Every week, T&D posts a question on the ASTD Web-site (www.astd.org) that asks visitors what they think about the training field.
A controversy started when one visitor innocently asked, "What's the difference between training and facilitation?"
You could say that a trainer manages instruction, information, and practical skills that can be measured against a defined standard. A facilitator guides people toward knowledge, insight, and awareness.
Basically, a trainer deals in instruction, a facilitator deals in learning. But all instructors are a little bit of both. There's no conflict between the two. Which role the instructor chooses depends on the overall objective.
Here's a simplistic view: A trainer is a facilitator. However, a trainer is responsible for content as well as the process. A facilitator is responsible for the process design, but he or she doesn't own the content.
In a purely practical business sense, when I'm hired as a trainer, the client expects me to show up with a predesigned program with defined learning objectives. When I'm hired as a facilitator, the client expects me to lead a discussion group toward reaching an undefined decision about a predetermined topic.
Training is putting information into learners. Facilitation is pulling information out of participants.
According to Webster's, training is "to instruct or condition to some manner of behavior or performance; to make proficient through special instruction and drill." That definition carries a strong suggestion of behavior modification, with or without a true understanding of the implications. In the field, we don't define training in that light. To us, training encompasses learning and understanding.
Facilitation is a technique used to enhance the learning experience and improve its success. To many trainers, facilitation means allowing participants to construct their own learning with guided activities and exercises. Learning becomes discovery rather than lessons delivered.
At the risk of being contrary, I don't think there's a difference between good training and facilitation. Indeed, the topic has generated some debate at my office where we've recently changed several job titles.
Training seems to be the newest whipping post in a …