One Word all L&D Professionals Must Take to Heart


Last week I had a chance to facilitate a presentation skills workshop. A colleague had helped me re-tool the lesson plan for the workshop and I was curious how it might turn out.

Instead of introducing a number of concepts and then asking participants to put together and facilitate a sample lesson plan, we instead introduced a lesson plan template and let people design a 15-minute lesson plan. Every 30-45 minutes we would stop participants to give them some content around adult learning, engagement strategies and how to tighten up the language they use (eliminate those uhs and uhms).

After mini-lessons with content, participants were asked to revise their 15-minute sample lesson plans and they were given time to rehearse. This process repeated 4 times, then participants had an opportunity to facilitate their 15-minute sample lesson in front of the entire class, receiving feedback.

My hypothesis of why this worked so well? Praxis.

It’s a concept I was first introduced to in Jane Vella’s Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach. Praxis means practice combined with reflection.

Whether we’re training people in presentation skills or how to use a new software or how to address customer complaints, it’s not enough to simply provide good content. It’s not even enough to give participants an opportunity to practice. Learners need an opportunity to try new things out an then reflect. Did a new way of doing things work? Would it work when they get back to their desks? If not, what would need to be adjusted in order to be transferable back on the job?

Good content is important. So are application opportunities. But praxis (practice + reflection) is an essential formula for success.

4 thoughts on “One Word all L&D Professionals Must Take to Heart

  1. Thanks for a nice, practical picture of praxis in training Brian. In my presentation skills workshop I ask participants to set a learning goal for the day. Then I provide a job aide on colored card stock – all the strategies we will explore and practice down the left side of the chart and the advertised outcomes (from listening to trainers say what they want to be able to do) across the top. These outcomes include things like building rapport, managing one’s presentation nerves, working with reluctant or resistant participant behavior, and so on. Every 90 minutes we stop what we are exploring and practicing, zoom back and participants checkmark their job aide noting which strategies can help them accomplish which outcomes. Then I ask them whether any if these strategies can help them accomplish their learning goal. If so, they note those strategies on a separate worksheet below where they’ve written that goal. At the end of the day they have both a job aide for future challenges – which strategies can help with a particular challenge – and a focused group of strategies to address their goal today – PRAXIS!

    • Thanks Tracy. I LOVE this example. The idea of reflective practice is so important… and I can’t tell you how many times I forget to build that into sessions I’ve designed.

      I really appreciate the idea of combining goal setting, practice and a tangible take-away!

    • Hmmm. I hadn’t thought of the similarities, but I think you might be on to something here, Elena.

      I can’t say I’m an expert in action learning but my understanding is that people have an opportunity to bring an issue to a group and then receive questions from the group in an effort to work through the issue.

      In that sense, there’s a heavy reflection component in action learning, so yes, I think praxis and action learning revolve around a very similar set of core principles!

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