Lots of folks say they love “teaching,” but, in reality, they love telling. That’s mostly because they love the attention and praise that comes from telling.
Telling, teaching, and training are three distinct skills.
Telling is more or less what it sounds like: you have thoughts in your brain, and you share it with someone else. A strong indicator you’re a good teller, but not necessarily perhaps a good teacher, is if you’ve never been trained on how to teach or train.
Attending a lot of teaching and training events (and even completing them) also does not translate into your being a good teacher. Expertise in performance skills — acting, public speaking, etc. — is leverageable for teaching, but those skills aim to entertain and inspire.
Teaching has a different aim. Like any other craft, there’s a lot of invisible “magic” happening when master teachers and trainers do their thing.
Unless you’re a good trainer or teacher, you probably wouldn’t notice the mechanics of what master teachers and trainers are doing. That’s by design.
Teaching is knowledge transfer.
Teachers have plans, concrete examples, resources, and methods for ensuring students learn what the teacher is teaching. An important difference here: Teachers focus on the transformation of their students. It’s not about the teacher.
Training is skills transfer. It’s usually focused on, and tailored to, an individual.
A key difference between training and teaching is that training isn’t complete until the trainee has acquired the skill.
The trainee can’t just *know*; they have to be able to *do*. In the Army, there’s a common saying: “do it right, do it tight; do it wrong, do it long.” Trainers get great at training because being bad at it makes it painfully long for everyone.
Great trainers aren’t done until their trainees get it. Do it right, do it tight.
Many managers and team leaders get frustrated because they conflate “telling” with “teaching” or “teaching” with “training.”
Telling doesn’t necessarily impart knowledge and teaching doesn’t necessarily impart skills. What usually happens is that high performers learn how to teach and train themselves. They eventually become managers and leaders (because of their continuous skill acquisition) and then expect others to do the same.
The drawback here is when those leaders manage many separate areas of an organization, the whole team ends up in a burnout/stress cycle.
As an individual, it’s all good if you want to specialize in telling skills and activities. Lean into it and go all the way.
But if you want to teach and train, know that you have to pick up different skills that you may find much more tedious and less instantly gratifying.
Here are a few books to up your teaching and training game:
- Real World Training Design by Jenn Labin
- Making Learning Whole by David Perkins
- Building Expertise by Ruth Clark
David Perkins says in Making Learning Whole, “You don’t learn to play baseball by a year of batting practice.” People learn when they see the whole picture, plus how new knowledge and skills are relevant and can be applied.
Nothing beats having someone teach and train you how to train and teach. Clarity for learners and trainees on how knowledge and skills will be applied is great as a starting point. Actually applying those skills is better yet.
EdD, PhDs, and training experts: I have simplified a lot here, and there’s more nuance to the distinction between teaching and training. This post is not meant to be exhaustive, but as a window for folks confronting these topics within their roles and organizations.
If you have resources that you think will help novice or self-learning teachers/trainers, feel free to share in the comments.