Gavin Greig (ggreig) wrote,
Gavin Greig

Teaching or Training?

sharikkamur has raised an interesting question about the differences between teaching and training.

I think I agree with those who've said in the comments that what she is demonstrating is actually a more structured (personally I would go with better) teaching/training style, rather than necessarily doing one or the other.

To arrive at that conclusion, I had to think a bit about what I considered to be the difference between teaching and training (my definitions may not agree with any more widely-held definitions, of course). Taking on board what's already been said in sharikkamur's post and the comments, it seems to me that the real teaching/training division is similar to the division I've noted in styles of computing text books.

In particular, I've noticed those differences between the output of two respected publishers, O'Reilly and Addison-Wesley. If you're learning how to use a new technology, you can often do worse than to pick up the relevant O'Reilly book on the subject. That will help you to get up to speed and do a good job with technology "X", and you might learn a bit about how to be a better developer in the process.

In contrast, Addison-Wesley titles have a different emphasis. They tend to teach methodologies, which may be illustrated with a particular technology.

That difference in emphasis crystallises what, for me, is the difference between teaching and training. Training is short term and task-focused; you will learn to do a particular thing, and (hopefully) learn to do it well. Teaching takes a longer term view. Particularly in computing, training in a particular technology may not be particularly relevant in a few years time. Teaching will try to instil in you principles that will stand you in good stead for years to come.

In a University context, what is needed in any subject - not just technology - is an admixture of teaching and training. Students will feel short-changed - and future employers may not bite - if they don't receive enough training in the technology/theories of the day. However, a really valuable education will use training as the Trojan horse to teach students how to do things better, regardless of the more particular concerns.

One way of describing this might be to say that teaching imparts knowledge, while training imparts skills, as sharikkamur's previous reading suggests, but personally I think that's an unhelpful interpretation. Teaching and training should both impart knowledge and skills; the difference is in where they are focused.

I have both O'Reilly and Addison-Wesley books on my shelves, and at least initially I was much more aware of O'Reilly as a brand. But when I sat down one day to consider which of my books I valued most, I was surprised to discover that almost all came from Addison-Wesley, the publisher I hadn't particularly noticed, and they were the books that had tried to teach me how to be a more effective developer, rather than the books that covered a particular technology.

Tags: books, software development, thought

  • A March for Independence (in April)

    On Saturday, YES North East Fife organised a march across the Tay Bridge from Fife to Dundee followed by a rally in the City Square. It was…

  • State of the Union

    Two and a half years ago, almost to the day, I stopped blogging on political matters as the argument I cared about was over for the time. My last…

  • 20 Years

    On the first of October, it was 20 years since I started work at Insights, and today I got my fourth block signifying a period of 5 years…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.