What is the difference between a trainer, teacher, tutor, lecturer, professor, instructor, and a coach?
We assign many different labels to “teachers” depending on the context in which they work. There are subtle but important differences between each of these groups and the role they play in education and society. Here is a breakdown of many common titles for teachers and the differences between them!
A ‘trainer’ is normally a person who trains. This can often refer to people who train athletes, racehorses or show animals. However the term can also used to describe those within an organization who train and develop staff, such as a human resources professional, managers or dedicated training staff. In a Vocational Education & Training context, the teachers are referred to as vocational trainers or just trainers. To become a vocational trainer, you need appropriate vocational qualifications, such as the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.
A teacher (often called a school teacher) is a person who facilitates and provides education for their pupils (children) or students (adults). Normally becoming a teacher requires a high level of education, typically university or college level. Teachers normally undergo continuous professional development, like many other professionals, as part of their ongoing education.
Teachers can specialise one field, such as arts, science, literacy, numeracy, religion or craftsmanship. They often use a lesson plan or organise their student’s learning, as part of a larger, ongoing course of study called a curriculum. In most cases, a teacher will work with a group of students at the same time.
A tutor is an instructor or private teacher who gives private lessons to a single student or a very small group. Private tutoring is a way to help slow learners keep up with their peers at school, while students already achieving at a high level use tutors to achieve new levels. Tutoring can provide children with a competitive advantage in school, and as a result the use of private tutors is increasing.
A lecturer normally refers to someone, often an academic in the early stage of their career, who holds an open-ended position at a university (or similar) carrying out teaching and research. It can also be used to informally refer to anyone who conducts lectures at universities and other institutions, but it is also an academic rank. These levels are “associate lecturer”, “lecturer”, “senior lecturer”, “associate professor” and “professor”.
“Professor” is an academic rank at a university, usually reserved for a teacher of the highest rank. Professors can established or personal ‘chairs’. Established chairs are created by the university fulfill their needs for teachers and academic leadership in specific areas or disciplines, and can only be filled by people with suitable qualifications. Personal chairs can be granted in recognition of an individual’s high level of achievement and regard in a particular area or discipline. Professorships are normally only granted to accomplished and known academics, often only after decades of scholarly work.
An instructor is a kind of teacher. It can refer to just about anyone who teaches others, but usually refers to hands-on skills like diving, swimming, skiing and driving.
In a teaching context, a coach is someone who trains individual athletes or a team. However, coaching may also refer to a wider variety of situations where an individual is supported in reaching specific personal or professional goals, or results. It can also refer to a mentoring type situation, where one person with more experience and expertise offers advice and guidance to a less experienced person as they go through the learning process.
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