Learning vs. teaching, OD LO20406

Vana Prewitt (vprewitt@bellsouth.net)
Sun, 17 Jan 1999 17:59:31 -0500

Replying to LO20398 --

Richard S. Webster wrote:
>1. "OK Webster, you beat the drum for the "paradigm shift" (from
> whatever
> is happening now to help people improve their performance, to learning):
> just WHAT is the difference between 'learning' and 'training - instruction
> - teaching'?"
> My answer has been, since I figured out this key point about a year ago:
> "Learning is each individual's opportunity and responsibility, with the
> organization's help and support and encouragement. Training, instruction,
> and teaching are organizational activities: design, content selection,
> delivery, control, etc." What is your answer?

I wish I had a nickel for every time this question has been raised and
answered.. I'd be rich.

For me, learning is an intellectual process and is characterized by
constant change. I tend to believe, as did Maslow, that the ultimate goal
and driver of learning is self-actualization, and that this is defined
individually and contextually.

Instruction is a function of intended or formalized training and/or
education processes. Formal learning is associated with tests of
accomplishment, grades, evaluations, and measures of competencies.
Informal learning is associated with self-directed activities and learning
that occurs without an intended purpose. There is no attempt to measure
one's achievement. Nonformal learning is a funky hybrid in between that
includes mentoring, apprenticeships self-study programs with a goal, and
the like. Measures of success are more applied and practical than
academic and theoretical. I.e.: can the apprentice do the work?

Teaching is also a function, like instruction, and is sometimes used
interchangably. It is exclusivly associated with education and has no
informal or nonformal components. It is formalized, structured,
regimented, regulated, controlled, measured, and processed. It may or may
not produce anything on the other side of the process because the focus is
on the function of the educational content and the person(s) directing
that content at an audience. Teaching does not produce learning because
they function independently.

Like a good marriage, if a learner and a teacher meet with mutually
supportive goals, it can be very rewarding. I have, however, been in more
than a few nasty learning marraiges.

Training, like learning, is a process. It is exclusively associated with
formalized goals, like education. It is almost exclusively associated
with skillbuilding, whether cognitive, psychomotor or interpersonal skills
are involved. Learning is peripheral, and a byproduct, to the training,
but not the point.

> 2. OD (organization development) consultants may or may not value learning
> organization (LO) issues, practices and efforts. What relationships exist
> between OD and LO issues, practices and efforts?

For some OD practitioners, the relationships between LO and OD is strong
and obvious. My work with electronic performance support systems (EPSS)
took me into the realm of knowledge management, and from there it was a
short hop to LO. For OD practitioners who are not tapped into the force
of computer and web-based information management, the linkage could be
pretty weak.

Many OD practitioners actually BELIEVE that training teams and leadership
skills is what OD is about. For me, it is systems improvement that work
TRHOUGH the humans working as resources to that organization. I also
define organizations very broadly. Currently, I am developing a knowledge
management and (hopefully) LO system for an "organization" that will be
linked only by cyberspace. It is a virtual organization in name only,
although all participants are working toward a common goal.

I do not find many OD folks who think as I do, and so perhaps I am dead
wrong in my reckoning. But it works for me, and it works for my clients,
and the integration helps build stronger, more reliable organizational
systems. I wouldn't know how to teach anyone how to do what I do, because
I do it intuitively. There is a definite flaw in this situation, as I see
it. Being able to replicate the systems integration of LO, OD, and KM
will be necessary if it has any viable future beyond my feeble attempts.

kind regards,
Vana Prewitt
Praxis Learning Systems
Chapel Hill, NC

"investing in human capital"


Vana Prewitt <vprewitt@bellsouth.net>

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