Turning out the lights may help learners ask what's on their mind

Sometimes learners may feel 'in the dark' on certain topics, but are not comfortable asking questions.

After a presentation or learning activity, ask if anyone has any questions. If there are few or no questions, turn out the lights in the room and tell learners that 'we're all in the dark together and the only way we're going to shed some light on the topic is to ask questions and uncover the answers.' Then ask for questions.

Priscilla Bradley of Motorola says that, although learners may find it silly at first, they soon start talking and sharing their knowledge freely, even those who might not have said a word. With the lights off, people feel safer and have a tendency to ask questions and share more readily, she says.

To facilitate discussion, after someone asks a question, ask if any class members would like to answer. Chime in only when no one else can answer. When everyone who wishes has had a chance to ask questions, tell the class that their collaboration has shed light on the topic. Turn the lights back on.

Priscilla says this activity has improved collaboration and camaraderie in her sales classes. She got the idea from a marketing teacher in college, who sometimes led whole sessions with the lights off. Using darkness can be a powerful learning tool, Priscilla says, and she's constantly exploring ways to do this in her training.

(March/April 1997 issue )