Air University Review, January-February 1985

Education and Training:
Some Differences

Dr. John A. Kline

A CONTINUING debate exists as to the distinction between education and training. In everyday conversation, people frequently use the terms interchangeably. Indeed, there are some, I suspect, who believe that the best approach to the problem of differentiating between education and training is to ignore the distinction. I do not share this view.

For many years the U.S. Air Force drew a clear distinction between education and training. Education was organized under Air University; training, under Air Training Command. Then, in 1978, the Air Force consolidated education and training under the same major air command structure. In 1983, USAF leaders decided again to draw a clear distinction between education and training, reintroducing a major air command structure to administer each. The decision was a good one, for although there are similarities between education and training, there are some basic differences––differences which Air Force curriculum developers and instructors should keep in mind.

Following the traditional three-part distinction among the domains of learning (psychomotor or doing, cognitive or thinking, affective or feeling), training emphasizes the psychomotor domain of learning. Training that is done in the cognitive domain is generally at the knowledge level and lower part of the comprehension level. Education, on the other hand, teaches a minimum of psychomotor skills. It concentrates instead on the cognitive domain, especially the higher cognitive levels, i.e., high comprehension and above. Affective learning, by the way, may be a product of both education and training.

Criterion objectives are most appropriate for training. That is, under a given set of conditions, a student will exhibit a specific behavior to a certain predetermined level or standard (e.g., "without the use of references, list the steps of the USAF Instructional System Development Model according to AFM 50-2, in order and without error"). Cognitive objectives written at the appropriate level of learning (knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, or evaluation) are more useful for education. When behavioral or criterion objectives are used in education, they are generally broader than when used in training and relate to the learners' ability to generalize, see relationships, and function effectively in new situations––situations which cannot be completely visualized or defined.

Training is essentially a closed system. The trained individual is easily recognized as knowing the "right answers," doing things the "approved way," or arriving at the "school solution." Under these conditions, the products of each trainee in every situation can be expected to look the same. Education, in contrast, is an open system. Learning is continuous with no cap or ceiling on how well the graduate may be prepared to handle new responsibilities. Right answers and ways of doing things often do not exist in education––only better or worse ones.

Objectives, job requirements, and skill levels are constraints with training. Yet time required for training can vary because of the aptitude, experience, and previous skill level of the student. With education, however, time is often a constant (four years, ninety semester hours, ten months, forty hours in class) and therefore is specified. This is not to say that one's education is ever complete. It is not. However, to fit time constraints, objectives in education must be selected from a much wider range of possible objectives than can ever be included in the time available, due to the nearly infinite combination of position responsibilities of the graduates. Objectives, job requirements, and skill levels are not constraints with education, since persons are encouraged to develop to their potential.

With training, a task analysis can be done so that the curriculum will include a complete listing of skills and knowledge required for the graduate to demonstrate competence. With education, curriculum planners and instructors must select a sample to teach from a universe of ideas. Furthermore, they must often rely on opinion from acknowledged, credible experts to determine what needs to be taught. Creative, visionary experts are needed to predict future needs rather than merely reflect current ones. This absence of exactness often results in a lack of consensus on what should be taught. Analyze courses taken by majors in a given field or discipline at different universities, and you will find differences. For that matter, you will find differences among curricula of the various senior and intermediate service schools. Differences in curricula and emphasis on individual study are good in education but usually not in training.

These differences between education and training do not suggest that one facet of learning is more important than the other, only that they are different. Obviously, genuine accomplishment (competence, proficiency, good judgment, effectiveness) incorporates both. A person cannot, for example, effectively give a speech, fly an airplane, edit a scholarly journal, or command an Air Force organization without a wide range of knowledge and skills. Still, these differences have strong implications for those who provide education or training. Failure to acknowledge them will hinder learning and, ultimately, performance. Recognizing their relevance in curriculum planning and teaching will improve both education and training in the United States Air Force.

Air University
Maxwell AFB, Alabama


John A. Kline (B.S., Iowa State University; M.S., Ph.D., University of Iowa) is Educational Advisor to the Commander, Hq Air University. Dr. Kline has been Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of New Mexico; Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Speech, Theater, and Broadcasting at the University of Missouri-Columbia; and Dean of Communication at Academic Instructor School and International Officer School, Maxwell AFB. His writings have appeared in a variety of books and professional journals.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

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