What are differences between training and development?

This blog will cover the key differences between training and development. We will also touch upon the different roles of the facilitators (the trainer and the coach); highlighting how their relationships with their delegates differ, dependent on the learning content that is delivered.

Finally, we will move onto some broader considerations, frequently overlooked, when designing and delivering both training and development learning content.

This blog contains updated content, pulling on a previous blog we created. The essence of the blog remains similar, but given the current clamber to convert learning content, the below might help guide some thinking for others.

What are the differences between training and development?

Many of you might have heard or use the terms training and development, interchangeably. Consequently, this can occasionally cause some confusion for the end-users (the learners). “Am I going on training, or is this development?”

It’s not necessarily a problem that will cause sleepless nights; but who doesn’t like clarity? (Specsavers?).

How do you define training?

It doesn’t make a difference if the aim of the learning is general or specialist; training focuses on specific goals. There is a correct and incorrect way of executing the learning as a result of the training. Consequently, the relationship between the ‘trainer’ and the ‘trainee’ is directing/telling. The process of what is being ‘learnt’ becomes prescriptive in nature.

How do you define development?

Development, on the other hand, focusses on the individual, enabling them to reflect and identify their own goals/learning outcomes. In this sense, you may have several people in a learning cohort, but their individual learning goals may differ, broadly.

People facilitating development programmes should adopt a coaching style. As a result, the relationship between the facilitator and the learner tends to be one of a coach/coachee nature. The development coach will encourage their learners to explore their thinking and learning opportunities through reflective practice. The onus on delivering the learning outcomes (the individual’s goals), sits with the individual – not the coach.

Trainers and coaches must influence culture, to support learning.

Beyond the confines of the learning content, both trainers and coaches must act as broader enablers/influencers, to allow for learning to take place continually. Knoon & Jewson note the importance of “targeting opinion formers, informal leaders and other respected individuals within the workplace peer group” (1995: 19). In other words, trainers and coaches need to plan and deliver broader stakeholder engagement to ensure that learning is valued and enabled across the organisation.

Failure to do this often leads to training or development programmes being delivered in a vacuum. As a result, this leaves little chance for learning to be applied or change to be implemented.

Training and development design should support cultural engagement.

The culture of the workplace and the ability to engage within it affects how individuals learn. The learning content needs to factor in the context (the cultural landscape) in which the learning is applied. This way, the trainer or coach that is creating the content understands and recognises what opportunities exist for their learners to apply their knowledge and develop their understanding (Guile & Young 1998:186).

Take your time – ask yourself, is this training or is the development?

The trainer or coach must consider their mode of delivery. Think about the impact, context, environment and ‘communities’ in which the learning is taking place. Consider what tools and technology that will assist and inhibit the development of knowledge (Guile & Young 1998:185; Lave & Wagner, 1991). Finally, reflect and plan how you can mitigate any situational barriers (Knoon & Jewson 1995) to support the learning process.

All of these will have a significant impact on the success of your learning outcomes, regardless of their being training or development focussed.


Guile, D. and Young, M. (1998) ‘Apprenticeship as a conceptual basis for a social theory of learning’, Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 50, 2, 173–93.

Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.