What’s the Difference Between Learning and Training?

What’s the difference between learning and training? Learn what to call learning and development audiences: learners, trainees, or something else.

Published on 7 September, 2016 | Last modified on 1 November, 2022

There is a great debate in the learning and development (L&D) world right now: what do you call your audience? More importantly, what do you call yourself?

When the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) changed their name to the Association for Talent Development (ATD) in 2014, the line was drawn in the sand. Ever since, thought leaders and practitioners have debated the pros and cons of using the word “training,” and “learners.” Jane Hart even went so far as to ask what would happen if the L&D department disappeared altogether.

Here’s a snapshot of recent opinions in the learning vs training debate:

We Should Stop Using the Term Learner Because…

JD Dillon argues that the term “learner” is a useless label.

We Shouldn’t Stop Using the Term Learner Unless…

In a direct rebuttal to JD Dillon, Alexander Salas argues that the label “learner” is still relevant.

Training Culture vs. Learning Culture

Stephen J. Gill chimes in on the nuances between focusing on a training culture and a learning culture.

Learning Vs. Training & Development

Bryant Nielsen discusses the difference between where training is relevant and where learning is relevant.

Education and Training – What’s the Difference?

Chris Barnes adds another term into the mix and investigates how education and training are similar and where they differ.

L&D Value

Clark Quinn argues that L&D adds value to the organization but should maybe be called P&D.  

What do you think? Are we teaching learners, trainees, people, or something else? Is it worth the debate?

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