Learning?

A good friend of mine makes the differentiation between education and training with a thought-provoking question: Would you like your daughter to attend a sex education or a sex training class? Points out the difference between education and training, doesn’t it?!

A good friend of mine makes the differentiation between education and training with a thought-provoking question: Would you like your daughter to attend a sex education or a sex training class? Points out the difference between education and training, doesn’t it?!

To me, learning is when there has been a change in a person’s mental programming. Education is often – but not always – the process of putting information into someone’s brain. Unfortunately, sometimes when you stuff that information in, it doesn’t stay there. How many times in your life have you studied for some type of exam, cramming your head full of information so you can regurgitate it for the exam, and then not be able to recall even 10% of it a month later?

Education, where information is simply given to the student, does not have a long-term effect on the person’s performance. If the student can’t even recall the information a month later, let alone use the information to change a behavior, then he or she truly has not learned it.

Learning is where the information has been internalized and has changed the student’s mental programming, and there is a change in behavior. Learning is programming, and programming is learning. Mental programming is when the synapses in our brain form a pattern, and we can then repeat the information, the skill, the behavior, or whatever, over and over again at the subconscious level. We know it. We do it. We act it. We perform it.

But, in the words of Harold Stolovitch, “training ain’t performance,” either (in fact, that’s the name of his excellent book, Training Ain’t Performance). Well, not necessarily. Sure, training can lead to a person performing what they were trained to do. But, how often have you sat through a training program and then not performed any differently than you did before the program? Happens all the time, doesn’t it?

If we want to change and/or improve a person’s performance – how they perform a certain activity – we need to change their mental programming. An educational program could do that. A training program could do that. But there is a good chance they won’t. Unless the education or training program does more than just provide information, theory, or knowledge, then any change in mental programming is more up to the individual than it is to anything else. In other words, if the individual doesn’t take the initiative to do something with the information, there will not be much change or improvement.

How many times have you read a book or an article and thought, “That’s good advice – I’m going to do that,” and then not changed? At least not any long-term change. Think of the millions of people who hear or read about a new weight loss diet, say they are committed to it, and are back to the same weight within 6 months. Until a person changes their mental programming of their self-image, and change their habits, it’s very unlikely there will be any long-term weight loss.

The same thing applies to performance in the workplace. Companies spend billions of dollars every year sending their employees to training programs. Unless there is some form of ongoing follow-through, such as coaching, performance improvements are typically small. The training has not resulted in a change in mental programming.

“Xerox Corporation carried out several studies on coaching. They determined that in the absence of follow-up coaching to their training classes, 87% of the skills change brought about by the program was lost. That’s 87 cents on the skills dollar. However good your skills training in the classroom, unless it’s followed up on the job, most of its effectiveness is lost without follow-up coaching.”
Business Wire, July 30, 2001

“A study featured in Public Personnel Management Journal reports that managers (31) that underwent a managerial training program showed an increased productivity of 22.4%. However, a second group was provided coaching following the training process and their productivity increased by 88%. Research does demonstrate that one-on-one executive coaching is of value.”
F. Turner, Ph.D. CEO Refresher

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