Acquired Wisdom & Training

Notes on Training and Educational Research

J. D. Fletcher, Sigmund Tobias, David Berliner 

        Readers of Acquired Wisdom essays may be surprised to find contributions that discuss experience and wisdom acquired from research in training, i.e., instruction intended to prepare learners to perform specific jobs and tasks. Most researchers in the teaching/learning enterprise learn their trade on the education side of the education-training-learning continuum and may assume that there is little, if anything, to be gained from research on training. On the other side, researchers in training may assume there is little to be gained from research and findings reported in education. We, the editors, suggest that this is not the best state of affairs. Both educators and trainers are concerned with teaching and learning. It is likely that both have more of value to share with the other end of the education-training continuum than either anticipates.

        A narrowly focused strategy for perusing research literature is not unreasonable with the deluge of research findings and other material on education and training appearing in books, professional journals, conference proceedings, and online presentations. Busy people must draw the line somewhere. But many innovations of interest and use to education began with training research. Examples include instructional system design theory, computer-based instruction, intelligent computer-assisted instruction, simulation based instruction, linked simulations in learning games, multimedia instruction, adaptive testing, among others. Conversely, research and development in education deserve more attention from training researchers, although trainers may be more receptive to that, given the prevalence of education backgrounds among them. Training researchers may discover that findings from K-12 education are relevant, with only minor adjustments, in preparing post-secondary learners for a trade.

        Our addition of Acquired Wisdom essays authored by distinguished trainers in the coming months reflects our argument that research should not be included or excluded simply because of its focus on either education or training. The issue underlying both is the teaching/learning enterprise, with its many similarities in process, procedures, and even content. For that matter, once training ascends from the lower reaches of Bloom’s taxonomy (1956) or Anderson and Krathwohl’s (2001) two dimensional extension of Bloom, trainers must present the more abstract, conceptual basis of what is learned if it is to be retained and transferred. On the education side, an appreciable portion of most subject matter (e.g., medical, legal, as well as education), includes training to perform tasks and procedures. Few, if any, teaching/learning activities are purely training or purely education. 

        There remain, of course, fundamental differences between education and training. Training prepares learners to perform specific, known jobs and tasks; education prepares learners for life in an unknown future. Evaluation of training is relatively easy. After training, we must determine if graduates perform specified job(s) or task(s) to specified standards and under specified conditions. Training objectives are specific, and rarely negotiable. Evaluation of training techniques and procedures is simplified because much of it can be performed immediately upon completion of training. Evaluation of education, however, should ideally be performed after a lifetime of learning in and out of school. Many educational objectives are less specific and more ambiguous than those in training, since education prepares learners for a productive, successful life. Education objectives can, to an extent, be negotiated with the learner, while that generally cannot be done in training. 

        Therefore, we plan to include a number of manuscripts in our Acquired Wisdom series that are prepared by experts in training. We hope these articles will be of interest and use to both education and training researchers and that early career researchers in education will contribute to research in both of these closely related areas. For that matter, they may make significant contributions and find satisfying opportunities, and perhaps even find successful careers in performing research and development in training, a field that often has more available, more highly compensated positions than education.

        Overall we hope to encourage both educators and trainers to attend more carefully to research in their counterparts’ field. Research on classroom instruction, effective teaching practices, cognitive processes, models of learning, transfer and retention, return on investment, and simulation, all come readily to mind as common interests in both education and training. Other areas of common interest and value seem likely. In any case, we hope, and expect, that the inclusion of articles from both fields will be of interest and value to readers of our Acquired Wisdom series and lead to closer relationships between these fields to their mutual advantage.



Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing. Columbus, OH:  Allyn & Bacon, 2001. 

Bloom, B., Engelhart, M., Furst, E., Hill, W., & Krathwohl, D. (1956) Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, the Classification of Educational Goals, Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay Company.