The Feynman Technique For Learning

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

two grad school students studying inside a hall

The Feynman Technique For Learning

The Feynman Technique is a powerful learning method that can help you improve your understanding and retention of a particular subject. Named after Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, this technique has become a popular tool for students of all ages who want to better understand complex concepts.

The beauty of the said learning technique is its simplicity; it involves breaking down a concept into simple, understandable terms and explaining it as if you were teaching it to someone who knows nothing about the subject. By doing this, you can identify any gaps in your own understanding and improve your mastery of the material.

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Whether you’re a student looking to ace an exam or simply someone seeking to deepen their understanding of a topic, the technique is a great tool to have in your learning arsenal.

What is the Feynman Technique?

What is the Feynman Technique? It is a simple and effective method for improving your understanding of a particular subject. It was developed by physicist Richard Feynman, who was known for his ability to explain complex scientific concepts in a way that anyone could understand.

Does the Feynman Technique work?

So, does the Feynman Technique work? The technique has been shown to be an effective method for improving the understanding and retention of information. However, it is important to note that the technique is just one of many study methods, and what works best for one person may not work as well for another. It may be helpful to experiment with different techniques to find what works best for you.

How does the Feynman Technique work?

How does the Feynman Technique work? We frequently don’t become aware of our lack of understanding until it is too late. Perhaps you’re struggling with a test question. Or you’re asked to explain something you thought you understood to someone. You suddenly lose all mental clarity. You come to the realization that you knew a lot less than you thought when asked to demonstrate your knowledge in a context other than your own head.

This learning technique prevents us from deluding ourselves into believing we are experts in a field when we are really novices. We are compelled to face our ignorance, interact directly with the subject matter, and clarify our understanding at every stage of the process.

Select a concept to understand

You are forced to be intentional about what you don’t know when you choose a concept to study. Additionally, it forces you to pick a subject that is manageable enough to be covered in one or more pages.

a male student studying intently

Why this step works

  • You confront the unknown. By jotting down a subject on a blank page, you admit that you’re either beginning from scratch or at the very least filling in some gaps. Take the first action in the process by doing this.
  • You must be precise. Given the universe’s total body of knowledge, the majority of us are ignorant of most topics. Writing down specifically what you don’t know gives you a place to start.
  • You must begin modestly. You really only need to fill up a page (or a few) with information. There isn’t enough room on a page to contain all that can be known about “Evolutionary Science,” “Microeconomics,” or “Psychology.” Instead, concentrate on simpler, more definite ideas or material that will probably be covered on a midterm or final exam.

Instruct someone else or yourself by explaining it

Here is another step in the Feynman technique. Reading a book or article and assuming that our education is complete is a common learning error. Reading alone does not constitute understanding. We might even make notes, essentially writing down the sentences from a source in our notebooks. We frequently nod while believing we understand something. After all, we have taken notes.

However, teaching is a more active process that is necessary for true understanding. Begin by formally instructing yourself. Without consulting your notes, write out a summary in your own words. You could also speak it aloud to yourself. Then advance it by imparting knowledge to others. Teaching also starts a feedback cycle in which criticism or inquiries can help us understand and develop our thinking.

Why this step works

  • You come across the gaps in your logic and the blanks in your knowledge when you have to truly explain something, whether in writing or verbally. Consider writing and teaching as a process for gaining understanding rather than as something you do after you have it.
  • To trick others is even more difficult. They’ll frequently let you know if your explanation is confusing, or you can observe clues like blank looks. Ask them to recite what you taught them in their own words as a test. If they can’t, your explanation is too complicated; make it simple and use straightforward language.
  • You gain self-assurance. It clicks when you fully comprehend something. It can be explained both forward and backward, with exceptions and logical flaws highlighted. When this occurs, your confidence grows and you are inspired to take on even more difficult subjects because you know you have a strong foundation for learning.

If you run into a stump, go back to the original source.

Alternative learning should be used. Learning a difficult skill typically necessitates multiple attempts. Returning to the original source material is a deliberate step in the learning process when using the Feynman Technique. Rereading our primary and secondary sources can help us reinforce our learning when there are gaps in our knowledge or when our explanations aren’t clear.

It will probably take several tries to get it right. That’s advantageous because your understanding will grow as you clarify your arguments.

Why this step works

  • Learning turns into an ongoing process. This step gives you the green light to regularly update your knowledge rather than seeing learning as a one-and-done process.
  • You’re involved directly. It is a proactive process to use sources to improve our own justifications and models. It is more difficult to commit information to memory when we learn passively. We can more easily commit information to our long-term memory when we actively participate in developing our own summaries and reasoning and purposefully draw from the original information to fill our blind spots.
  • Your knowledge base grows. Contrarily, as we learn more, our capacity to learn more also grows. The first time you look through a chapter in a textbook, it might seem like a completely different language. The second time around, it makes more sense. The third time, with a solid foundation already in place, we pick up subtleties we never could have imagined seeing before.

Construct your own analogies and simplify your explanations

Every academic discipline has its own set of specialized terms. While it may be crucial to understand them, it’s equally crucial to avoid confusing understanding concepts with understanding the jargon. By using straightforward analogies, the Feynman Technique seeks to clarify our initial explanations and improve our comprehension.

a man reading a book by the window

Why this step works

  • Understanding is a stand-in for simplicity. It’s simple enough to commit words to memory and recite them when necessary. But memorization does not equal comprehension. When we are unable to rely on lofty platitudes to appear intelligent, we must reduce what we actually know to its most fundamental components. Here is where real comprehension happens.
  • It’s simpler to remember and explain analogies. Analogies help you remember difficult concepts quickly and clearly when explaining them to others. Analogies help you remember difficult concepts quickly and clearly. Learning materials frequently offer us ready-made analogies. For instance, we are all likely familiar with the phrase “the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell.” But rather than repeating a borrowed analogy that we might not fully comprehend, we should force ourselves to come up with our own.

Learn more about learning techniques such as the Feynman technique and how to best prepare for your academic journey by consulting with college admissions specialists like the ones found here in AdmissionSight. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process to get accepted to the top universities in the world. Feel free to set up an appointment today to book your initial consultation.





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