Monday, 30 March 2009

What's in a name?

It has annoyed me for some time now how the word 'Learning' is used with frequent regularity as if it is something which is provided, i.e. an input, instead of an outcome as a result of what has been provided.  Only the other day someone asked me about what had happened to the term 'Training and Development' and I found myself answering that 'Learning and Development' is a modern substitution for Training and Development, where the word 'training' has been dropped in favour of 'learning' so as to stress the outcome as well as the means.  But has it?  I'm not so sure now and here's why ...

If learning is an outcome and development (e.g. training, tutoring, coaching, mentoring) is an input then why are the two so often referred to in the same breath as if they are both inputs?  OK just think about this, if I were being extremely pedantic (if such a thing's possible) then the term learning and development is an oxymoron!  Back in 2005 I wrote an article entitled 'Training Fads and Fancies' and in it I stated the following ...
"One of the latest fads to hit training is to avoid any reference to it wherever possible.  For many, the term training is now a definite ‘no-no’.  Use the term and you risk a response of almost non-politically correct proportions in some quarters.  Now I know I might be treading on dangerous ground here, but it has to be faced that ‘learning’ is the new fad term.  As a result its unquestioned use has given rise to such contradictory terms as ‘learning and development’, ‘learning and resources’, ‘learning and development departments’, ‘learning managers’, and ‘learning consultants’.  I know I am not alone in thinking that training is an outward process, whereas learning is an inward one.  Whilst people in a department, or an association come to that, might be concerned with how and what people learn, they do not and cannot learn on behalf of others.  I don’t have a problem with terms like learning materials, learning workbooks, open learning, distance learning, e-Learning, The British Learning Association (now the British Institute for Learning and Development), or those who set out to provide effective learning solutions (well, I wouldn’t would I?), as all these use the word ‘learning’ in its proper context, but I do have a problem when it is used to replace ‘training’, especially when the latter describes perfectly adequately where a person’s or a department’s responsibilities lie.  I am sure that it won’t come as any surprise to know that I regard this latest development as faddism in the extreme."
... and, what's more, four years later I still do!

As long as we are clear about what we mean by 'Learning and Development' then no problem.  For example, I am passionately interested in how people learn and throughout my entire career I have sought to help people of all ages by providing solutions and inputs designed to aid their development, be these through teaching, training, coaching, consultancy, blended learning programmes, and so on.  I provide what I hope are quality development opportunities and advice but only the person at the receiving end can do the learning - I can't do it for them.  However, I am becoming increasingly worried about the growing trend to avoid any reference to or use of the word 'Training' as, in the end, I believe this to be extremely short-sighted and counter-productive.

Perhaps, if there are other like-minded souls out there, we should start a campaign to put the word TRAINING back on the map!