Education, Training, and Awareness - There's a Difference!

There's been a great thread (a couple actually) going this week on the security metrics list that highlights a really key concept that many people do not understand (including US President #43): the difference between education, training, and awareness. Many people and organizations seem to think that education, training, and awareness are synonymous, though nothing could be further from the truth.

Rather than go through dictionary definitions, let me instead give you my own definitions of each so that you can see how they differ:
* Education: A process of imparting fundamental knowledge and the tools to use those fundamental to grow and expand beyond the base concept.
* Training: The process of imparting "how to" knowledge through rote practice and memorization.
* Awareness: Often achieved through education, training, or life experience, the goal of awareness is to change culture sensitivity to a given topic or issue.

What's interesting to note here is the hierarchical, yet inter-related, nature of these three concepts. Education seeks the penultimate in learner advancement: to learn how to learn. In a sense, education is very strategic in nature. Training, on the other hand, is far more functional in nature, teaching a specific process that can be used to perform a given duty. Training doesn't care about future learning, nor does it look at ways to extend beyond the process taught. Rather, the objective of training is to achieve a specific objective in a consistent and repeatable manner.

For an excellent example of how education and training differ, check out this TED talk "Math Education Sucks the Same Way TV Sitcoms suck." The problem highlighted perfectly demonstrates the difference in paradigms. Training tells you how to take known variables, plug them into a known process, and get an expected result. Unfortunately, in most problem-solving situations the variables are not easily or immediately known, the process may be inconsistent, and the results may or may not be reasonable.

As for awareness, the best example I can point you to is Michael Santarcangelo's "Awareness that Works" program, which is defined as:

"Awareness that Worksâ„¢ connects people to the consequences of their actions, creating a shift in thinking that inspires behavior change. Individuals achieve understanding in their own context, and then are guided, shaped, and supported with materials and training tailored to them. "

The important take-aways are thus:
* Education - that is, learning how to learn and how to extend fundamental ideas into advanced or theoretical realms - is vitally important and increasingly endangered.
* Training - such as that given by various for-profit institutes - needs to be used properly for the right purposes. Don't expect that training will result in thoughtfulness so much as rote practices.
* Awareness is a cultural attribute that can only be attained through the combined efforts of education and training.

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This page contains a single entry by Ben Tomhave published on May 20, 2010 3:48 PM.

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