Feynman Technique For Learning

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Richard Feynman was a world-renowned, Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist.  He is also known as “The Great Explainer”, a clue to his capabilities as a great teacher!  This skill is based on his use of a concept which became known at The Feynman Technique.

This alternative approach to learning is focused on understanding the concept of a topic.  In fact, understanding it so thoroughly that you can explain it to someone who has no familiarity with the topic.   In order to understand something, the goal is to explain it as simply as possible!

Learning is not about remembering something difficult, but it is about making things easier. The Feynman Technique can be used for anything, from understanding a simple problem to grasping quantum physics. By forcing yourself to make something easier, you will remember it better!  All you need to get started is a pen, paper and your written notes on the topic that you must have studied before.  Now it’s time to simplify the topic!

1) Choose A Topic

2) Explain It Like I Am 5 Years Old

This forces you to make it really simple One other way, most useful for explaining technology, is to put yourself in the shoes of your (grand)parents.

3) Pinpoint Your Knowledge Gap

If you cannot find the words to describe your concept in layman terms, get your nose back into the books. Making a simple explanation thus pushes you towards really understanding and interpreting what you read, not just skimming the text.

4) Use An Analogy

Working with abstract concepts, or is your concept still just too difficult for the 5 year old you? Try using an analogy to link the concept to something you already know. This has the advantage of connecting old and new knowledge in your head and helps you better remember the new concept.

5) Simplify The Concept

If in the end your concept is still too hard to grasp, try simplifying it once more. Sometimes it is better to lose some details along the way if that makes it easier for you to remember a concept (versus forgetting it altogether).

Examples

  1. Gravity is the attraction of very large objects on smaller objects, like the earth on you and me

  2. A bonsai tree is a miniature tree. Just like your miniature car, it is made of the same things as the big thing, but only smaller

When To Use

Almost always. Use it to explain things to yourself when you are studying, use it to explain difficult concepts to others or of course when talking to a 5 year old!