Training Vs. Teaching


I know it has been a while, I started work and have been focusing all my efforts on creating a new routine and adapting to change (all that stuff you’d think I do so well, being a behaviorist and all).

An interesting topic came up this evening and I can’t seem to process it enough to let it go.

Do we train our clients?

I think the short and simple answer is that we do. We train our clients using a variety of techniques (Discrete trial training, social skills training, potty training, etc). Is that the end goal? To train individuals to mindlessly perform tasks?

When I’m trained to do something, I am able to complete the task because I have learned it by rote (aka, memorized the steps). This is perfect for skills I want to do the same way every time; however it creates inflexibility, a resistance to change. When we teach a client a skill, and they are able to generalize that skill to other conditions, (a new environment, or a slightly different Sd) can we still say that we trained them? Or has it been taught? Does the distinction between training and teaching depend on whether the client understands WHY they are doing a behavior?

Once we start assuming that we are solely training our clients, we have condemned them to a life of rigid rote routines.

Robots are trained

Animals are trained

But people are taught. 

Interesting how difficult it is for me to adapt to the changes associated with this move. Perhaps I was well trained or maybe poorly taught, a little bit of both? Or something different altogether.

Share your thoughts in the comments. There is no right or wrong, just people with different minds sharing their interpretation of the world 🙂



  1. Not sure that I agree. We commit to muscle memory, we automatize, the skills that are essential to our success. When I took driver training, it trained me to react specific ways under certain circumstances in order to maintain safety for myself and others. I believe that training and teaching can be used interchangeably, thereby making their past tense versions, taught and trained, synonymous as well. To differentiate the two brings in unobservable and unmeasurable differences like “dignity” and “respect.”


    1. ‘Dignity’ and ‘respect’ can’t be observed or measured. (Although.. with enough time, I bet I could come up with some operational definition).

      I fear I have been corrupted with ‘feelings’. I just don’t think I can say that I train people. It is too punishing for me.


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