Think Tank

Sep 24, 2020, 5:15

Think Tank: Teaching or Training—Choose a Side

01 April 2014

As educators, we cannot not ignore what consumers of education seek. So why do many in education assume that teaching and training are mutually exclusive?

By Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC

The more I researched for this article the more frustrated—and, at times, angry—I became. It appears that there are still many in the field of education who believe teaching and training are mutually exclusive.

To some, the term “training” was not even part of the larger umbrella of education. It was somehow beneath the concept of educational development. In a letter to the editor of the National Forum: Phi Kappa Phi Journal, Spring 2000, Robert H. Essenhigh of Ohio State University states: “There is another major pressure coming into universities, and particularly state universities. It is the increasing insistence—particularly from state governments (with the associated control of the money)—that students, when they leave, must be able to walk into some job without any further training.” He continues: “… universities are not in the business of training. Their business is educating.”

Now, I understand some of this might simply be the interpretation of vocabulary. The tone of this article, however, demonstrates (to me) the gap that continues to exist in academia regarding what they think their role is and what society and the stakeholder participants in education believe their role to be. Why must teaching and training be considered different or, even worse, on opposing levels of educational importance?

I can remember speaking with faculty for whom I was responsible and stating to them that at some point they must realize they are no longer just chefs, they are educators. I meant this in a positive way. As I reflect back and work with faculty members at various institutions, however, I can see a shift in mindset that for some reason begins to lose sight of the importance of a symbiotic relationship between teaching and training. We sometimes tend to disconnect with the stakeholders in the educational process: what they need and what they expect.

Another article by Professor Gary Pollice in The Rational Edge goes on to point out the goals that college students and, later on, adult learners have when pursuing a college education. He concludes that typical college-student goals focus on the following:

1. Getting Good Grades. This is driven by the fact that we are a “measurement based” and “competition based” society that tries to demonstrate worth based on these measurements.

2. Qualifying for Continuing Financial Aid. This is simply because the cost of education has skyrocketed and many would not be able to continue in an educational track without this level of support.

3. Finding Employment After Graduation.This, according to Pollice, is the “primary motivator” for students since it is their intent to pursue an education that will allow them to support a lifestyle deemed important, and paying back the debt incurred along the way is a significant burden.

Adult professionals return to education for similar reasons:

1. Get a Good Annual Review.This takes the place of “good grades,” but the need for outside recognition through measurement continues throughout a person’s life.

2. Keep Their Job and Get a Raise.Those of us who still remember the Hierarchy of Needs as expressed by Abraham Maslow will note that the first two definitive needs that lead to self-motivation are SURVIVAL and SECURITY. In a volatile work environment, being able to depend on gainful employment and the subsequent ability to consistently improve one’s socio-economic level is paramount. Higher education and continuing education are, in many stakeholders’ minds, a means to an end.

3. Learn What Is Necessary to Get a Better Job.Upward mobility, in most people’s minds, is driven by one’s ability to improve skills and knowledge and increase his or her value and personal brand in the marketplace.

Say what we will about education, these are the drivers that set the stage for seekers of the product and service that we provide. We cannot and should not ignore what consumers of education are seeking whether they are the young student, the seeker of continuing education, the employer or even the consumer of the product or services that these individuals will provide.

All this being said, I return to the original question: “Why must many in education assume that teaching and training are mutually exclusive?” The real question for educators should be how do they create relevance? As educators, we understand that knowledge may not always appear to be relevant in the moment, but will be in the future. We understand that some skill sets are not as tactile as learning how to roast, sauté or braise. We know that a person’s ability to problem solve, generate fresh ideas and analyze information may not seem that critical on the surface, but will certainly become relevant as a person continues on a career path.

What seems to get in the way of bridging the gap between teaching and training is an understanding that these future skill sets and aptitudes can be blended with the hands-on application of tactile skills that will help a graduate land that job and be viewed as “competent.”

Human beings are designed to build, to take ideas and make products, to see the fruits of their labor and to relish in the accomplishment of knowing how to successfully complete a task. This is very apparent in culinary education since most students of food are tactile learners. Things become relevant when they can see and touch them, when they are involved in the process of bringing a concept or idea to fruition. The joy of teaching comes when we see that light bulb go off and a smile on the face of a student who finally “gets it.” In a culinary program this happens on a daily basis just as it does in kitchens across the country.

Robert Essenhigh states the difference between teaching and training. Training, he states is “Know how” or “learning to think other people’s thoughts,” whereas teaching is defined as preparing students to “Know why” or “Think your own thoughts.”

The implication that training is void of the possibility for creative, individual thought is shallow and, quite honestly, infuriating. As culinary educators, we must express the connections that exist with teaching and training. Yes, at some point you become educators, but hopefully ones who never forget the importance of relevance.

Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC, president of Harvest America Ventures, a “mobile restaurant incubator” based in Saranac Lake, N.Y., is the former vice president of New England Culinary Institute and a former dean at Paul Smith’s College. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,