The Feynman Technique

  • Anagha Vallikat
    Anagha Vallikat

Life is about learning. Learning is one of the most exciting and crucial traits that we possess as humans. It is one of the primary reasons for the survival of our species on earth.

The usual practice to obtain new information is to memorize vast amounts of knowledge to get through an exam or skim through a book cover to cover without asking doubts and questions. Have you ever wondered how we can learn better? How do you approach a new topic? How do you understand new information in simple terms and apply it to your life?

Well, someone gave a good, hard thought to all these questions and came up with a learning technique. The man is Richard Feynman, and the learning technique is named after him—the Feynman Technique, one of his most outstanding contributions to society. He has been nicknamed ‘The Great Explainer.’

The Feynman Technique is a way of learning where you simplify and understand a new concept. Learning is not reading a book passively, mugging up the pages for an exam, or just knowing the definition of some topic. It is comprehending a topic so well that you can apply it in the real world. Ultimately, the point of learning is to understand the world better. If you are wondering how to apply the Feynman technique, read on.

The Feynman Technique consists of four steps:

1.Identify the topic

Be specific.

Identifying a topic is the first step of this learning technique. Usually, when we try to learn something, we tend to think about the whole issue. Feynman’s technique says you should break up the topic into parts and narrow it down to the most basic level. This will make you understand the topic easily.

Suppose we plan to study the water cycle in science. We should first think about the topic and break it into parts. Here, we could break the subject into the following parts: what is the water cycle, the different components which make up the water cycle, the importance of the water cycle for us, and so on.

2.Teach the topic to a child or pretend to teach to some one

In the words of Albert Einstein: “If you can’t explain it in simple terms, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Richard Feynman also believed that if you can make a child understand a topic, you know what you are talking about. Children do not understand complex words. If you could make a child understand the subject, you know it well enough. Use easy language and be brief while explaining a topic.

To continue with the earlier example, while reading about the water cycle, we would come across many terms and concepts that need a clearer understanding and a simpler explanation. For instance, first break the whole process into terms like atmosphere, precipitation, evaporation, etc., and elaborate on each.

3.Identify the gaps in your explanation

Where you struggle to explain anything or clarify any doubt, you need to take a step back. Note those sections down. Go back and reread them. First, get a better understanding of the section yourself until you can explain it in a simple way.

This exercise will refine your understanding to a deeper level. It will focus your attention on weak areas and fill the gaps.

It gives you the flexibility to rework and take note of the questions that you couldn’t explain adequately. Then you can come back with answers and better explanations.

4.Spin a tale

Finally, the Feynman Technique talks about piecing together all the notes about the topic, organizing them, and telling a story. This way, you can understand the topic as a whole. Use analogies and simple words to explain better. It can be done only by someone who has a deep understanding of the topic.

You can apply the Feynman Technique to learning any subject and any topic. The concept of Richard Feynman inspired Bill Gates, and he called Feynman the “greatest teacher I never had.” Gates purchased the rights to his lectures and made them publicly available on a video portal named Tuva.

Richard Feynman was a theoretical physicist who received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1965 for his contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics. His invention of the Feynman Diagram helped bring much-needed visual clarification to the enigmatic behavior of subatomic particles. He is a distinguished author, graphic novel hero, and an eloquent thinker. He is known for making complex scientific principles easy and understandable to his students, who had no previous knowledge of those principles.

Conclusion

Knowledge is a powerful tool. The more you understand the world, the better you can deal with it. The Feynman Technique is an excellent method to learn anything. It is especially helpful for students and teachers. A student with a good understanding of a subject would contribute to the world in a better way. A teacher who is eloquent and knowledgeable enough to teach a topic simply in all its entirety would be an asset to the world.

One of the significant benefits of this technique is that it minimizes the role of memorization. You can use this method to learn new concepts, build your knowledge and study more efficiently. It also makes learning fun, as it should be. Learning is a journey, after all.

Happy Learning!